The camera doesn't lie?
Textbook publisher Pearson Scott Foresman is now offering an interactive software program in history and social studies aligned to state standards, i.e. programs whose content will differ from place to place. Not the worst idea, provided the state's standards are worthy and that students can trust the images on their computer screens. But many states have lousy history standards (see here and here) and textbook publishers bend over so far to be politically correct--and get their wares adopted--that they sometimes fall down. At McGraw-Hill, for example, photographic images of people in textbooks must be distributed as follows: 40 percent white, 30 percent Hispanic, 20 percent African-American, etc. On top of that, 5 percent of these shots must be of people with disabilities, and 5 percent of persons who hold an AARP card. These same requirements don't apply to the models in the photos, though; most of the "disabled" students pictured are able-bodied kids sitting in wheelchairs. We've complained for years about the crazy textbook adoption process, but fair is fair. We say that at least two percent of the photo space should be allocated to right-of-center education policy professionals. (We have a few suggestions.)
"Aiming for Diversity, Textbooks Overshoot," by Daniel Golden, Wall Street Journal, August 19, 2006
"Calif. Schools adopt digital history program," by Laura Ascione, eSchool News, August 17, 2006