The Best of Our Knowledge
1:10 am
Mon December 4, 2006

The Best of Our Knowledge # 846

Albany, NY – THE DUMBING DOWN OF TEXTBOOKS -
Estimates show textbook sales in the U.S. exceed 3.5 billion dollars
every year. Four key states seem to be driving the market. California,
Texas, Florida, and North Carolina together account for at least 1-billion
dollars in textbook sales each year. That's the dollars and cents. But
what about content? Perhaps, not to your surprise, money and content
issues are inseparable. We've all heard the stories about American
students falling behind students from other nations. One of the primary
tools teachers have in their curriculum arsenal is the textbook. But you'll
notice that today's textbooks don't resemble textbooks of even 20-years
ago. They're much larger and much heavier. Yet, they contain less text
and a lot more pictures. The American Textbook Council, or ATC, is a
non-partisan, independent watchdog research organization. ATC has
been conducting independent reviews and studies of school books in
history, civics, and the humanities since 1989. The American Textbook
Council believes that one of the biggest reasons American students are
falling behind is the textbooks they are using. Gilbert Sewall is Director
of ATC. He was Education Editor at Newsweek Magazine, and has
authored several books including, Necessary Lessons: Decline and
Renewal in American Schools. A term Sewall often uses to describe
the state of history textbooks available to teachers today is dumbing
down. He told us it would be easy to blame the publishers for the
problem, but it's more complicated than that. Listeners should know that TBOOK did invite several major textbook publishers to appear on this
program and present their side of the issue. We spoke with Pearson,
Houghton-Mifflin, and McGraw-Hill. They all declined to go on the record
and respond to comments critical of their industry. ATC Director, Gilbert
Sewall asks who are the textbook publishers trying to please by dumbing
down history education? The teachers? The school districts? The
students? The states? He tells TBOOK that he believes all parties
are to blame.
Jim Horne reports. (9:44)

**(Attention Program Directors. For more information about the above
story and the American Textbook Council, go to their website: www.historytextbooks.org.)**

NATIONAL CHILDREN'S BOOK WEEK -
While we're on the subject of textbooks we'd like to call your attention
to National Children's Book Week. Its been sponsored each year since
1919 by the Children's Book Council. It represents a celebration of the
written word, and encourages the introduction of young people to new
authors in schools, libraries, homes, and bookstores. Dr. John Cech is
an award-winning writer, teacher, scholar and critic who has been actively working in the field of children's literature for the past thirty years.
Dr. Cech is also Director of the University of Florida's Center for Children's Literature and Culture, and tells us this year's theme is More Books Please.
Dr. John Cech comments. (2:13)

**(Attention Program Directors. For those who are interested in finding
more books for children, listeners are referred to: www.booksense.com.
And you can read more about Children's Book Week at the Children's
Book Council site: www.cbcbooks.org/cbw.)**

EDUCATION HEADLINES AND UPDATES -
* The Globe and Mail newspaper University Report was just published in Canada. And Queen's University placed at the top in: quality of education, academic reputation, quality of student services, libraries, most satisfied students, and diversity of extra-curricular activities.

* Maclean's magazine, also in Canada, has published its best ranking
issue. In the medical-doctoral category, Queen's University was rated
second place, right behind McGill University.

* In college sports, the NCAA is considering membership of some Canadian schools, the premise is to make it easier for schools geographically near each other to compete, cutting travel costs and
missed class time. A vote could come as early as January.

* And a Denver judge has ruled that the University of Colorado does not
have to pay for Professor Ward Churchill's legal fees.
Dr. Karen Hitchcock reports. (2:00)

VOICES IN EDUCATION SERIES -
Long time listeners of The Best of Our Knowledge will note that
this is a brand new series for TBOOK. The series takes us across
North America for a close up look at the people inside educational systems: teachers, college presidents, crossing guards, students,
cafeteria workers, etc. We'll hear and learn about their jobs, their philosophies and how that all fits into the vast world of education.
This week we head to Seattle, Washington for some lessons in
arithmetic and equality with Michael Sparks, a math and science
teacher at McClure Middle School.
Comments by Michael Sparks, Produced by Mary Darcy. (2:31)

**(Attention Program Directors. If anyone contacts your station and
wants to be profiled for this series, please have them Email us at: knowledge@wamc.org.)**

 

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