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Textbooks

A few days ago, I was thinking about textbooks and classrooms thanks to an entry on a friend's journal. Then I ran across this article referenced over on Instapundit.

The article pretty much illustrates what my 'gut' was feeling regarding discussions of minority contributions in social studies classes. Some excerpts:

At least three-fourths of the children portrayed as disabled in Houghton Mifflin textbooks actually aren't....

Because, you know, not all disabled kids are pretty.

The cofounder of PhotoEdit Inc., a commercial archive that specializes in pictures of what it calls ``ethnic and minority people in all walks of life," advises publishers that images of Chicanos can be passed off as American Indians from the Southwest, because they ``look very similar." Similarly, Golden notes, a textbook photographer tells clients that since the ``facial features" of some Asians resemble Indians from Mexico, ``there are some times where you can flip-flop."

But hey, it's the diversity that counts.

Yet pictures of authentic Hispanics who happen to have blond hair or blue eyes don't count toward the Hispanic quota ``because their background would not be apparent to readers." In other words, rather than expose schoolchildren to the fact that ``Hispanic" is an artificial classification that encompasses people of every color, publishers promote the fiction that all Hispanics look the same -- and that looks, not language or lineage, are the essence of Hispanic identity.

There's a great picture in the wikipedia article.

``One major publisher vetoed a photo of a barefoot child in an African village," Golden writes, ``on the grounds that the lack of footwear reinforced the stereotype of poverty on that continent." Grinding poverty is in fact a daily reality for hundreds of millions of Africans.

I have no words for this one.

....a McGraw-Hill US history text devoted a profile and photograph to Bessie Coleman, the first African-American woman pilot -- but neglected even to mention Wilbur and Orville Wright. ``A company spokesman," the Journal reports dryly, ``said the brothers had been left out inadvertently."

And this pretty much illustrates my entire objection. Illustrating the contributions of all people of various groups is a good thing, but not at the expense of greater contributions.

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