Note: my letter cited the names of the primary proponents of the textbooks in question, but to be safe I will not give their names here. Their names have been replaced with "***".
Appleton School Board
Appleton, WI 54912
Dear Board Members:
I have received the response from **** and **** to my objections raised last month over the bias found in two textbooks, Sociology and Anthropology. I apologize for having been misinformed over the classes that would use these books - they are for high school courses, not middle school. That the courses are not required may reduce the potential for harm, but does not lessen my concern about the use of grossly biased materials in public education.
In fact, my concern has been exacerbated by the response of Mr. *** and Mr. ***. To explain this heightened concern, I must offer some background. As you will recall, I provided several detailed passages containing examples of what I felt were manipulative, biased, and bigoted discussions of political conservatives and of Christians (especially conservative Christians). I thought these passages and the explanations I offered would enable even strong critics of Christianity or political conservatism to recognize that some bias was present. (Naturally, all writing suffers from some level of bias, even when objectivity is the goal; no perfect textbook exists for any course.)
I asked the Board to recognize the problems with the texts and to decide if the level of bias was acceptable. I offered my opinion that the level of bias went beyond the unintentional, and that Christians and political conservatives were repeatedly portrayed in an unfair, negative manner, with some examples that were simply outrageous (such as the statement that conservative Christians fear the teaching of positive values such as world peace, compassionate concern for humans, etc.).
When I read the rebuttal of Mr. *** and Mr. ***, I was surprised that neither gentleman could detect any problem with bias. I expected at least an acknowledgement of some trouble spots in the text, but the rebuttal denies the presence of bias. Even the most blatantly offensive passages are said to be acceptable.
My concern now goes beyond the texts in question. I am troubled that prominent educators and decision makers fail to recognize serious bigotry even when it is explicitly pointed out. Certainly bigotry is in the eye of the beholder, but I feel that basic sensitivity to the values and beliefs of others should be an adequate lens to detect the problems I refer to. Jean Beschta, at the last Board meeting, argued eloquently that most people cannot recognize their own biases, even blatant ones, until they are pointed out. We all have blind spots. I hope my efforts to point out a blind spot with regard to anti-Christian and anti-conservative bias will be accepted in good faith, not as an attack, but as a plea for equity. I urge the Board and the authors of the rebuttal to honestly try to understand how portions of the selected textbooks may be extremely offensive to significant segments (even if it be a minority) of the community that employs them.
If a textbook not only marginalized women but belittled them in multiple instances, would any number of neutral passages compensate for the offense? Would you be swayed by the argument that the book treats many other topics, providing a "holistic approach" and multiple viewpoints? If a textbook contained only one paragraph of blatant racism - for example, the absurd claim that "genetic inferiority makes blacks a detriment to America" - would you accept any justification for such bigotry? And if that textbook showed such bigotry in multiple instances, would other neutral passages create a sufficient "balance of views"? I am not talking about incompleteness due to space limitations or any of the other peripheral issues raised in the rebuttal to my views - a rebuttal that simply misses the point. I am talking about a pattern of genuine bias and even bigotry.
Obviously, I failed in my first attempt to be adequately clear in explaining the the bias and bigotry in the textbooks in question. I will now take greater pains to make that clear (please see the attached document). I ask that the Board recognize the problem and honestly decide if that level of bias is acceptable for schools in our community. I feel that an unfair manipulation of student values and opinions toward specific political and religious outlooks is pedagogical abuse and should be avoided if the concepts of equity and diversity are to have any meaning.
Please do not conclude that my concerns are focused on a few passages in two textbooks. I am concerned with the entire issue of equity and with the need to respect the diverse religious and political views of families in our community. In general, the school system should take pains not to undermine parental values. Texts which unfairly criticize Christians and conservatives should not be used.
Finally, I am offended by Mr. ***'s and Mr. ***'s reference in paragraph 4 to "dictatorial regimes" that fear diverse viewpoints and seek to impose only their view of history on students, as if that described my objections. This insinuation is typical of the type of bias that bothers me. Here we have a lowly parent (me) objecting to teaching materials, selected by an organ of the State, that present only one side of important and divisive issues of great relevance to the family. In response, the agents of the State argue the need for diverse views - apparently meaning only their views - and then make references to the threats of censorship and fascism. This kind of response has been seen in many related disputes. In such debates, I often see a troubling double standard. When liberal or atheistic texts are selected, that represents "diversity," "pluralism," and "openness," but when parents want respect for conservative or Christian values, then that is denounced as fascism, as imposing of only one view upon our children, or as a threat to the First Amendment. Members of the Board, Mr. *** and Mr. ***, let us avoid such tactics and deal fairly with these issues.
Jeffrey D. Lindsay, Ph.D.
att: documentation of bias
My first letter to the School Board
The documentation of bias
Beam back to Jeff Lindsay's planet (my home page)