Sunday, August 17, 2008

but the book says it's true

yesterday my husband and i found ourselves in my mom's second grade classroom helping her with various tasks to get her room ready for the start of the school year. (working at a year-round school makes me forget that most of the schools have not started yet. it seemed weird to stand in an unprepared classroom after we've been working away for 3 weeks. of course, it will seem so, so sweet to have 2 weeks off in october whent he rest of the world is slaving away...)
as my mother and i debated desk placement and where to put the 'thinking spot' my husband perused a brand new history text book my mother's county ordered for all their 2nd grades. the book was made just for virginia schools to hit all of our SOL (standards of learning) testing requirements. my mother was excited to have a book that covered all of the standards she is expected to teach, but she hadn't had a chance to read the book yet.
in the middle of my mother and i debating the best place to put an extra desk my husband started to laugh. "they use the same stock photo of an indian woman-excuse me, first american woman, for all the different first american tribes".
my mother grabbed the book and realized it was true. the image of the pueblo first-american (the term our test uses. not native american, but first american) was the same as the navajo woman. just in case our children thought it was important to understand the differences between the two tribes, the book has decided to point out that it's really not. in reality they're all the same, so much so the company didn't want to purchase any extra stock-photography to correctly illustrate the differences. (it should also be noted that the picture of the woman as a pueblo first-american is actually historically inaccurate based on what she has in the picture).

the text book companies are the biggest lobbyists for no child left behind. standard testing makes it easier for them to choose content to put in their texts, and every time the state changes the tests it means they get to make new text books to sell to the school districts. it's quite a money-making scheme. which might be fine if they put effort into making their texts historically accurate. i love it when people find ways to capitalize off the public school system.

1 comment:

Kassia said...

This could be a good opportunity for your mom to have her class examine who writes textbooks and what biases do they have when writing. How about people portrayed in textbooks? Is it fair? That textbook sounds like it is a perfect illustration of how we have to critically evaluate sources that claim "expertise" in a field.

By the way, I just discovered your blog and really enjoy it!