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Textbooks aren’t only way to teach

Young children are quite impressionable.
They tend to take what they hear and embrace it as fact — especially if it comes from their parents, teachers or a textbook.

Unfortunately, what is represented in textbooks is not always the whole truth. Earlier this month, the Texas Board of Education approved a social studies curriculum that was largely influenced by the conservative members of the elected board.

The standards include diminishing the notion of separation of church and state as a founding principle of the United States.

The board also rejected the inclusion of notable Hispanic Texans — including those who fought for Texas’ freedom at the Alamo.

Social studies textbooks, especially those for young children, are usually watered-down versions of what really happened. In many cases, this is so children can understand the concepts — which can then be built upon as a child’s level of understanding increases.

I remember learning about Christopher Columbus in elementary school.
“In fourteen hundred and ninety-two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue,” the class recited.

We learned that Columbus and his men were brave and adventurous. Even though they weren’t trying to get here, his was the first European expedition to North America.

All of this is true and important. What the history books didn’t tell us was that Columbus and his men brought European diseases with them, to which Native Americans had no immunity. Columbus and his men also enslaved some of the Native American people, a fact not mentioned in grade school.

Thanks to books like Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States, I learned to look beyond what was printed in my textbook.
Bias, to the right or to the left, will always be present in almost any book you read. Reading as many books as possible on a particular subject can allow you to see events from more than one perspective.
In today’s vastly digital age, getting information is easier than ever. Individuals can make their voices heard.

Last June, post-election protests in Iran turned violent, and the Iranian Government worked to control outgoing communication.

But the people were determined to tell the rest of the world about injustices that were occurring between police and the protesters.

Government forces killed several protesters, and the government refused to acknowledge the casualties. Releasing information out about the deaths in any traditional form was prohibited.

One young university student named Neda Agha-Soltan was walking to the protest location in Tehran. As she neared the demonstration, a police bullet struck her in the chest and she was killed.

If it weren’t for the Internet, we would not know about the killing of this young woman.

Though graphic, a cell phone video of her death was taken and broadcast on the Web, letting the whole world know about the unjustified killing.

Whether traditional or technological, professional and citizen journalists are out there, slowly taking a toll on injustice with photos, video and the written word. We are there to give a voice to the people.

Textbooks are important to children’s education, and the final vote on the social studies textbook standards won’t be until May. Before that time, you can contact the board of education to give your comments.
But if the standards do pass, remember that while a valuable learning tool, textbooks are not the be-all, end-all of a child’s education.

Liz Crawford is a staff writer at the Ennis Daily News and covers education and Ellis County government. She can be reached at liz@ennisdailynews.com.

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Posted by on Mar 26 2010. Filed under Sports. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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