“Their reviews of this year’s batch of social studies texts: Boring, dull, uninspirational; so lifeless as to be unfit for students. The board first rejected the entire list of books during a meeting Wednesday. After much discussion, members settled on a compromise to approve the books but send a letter to schools warning that the books may be too monotonous for children.”
The Board reasoned that it had to do something; if the texts weren’t approved, school districts would not be able to purchase them at a discounted rate. But to pass the buck on determining quality textbooks, and simply send a letter to schools warning them about the monotony of the textbooks they just approved: What exactly does the Board anticipate school districts’ reaction to be? Of, course the “boring” textbooks still will end up in the classroom.
Next time, instead of passing along mediocre classroom materials to teachers with a letter of warning, we recommend the Indiana Board of Education do its job. Indiana should put the word out to textbook publishers that they want to see rigorous, content-rich textbooks. And if they don’t get it the Board should be thinking “outside the box” -meaning outside the established textbook industry–to acquire the materials Indiana students need and deserve. How about checking out the great materials that the Core Knowledge Foundation produces? Or Joy Hakim’s excellent A History of US series? Or-for high schoolers-former US Secretary of Education Bill Bennett’s America: The Last Best Hope?
To many teachers and curriculum specialists, dull textbooks are nothing new.
“Social studies textbooks have been dull for decades,” said Robert Brady, director of social studies for Indianapolis Public Schools. “I just think the books are sterile,” he said. “All the fun is softened. When I read history, the controversies are what’s interesting. . . . The actual content is watered down.”
We’d be interested to see how the textbook industry would react if even just a few states refused to go along with the pablum it produces. It could help make textbooks better for all students.
– Lynne and Laura