Sunday, November 29, 2009

Anyone Catch That

I just got home from an evening with my family and was flipping through the channels when I noticed a Fox "News" report on textbooks with the subtitle being something like "Do You Know What Your Children Are Reading?"

I caught the last 10 minutes of it and the premise seemed to be "OMG! Evil textbook corporations are pushing political agendas on students which they're forced to overpay for!"

Since it was only the end bit (and I'm assuming the kinda summary) I'm curious as to what examples were used before I turned the show on.

I did find it ironic that the commentator pretended like textbooks are the only source of information that kids are learning from (even though he made a special note to point out he married a teacher).

So does anyone have any more information or know if the show is online?

EDIT: Looks like it's up on Hulu. This should be fun:

2:00 - They start off showing some kids from Illinois toting around some pretty hefty bags. The heavier of the two girls weighed 37 pounds. Excessive to be sure, but what kid really needs to bring home every textbook? Most figure out very quickly which are the important ones and which can be left in their desks/lockers.

3:30 - A textbook originally comissioned for El Passo, TX that features information about both the US and Mexican Thanksgivings is found in a New Jersey town. Oh the terror!

What's the real reason for Fox being so upset about it? The Mexican holiday is mentioned first. I'm willing to bet it's either because (a) it happened first chronologically or (b) the area for which it is written predominantly celebrates the Mexican one. Still, the indignity of not putting the US first obviously gets to Fox.

5:00 - Now they actually get on to a topic with which I agree: Over sensorship. Textbook manufacturers are so careful not to offend anyone, they sanitize their language to the point that it loses all meaning. Fox is obviously implying we should stop this. The ones that will get the brunt of this are groups that have been historically underprivileged (since that's the intent of this overly careful attempt not to offend). I wonder if they're going to figure out that this cuts both ways: If we stop worrying about offending the poor sensitive Christians, evolution is going to be written even more provocatively.

9:30 - A few of their "experts" whine about how American History books are overly critical of the US by pointing to things like slavery, racism, the internment of Japanese during WWII.... They claim this criticism isn't applied to any other civilization.

Perhaps textbooks have changed greatly since I was a kid, but I can't remember textbooks (or teachers) saying much nice about Nazi Germany. Roman history in my Latin classes was often filled with their debauchery and brutality. So I think it's off the mark to suggest that the US is unfairly singled out. And I don't think some introspection is such a bad thing.

10:00 - They give an example of a group of students being asked to decide whether or not Columbus deserved a holiday and then being given assigned reading of a book about how barbarous he was towards the native Americans. This is blamed on textbooks, but this is more a pedagogical issue with the teacher.

10:45 - 20% of American high school seniors can't identify what two countries fought in the war in Vietnam. This is pretty sad, but let's keep it in context. How poor at basic science are Americans again?

11:00 - Really? They're going to get the author of Lies My Teacher Told Me on their show!? Has Fox read this book? The main thrust of it is that textbooks aren't near hard enough on America and that America is always made out to be the good guy. I bet they're not going to let him mention that though.

11:30 - Textbooks are often copied off one another and likely ghost written? Hm. I wasn't terribly aware of this, but ultimately, I don't see it mattering too much.

14:00 - Yep. They just went off the deep end. They imply that if you're "a left-wing Marxist" group, that you need to portray the US as evil and oppressive. Why are "left-wing" and "Marxist" being tossed together? Is there really that large of population of true Marxists in the US or is this really just another stupid smear from Fox. Gee... I wonder.

And of course, it's "Conservatives" that love America....

15:30 - "Remember the good ole days when it was Homer Simpson that taught families how to talk to kids about bullying? Somewhere along the line, it looks parents dumped that responsibility on the schools."

Does Fox really mean to suggest that The Simpsons is educational material?

What they're really complaining about here is that schools are being responsible for teaching material regarding social issues like awareness of homosexuals. Fox suggests that it's not really an issue because the FBI only lists around 135 "bias incidents" regarding sexual orientation, none of which were in schools. Right. Because the first people a school is going to contact when a kid shoves someone on the playground and bullies them because their parents are of the same gender, is the FBI.... There's a reason that the superintendent of the Alameda school district pushing the curriculum called it "anecdotal". But Fox News ignored this.

17:45 - Instead, Fox gets a pastor from a Conservative church who calls the LGBT movement "the new bullies on the block". He points out that he feels parents should be responsible to teach social issues. That's all well and good, but often parents are just as ill-equipped to teach this as they are to teach high school physics.

18:30 - For Fox being "unable" to find any evidence of bullying regarding sexual orientation, they sure didn't try too hard. In fact, they didn't even look at their own footage since they have a parent on camera describing what happened to her child. They have another student getting up discussing his experience. Pathetic Fox.

19:00 - Of course there's "more" angry parents protesting that the LGBT community is getting their way. Because the majority is always right. They show the pastor getting up again, ranting about how his children are harassed but he doesn't care because he's a good parent and he teaches his kids how to deal with it. This is remarkedly narrow minded. Not all parents are so well equipped. And I'm not just referring to the parents of the students being harassed, but also the parents of the students doing the harassment.

19:45 - Some parents are upset the school chose a book (And Tango Makes Three) about some gay penguins which makes "traditional" people out to be the bullies. How dare someone not stand up and shower the "traditional" people with praise....

20:30 - Parent complaining that they don't give parents the option to opt their children out. A fair point.

21:00 - A long time volunteer in the school district witnesses more bullying due to sexual orientation. Guess Fox couldn't find this either.

22:00 - The next segment deals with Islam in the classrooms. The claim is that books fail to identify terrorism as Islamic. This is absolutely asinine. Terrorism is not uniquely Islamic. I'd agree it's rewriting history to claim that many branches of Islam incite terrorism, but to pretend that Islam = terrorist is about as truthful as to pretend America = oppressor OR a universal source of all that is good and righteous.

26:15 - A good point that in many textbooks Christianity is qualified with phrases like "Christians believe...". Meanwhile, for Islam, it simply says "The Qur'an is the collection of Gods revelations to Muhammad." I agree it's nonsense to treat one religion as fact and another as tentative. Treat them all equally: As belief systems without evidence.

27:15 - They point to an Islamic academy in which the valedictorian from one year tried to assassinate president Bush. The conclusion: The school must be training terrorists because Islam is evil and the only place the student could have picked up such radical ideas was in the classroom.

28:00 - Apparently the school is teaching that non-Muslims aren't equals and that killing them isn't a sin.

30:00 - Specific passages are cited from the textbooks the school uses that encourages torture of non-Muslims. To be fair, some of the passages sound like they could have been take out of context and were historical, but it's hard to tell.

31:00 - Experts that reviewed the books previously disagreed with Fox's translation. His point is that it's not a causal agent. Right....

32:00 - The school in question wants to expand and a community member gets up saying that because most of the 9/11 hijackers were Saudi nationals, then all Saudi nationals are evil.

33:00 - Oh good. Evolution time. They start by setting up how Texas has had many battles. Because the "battle" over evolution is the same as the battles of Davy Crockett.

36:30 - They've got the "Someone's got to stand up to these experts" guy (Don McLeroy) on pushing the "teach the controversy" slogan. He claims that there's legitimate criticisms of evolution. He's an idiot.

38:00 - The last segment is about the price of textbooks and how overpriced they can be. I can't disagree with that.

40:00 - They interview the heads of a company that's developing a sort of "wiki" textbook. They interview college students who say they don't like the instructor deciding the material of the book. I wonder how they think the course material is really developed....

That was the extent of the episode. It was just another typical Fox distortion of evil liberalists trying to wage a culture war through academia. There were a few good points about how over sensitive we are and I agree, we need to pull our heads out of our asses and address things as they are instead of worrying about the PC police. But this isn't something that applies specifically to textbooks.


cosmosboy3000 said...

It's also up on Youtube (for those of us outside the US who can't view Hulu)

David said...

It's also up on Youtube (for those of us outside the US who can't view Hulu)