Friday, April 11, 2008

Irony alert AND hypocrisy alert – Conservative bias in public schools

Ahh, who’d have thunk it? Esteemed sociological legal scholar James Q. Wilson, inventor of the “grass in the cracks” theory of urban decline (step on a crack and you break Ronnie Reagan’s back) and John Dilulio of White House Mayberry Machiavelli fame (ahh, John, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, does it?) have gotten busted for conservative bias in a school textbook they wrote. Busted by the high school senior who had to read it, Matthew LaClair.

How bad is it? Let’s sample a few quotes:

The edition of the textbook published in 2005, which is in high school classrooms now, states that “science doesn’t know whether we are experiencing a dangerous level of global warming or how bad the greenhouse effect is, if it exists at all.”

A newer edition published late last year was changed to say, “Science doesn’t know how bad the greenhouse effect is.”

The authors kept a phrase stating that global warming is “enmeshed in scientific uncertainty.”

The Mythmaking Machiavelli, Dilulio, and the Rudy G.-loving Wilson didn’t reckon, though, with the Uncensorable James Hansen. (Appearing soon at a theater near you._
LaClair said he was particularly upset about the book’s treatment of global warming. James Hansen, the director of NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, recently heard about LaClair's concerns and has lent him some support.

Hansen has sent Houghton Mifflin a letter stating that the book’s discussion on global warming contained “a large number of clearly erroneous statements” that give students “the mistaken impression that the scientific evidence of global warming is doubtful and uncertain.”

But, that’s not all. Dilulio, who was the first leader of Preznit Bush’s unconstitutional in my opinion but never adequately fought against by week-kneed Democrats faith-based initiatives, was surely the primary author of this nuttery about prayer in school:
LaClair also was concerned about the textboo’'s treatment of U.S. Supreme Court decisions regarding prayer in school. The book shows a picture of kids praying in front of a Virginia high school and states, “The Supreme Court will not let this happen inside a public school.”

The textbook goes on to state that the court has ruled as “unconstitutional every effort to have any form of prayer in public schools, even if it is nonsectarian, voluntary or limited to reading a passage of the Bible.”

Those examples are not correct, says Charles Haynes, a religious liberties expert at the First Amendment Center in Washington.

“Students can pray inside a public school in many different ways,” Haynes said, adding they can pray alone or in groups before lunch or in religious clubs, for example.

That’s not all. The authors then claim that the Supreme Court ruling in Bowers, striking down Texas’ sodomy law, means it’s more likely that courts and not legislatures will decide issues of gay marriage.

LaClair sees a meta-bias behind all this:
“All the statements for the most part were trying to lead the reader in one direction and not giving a fair account of everything,” he said.

Oh, and this isn’t the first time LaClair has found religious bias at his school.

The Center for Free Inquiry, the nation’s top advocacy group for humanist rights, blew the whistle on the book and publisher Houghton Mifflin.

Note: Here in Tejas, Houghton Mifflin has a bad reputation for kowtowing to the wingers amongst state school textbook reviewers. I’m not a schoolparent, but I wouldn’t be surprised if “American Government” is floating around many a school district hear. That’s because HM is one of the four biggest publishers of K-12 school textbooks, and Texas is the second-largest school textbook market in the country, followed by No. 3 Florida. The entire market has more than $4 billion in sales.

Beyond that, here in Texas, HM has had the worst error rate in recent years among school textbooks:
All had some errors, but Houghton Mifflin Co., one of the leading educational publishers in the U.S., had 86,026 errors in the series of books it submitted to the state. That was 79 percent of all the errors that were discovered.

But, HM doesn’t care, between Religious Right-pandering and errors, as long as it gets a cool $1 bil or so off those school textbooks.

Cross-posted from my blog, where “irony alert” and “hypocrisy alert” are well-worn tags.