Social Cons in the Classroom

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A school textbook authored by conservative academics James Wilson and John Dilulio is under fire from students, scientists and legal scholars for its biased presentation of issues like school prayer, gay marriage, and climate change. The Associated Press has details:

[Critics] say "American Government" by conservatives James Wilson and John Dilulio presents a skewed view of topics from global warming to separation of church and state. The publisher now says it will review the book, as will the College Board, which oversees college-level Advanced Placement courses used in high schools.

The Wilson and Dilulio text on global warming:

The edition of the textbook published in 2005, which is in high school classrooms now, states that "science doesn't know whether we are experiencing a dangerous level of global warming or how bad the greenhouse effect is, if it exists at all."

A newer edition published late last year was changed to say, "Science doesn't know how bad the greenhouse effect is."

On the Texas Supreme court decision that overturned a ban on sodomy:

The authors wrote that the Supreme Court decision had a "benefit" and a "cost." The benefit, it said, was to strike down a rarely enforced law that could probably not be passed today, while the cost was to "create the possibility that the court, and not Congress or state legislatures, might decide whether same-sex marriages were legal."

And on school prayer:

LaClair also was concerned about the textbook's treatment of U.S. Supreme Court decisions regarding prayer in school. The book shows a picture of kids praying in front of a Virginia high school and states, "The Supreme Court will not let this happen inside a public school." Blake said the photo was cut out of the most recent edition.

The textbook goes on to state that the court has ruled as "unconstitutional every effort to have any form of prayer in public schools, even if it is nonsectarian, voluntary or limited to reading a passage of the Bible."

Those examples are not correct, says Charles Haynes, a religious liberties expert at the First Amendment Center in Washington.

"Students can pray inside a public school in many different ways," Haynes said, adding they can pray alone or in groups before lunch or in religious clubs, for example.

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  1. “Science doesn’t know how bad the greenhouse effect is.” is a fucking nonsensical sentence. “Science” doesn’t know anything; it is not a sapient being. It reminds me of when people say “well, the Bible says…”. The Bible says nothing; it is an inanimate object. You may read *from* it and/or *into* it, but it itself is silent.

    Likewise, scientists may imprecate or assume knowledge, but “science” does and can not.

  2. “Students can pray inside a public school in many different ways,” Haynes said, adding they can pray alone or in groups before lunch or in religious clubs

    Or hell, without saying a word out loud. It isn’t about prayer, it’s about being an exhibitionist and wanting to force your superstitions on others.

  3. While these guys are arguing over the definition of secularism and global warming in a textbook…

    http://www.startribune.com/local/17406054.html

    “The teachers had written assignments on the blackboard for classes like math and social studies. Islamic Studies was the last one — the board said the kids were studying the Qu’ran. The students were told to copy it into their planner, along with everything else. That gave me the impression that Islamic Studies was a subject like any other.” After school, Getz’s fifth-graders stayed in their classroom and the man in white who had led prayer in the gym came in to teach Islamic Studies. TIZA has in effect extended the school day — buses leave only after Islamic Studies is over.

  4. Can’t we just take all the liberals and conservatives, fly them to Alaska, and do a Battle Royale scenario with them? The winner gets to decide what’s in the textbooks.

  5. I’ve long wondered what the value of many textbooks truly is: can’t things be taught better through a number of books? or through lectures? or even a series of books, documentaries, lectures, movies, visitors, independent research, and a large number of other things that will keep schools and universities from feeling any need to buy most of these overpriced, watered-down, largely-unnecessary textbooks?

    That aside, this one seems really stupid. Not mentioning the 9th Amendment in relation to Lawrence v. Texas is like not mentioning slavery in relation to the Civil War. Suggesting that all prayer is banned in schools is probably some misguided attempt to make prayer groups cool. But at least I’m sure there’s a really good inset graphic about Branch Davidians and ELF.

  6. Jon —

    It isn’t about the students. It’s mostly the fact that with one watered-down, EZ-read textbook, the teacher doesn’t have to do much thinking when developing their “lesson” plan.

  7. As long as there are tests and pop quizes given in schools, there will always be prayer in schools. I know I said a bunch in high school right as the teachers passed out the test in class.

  8. Funny how the very same government that “bans” prayer in public schools forces us to share a communal belief in god through that silly motto on our cash.

  9. LMNOP
    True, but that’s just semantics. What gets me is when people start talking about if something is or isn’t “scientific fact” as though that made it unassailable truth. You’re missing the whole fricking point!

    ‘The half-life of C-14 is 5700 years’ may be a scientific fact but that doesn’t mean we won’t learn something that will change that “fact” in the future. Maybe a new theory will predict that half-life isn’t constant. We’ll have to adjust our understanding.

    This is what makes the scientific method superior to other ways of knowing things (“The scripture says…”) Nothing is known “absolutely”, but as ideas survive more and more testing we become more and more confident in them.

  10. Episiarch | April 11, 2008, 3:55pm | #
    Can’t we just take all the liberals and conservatives, fly them to Alaska, and do a Battle Royale scenario with them? The winner gets to decide what’s in the textbooks.

    Fuck No!! We are trying to export them all out of here to places like Texas and Hawaii!!

  11. Kwix, did you follow the link and see what scenario I’m talking about? You wouldn’t have anyone to worry about after three days. Stay cool, it’s viable.

  12. Epi,

    I know you don’t have too much time to read anymore, but the source novel of Battle Royale is fantastic. It’s the Japanese Brave New World / Clockwork Orange. (The manga, however, sucks walrus balls.)

  13. True, but that’s just semantics. What gets me is when people start talking about if something is or isn’t “scientific fact” as though that made it unassailable truth. You’re missing the whole fricking point!

    No, I’m making the slightly different point that allowing people to get away with phrasing sentences in this way tends to ease the transition into the problematic modes of thought that you complain about and I agree are worrisome.

    The way people phrase things usually gives away where they are coming from, in my experience.

  14. Fuck No!! We are trying to export them all out of here to places like Texas and Hawaii!!

    We’re pretty well stocked for conservatives in Texas, thanks. Although we do have a reservation for liberals in Austin, too.

  15. What gets me is when people start talking about if something is or isn’t “scientific fact” as though that made it unassailable truth. You’re missing the whole fricking point!

    This is what makes the scientific method superior to other ways of knowing things

    Yeah, that’s a really good and important point. Empiricism doesn’t get nearly enough emphasis.

    It would be much better if textbooks simply cited studies. Even in elementary school, kids should get more exposure to how science is actually done, rather than being given the impression science works the same as received wisdom: somebody told me this is true, therefore it must be true.

  16. Fuck No!! We are trying to export them all out of here to places like Texas and Hawaii!!

    We’ve closed an entire airline to keep people from coming here.

  17. Even in elementary school, kids should get more exposure to how science is actually done, rather than being given the impression science works the same as received wisdom: somebody told me this is true, therefore it must be true.

    I couldn’t agree more. The worst thing to do to a student is to tell them that something is true “just because”.

    However, there is a great deal of disagreement as to what exactly “how science is actually done” is. Bruno Latour wrote a pretty good book on this problem a while back, “Science in Action”.

  18. joe,

    absolutely, real books are much better than textbooks.

  19. Episarch,
    I had not, and now that I have I still object. That there is to be a survivor is one survivor too many. Besides, Missouri is a far more central location costing far less in travel expenses for the, ahh, participants.

  20. Global Warming is not a social issue, it is a central economic and scientific issue. It is the greatest threat to the free market and general liberty in the 21rst century. The scam of global warming, that is, not the natural fluctuation after the Little Ice Age (OMG!!! the planet is warming after an ice age!! OMG!!!)

  21. I use the Wilson book in my AP class. It’s a supplement, though, and not the primary teaching tool (lectures, in-class writing, discussions…).

    Our school uses the “1994 election update” version of the text, but I’ve never found it overtly biased.

  22. It just sounds like a BAD textbook. I remember a bunch of useless liberal textbooks too.

  23. A school textbook authored by conservative academics

    Never saw one, is it in the Smithsonian?

  24. We’ve closed an TWO entire airlines to keep people from coming here.

    Fixed. (Aloha and ATA).

  25. My grade school textbooks were very left-leaning, full of praise for labor unions, central-planning, and moral relativism.

    The upside was that I learned how to pronounce lots of “diverse” names, like Shomiqua, Phuong-Li, etc.

  26. Or hell, without saying a word out loud. It isn’t about prayer, it’s about being an exhibitionist and wanting to force your superstitions on others.

    The ‘environmentalists’ get to voice their superstitions out loud through entire classes. They even get to impact your GPA if you do not demonstrate true belief in their superstitions. Same with various Socialists.

  27. Mick,

    Tell me about it! My son brought home a textbook that told him that the earth was round! Can you imagine? I marched right down to the school and told the teacher to get that socialist drivel out of my son’s face.

  28. I’ve long wondered what the value of many textbooks truly is: can’t things be taught better through a number of books? or through lectures? or even a series of books, documentaries, lectures, movies, visitors, independent research, and a large number of other things that will keep schools and universities from feeling any need to buy most of these overpriced, watered-down, largely-unnecessary textbooks?

    Yes! If art doesn’t work out for me (it probably won’t), I plan on being a public school teacher (economics). I’d teach out of various books I personally own for a number of reasons. First, kids need to be exposed to a number of views to best form their own, and who better to express those views than the experts who agree? People who are on one side can better find flaws in the other side. I don’t trust myself to formulate the best arguments. Secondly, they’re simply good books. They may make learning fun, interesting, and/or easy when it comes to certain subjects. I think that teachers should simply distribute their own typed up notes or commentary or blah blah blah so (1) students can have that information on hand indefinitely and (2) schools save money.

    Even in elementary school, kids should get more exposure to how science is actually done, rather than being given the impression science works the same as received wisdom: somebody told me this is true, therefore it must be true.

    110% agree. I’m assuming you’ve watched Break The Science Barrier (narrated by Richard Dawkins)? If you haven’t, you should.

  29. “unconstitutional every effort to have any form of prayer in public schools, even if it is nonsectarian, voluntary or limited to reading a passage of the Bible.”

    The kicker here is that the author believes “reading from the Bible” = “nonsectarian” = “Christian.”

    Yes! If art doesn’t work out for me (it probably won’t), I plan on being a public school teacher (economics). I’d teach out of various books I personally own for a number of reasons.

    Run that past Jennifer. When she finishes laughing and picks herself up off the floor she’ll educate you.

    Meanwhile, my experience as a parent: Public schools use standard textbooks usually chosen at district or state level, and each teacher’s lesson plan tracks the other lesson plans in the same subject, as established by the head of the department, the administration, the school board, and the state. All the social studies classes in a school will normally be on the same chapter of the same book, usually within one or two pages of each other. The goal is to enable students to find the school-approved answers in the state competency exam. If you’re very lucky, and have the required tenure, you may get an accelerated class that covers a little bit more material with the goal of actually learning the subject, but in which you must grade all the students A or B. In progressive districts, however, these classes have fallen out of favor as elitist.

  30. I’ve long wondered what the value of many textbooks truly is: can’t things be taught better through a number of books? or through lectures? or even a series of books, documentaries, lectures, movies, visitors, independent research, and a large number of other things that will keep schools and universities from feeling any need to buy most of these overpriced, watered-down, largely-unnecessary textbooks?

    I agree, especially for older kids, and also get different points of view to teacht he kids a little critical analysis of what they are reading,

    however,

    I have three who are in grade school and it’s hard enough some mornings finding one book for each class, I can’t imagine the lunacy and tears if there were multiple books per subject!

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