July 14, 2006

Continuing today's French theme: Plus ça change...

or, how do you say "Tossing textbooks" en français?

Yesterday my father sent me The New York Times article on the latest on textbooks, "Schoolbooks are Given F's in Originality" (register for free or use Bug Me Not). Sadly but not surprisingly, the 2005 edition of the high school text A History of the United States by the late Daniel J. Boorstin and Brooks Mather Kelley has been adulterated by its publisher, Pearson Prentice Hall. What Mr. Boorstin, a historian, a Rhodes scholar (and Balliol man), the founder of the Center for the Book, and Librarian of Congress, would make of the publisher's shenanigans gives one pause.

Aside from the U.S. history suggestions in my previous textbook post, I can also suggest one of Mr. Boorstin's earlier works, the very good and unadulterated Landmark History of the American People; as many homeschoolers know, this one is required reading in Sonlight's Core 4. Another option by Boorstin is his wonderful three-part series, "The Americans": The Americans: The Colonial Experience (volume one); The Americans: The National Experience (volume two); and The Americans: The Democratic Experience (volume three, the one that earned Boorstin his Pulitzer Prize).

Moral of the story: you are definitely not stuck with whatever textbook drivel you find yourself (or your child) assigned. And the more you're willing to consider books that aren't au courant up-to-the-very-
last-minute, the more options you'll have. You will also spend much less for all three Vintage paperback editions of "The Americans" than you would for the one hardcover edition of the 2005 textbook, and you'll be able to say you helped slow Mr. Boorstin's whirling a tad over this shameful excuse for history.

Updated: I didn't have a chance earlier to include that the business about the plagiarized passages in the two Pearson Prentice Hall textbooks was brought to light by author James W. Loewen, who's in the midst of updating his 1995 bestseller, Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong, a survey of the then top 12 high school textbooks on American history. Well worth a read, particularly in conjunction with Diane Ravitch's The Language Police: How Pressure Groups Restrict What Students Learn, especially Chapter 9, "History: The Endless Battle."

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