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California textbooks: Should politicians have any influence over their content?

A pile of textbooks.
A pile of textbooks.
By djfoobarmatt via flickr / Creative Commons

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Assemblyman Chris Holden (D), has a bill asking the state Board of Education to add the election of Barack Obama to the public school curriculum. It appears to be a pretty benign request.

Especially, since inclusion of Barack Obama’s historic election would seem to be a no-brainer. But, what if a politician wanted to include racist propaganda? Critics say, the idea that politicians, who might have agendas, should have influence over what children read and learn in school, is bad for education because it could be too biased.

Also, it’s said in California, textbooks must show senior citizens as in-shape and active, regardless of the reality that many seniors face health issues and even poverty -- this imposed by politicians to avoid any hint of stereotyping.

While avoiding putting people in boxes might be noble, and ensuring the story of America’s first black president is included in kids’ textbooks might feel right, should politicians have a say in what our kids are reading in their textbooks? Or should it be left to educators and academic experts? Should citizens have a say?


Brad J. Porfilio, associate professor at Lewis University