The books are Sociology by Beth R. Hess, E. W. Markson, and P. J. Stein, 4th edition, MacMillan, 1993 update; and Anthropology by William Haviland, 6th ed., Holt-Rhinehard-Winston, 1991.
Here is the documentation of bias:
I appeared at a Board meeting and presented my concerns. The Board and the social studies textbook advocates had been planning to put in the order for the books the next day, but the Board agreed to wait a month to provide time for review.
During that time, the proponents of the biased books prepared a "rebuttal." In response to the disappointing nature of that rebuttal - a rebuttal that completely missed the point, I prepared a second letter and expanded my documentation of the bias, trying to explain the problems clearly enough so that nearly anyone should (in theory) be able to sense that bias is present. The only question left to answer is whether that level of bias is acceptable. I'm still surprised that the advocates of the texts cannot acknowledge that some bias exists.
My wife attended the next Board meeting and presented our concerns again. Each board member had received a copy of the expanded documentation and our second letter. The Board, in a closed meeting, had already decided to table the textbook issue until a committee could be appointed to gain further input and make a recommendation. I am glad the Board agreed to do this instead of simply going ahead with the proposed texts. I hope honest people will be selected for the committee, for I feel that any honest person - regardless of personal views - should be able to see that the proposed texts offer an unacceptable level of ideological bias.
The funny thing about this is that our objection to two textbooks was front page news in the local paper, the Post-Crescent, which is the top-rated paper in the state of Wisconsin. In fact, it was the lead story on the front page of July 11, 1995, with a color picture of my wife speaking to the Board. How on earth is this front page news? (I almost wonder if somebody is paranoid about the influence of Christians on education: stop the press - Christians are trying to take over our schools!)
My first letter to the school board
My second letter - a response to a "rebuttal"
The textbook reviewed here is Sociology by Beth R. Hess, E. W. Markson, and P. J. Stein, 4th edition, MacMillan, 1993 update.
In multiple instances, this textbook denigrates conservative Christians. I will present several examples, none of which are adequately balanced elsewhere in the text. There are several neutral statements about religion in general and an acknowledgement that many people practice it - and even a photo of food gathered by Baptists for charity, but several neutral statements and the photo of food do not compensate for the offenses that I detail below. While several pages in the text are devoted to sensitizing students to the problems of discrimination against homosexuals, women, and racial minorities, religious discrimination is not given such attention. Indeed, the authors are guilty of religious bigotry on several counts:
Secular humanism "reflects the Enlightenment's emphasis on rationality, science, and personal effort rather than blind faith in supernatural powers.
"Among the tenets of humanist philosophy:
- 1. A faith in human intelligence and abilities.
- 2. A commitment to democracy and civil liberties.
- 3. A belief in the importance of, if not the divine origin, of the Ten Commandments and of the ideals of social equity, the community of humankind, and world peace.
- 4. Opposition to all theories of predestination, divine determination, and fatalism.
- 5. Compassionate concern for all human beings."
"These are the beliefs that conservative Christians in the United States fear being taught to their children." (Sociology, p. 400)
Do we really want to spend tax dollars to teach our children that conservative Christians fear the doctrines of democracy, civil liberty, peace, and compassion? Can anybody doubt that the above text is dishonest and manipulative?
What follows is simply more of the same:
"These are the beliefs that conservative Christians in the United States fear being taught to their children. So vigorous is their opposition that Congress passed a clause in the Education Act of 1985 that prohibits federal magnet school money from being used for 'any course of instruction the substance of which is secular humanism.' At the same time, by claiming that secular humanism is the belief system that dominates public schooling, some parents have sued local school districts for equal time for the Christian viewpoint.
"In any event, the few thousand members of the American Humanist Association continue to hope that their opponents will eventually be guided by reason rather than fear."(Sociology, p. 400)
The additional sentences offer no balance, but portray the Christian opponents of humanism (i.e, the fearful opponents of democracy, compassion, etc.) as extremists with political and legal clout. That is an opinion that does not belong as a statement of fact in a textbook.
"[I]ssues related to ideas about women and about sexuality in general... is where the split between liberal and conservative elements becomes most obvious, with the liberals supporting equality for women in all areas of social life, as well as acceptance of homosexuals and recognition of loving unions outside of marriage. In contrast, conservatives approve of sexual relations only among heterosexuals in legal marriage, and support norms of male dominance."
I see this as a biased way of saying that many Christians adhere to the traditional family concept and its value system. Many conservative Christian women in traditional families would be offended to be told that they advocate "male dominance." Biblical teachings speak of husband and wife as being joint-heirs in Christ, heirs together of eternal life, forming a partnership in unity rather than a master/slave relationship. Of course, many Christians have not reached this ideal, but the wording of the text is still unfairly biased against conservative Christians. The contributions of Christian organizations in advancing women's suffrage is ignored. The many positive contributions of Christianity to the welfare of women are ignored.
On page 407, the Catholic Church is described as "often accused of being actively hostile to women and to sexuality." There is no balance to this biased passage - no examples of how the Catholic Church benefits women and no mention that numerous women find fulfillment and joy as Catholics or as any other kind of Christian.
An article in the textbook by Mary Jo Neitz on modern witches (pages 406-407) says that the Catholic Church (Catholic charismatics in particular) and other churches "subordinate women to men" with "repressive social norms" that, according to social theory, "were necessary to control effervescent (enthusiastic) religious activity" among women. This passage again reflects a bias that is not countered elsewhere in the text. If Christian churches truly are repressive to women, why do we not find women as a minority in church membership? Again, many Christian women would be offended to be told that they are repressed by their religion. My experience has been that women tend to be more active in their Christian churches and more represented in church membership than men. I have heard many testify that they have found meaning, joy, and even liberation in their religious life as Christians. Though they may not be ordained as priests, many women play significant roles in their churches and are able to channel religious organizations towards outstanding social causes and humane service. Mother Theresa is an example of a woman whose influence for good has been global, yet she is a member of a church said to be repressive to women. Examples such as hers are ignored, leaving the student with only one view, the view that conservative Christianity and Catholicism repress women and limit their spiritual growth. Again, where is diversity of viewpoints?
"Forced to choose between commitment to the goals of justice and peace and their responsibility to their congregations, most clergy redefined their mission as one of serving local needs. Thus the prophetic inspiration of the 1960s gave way to an emphasis on priestly functions. For those clergy still dedicated to social activism and 'liberal' causes, the 1980s brought new, less controversial crusades: saving the environment; avoiding nuclear war; reducing world starvation; ending racial segregation in South Africa; and encouraging corporations to be more ethical.
"However, the more conservative denominations also have their causes: against abortion, pornography, and homosexual rights, among others." (Sociology, p. 408)
The "liberal" values of peace and justice and the "liberal" desire to save the environment, reduce world starvation, and avoid nuclear war is contrasted with the negative causes of conservative Christians: against abortion rights, against homosexual rights, and against pornography (I credit the authors for not saying "against First amendment rights"). This passage reflects bias at several levels. First, liberal religious values are defined as positive and obviously desirable, while conservative religious views are listed negatively. The bias becomes more evident when the textbook as a whole is considered, for the pro-abortion perspective is presented as the only reasonable viewpoint (evidence presented below) and homosexuality is likewise presented positively, with opponents of homosexuality described negatively as homophobic (p. 160).
Further, the style of contrasting liberal to conservative values suggests that conservative Christians do not wish to save the environment, avoid nuclear war, or reduce world starvation. This is patently untrue. Finally, the text omits the significant contributions of conservative Christians in fighting global hunger through significant sacrifice of money, time, and other resources; it omits the open opposition of conservative Christians to nuclear war; it omits the widespread conservative Christian advocacy of peace, justice, equity, and ethics; it also omits the energetic projects launched by many conservative religious groups to beautify and clean local communities (directly working to save the environment), etc. Many omissions were necessary to create this negative picture of conservative Christians in contrast to wholly positive liberals. Participation of liberal clergy in positive causes is cited in multiple instances; not so the conservative clergy. Again, can we really claim that this textbook provides a balanced treatment of Christians, when conservative Christians are denigrated and their contributions ignored?
Also of significance in the above citation from page 408 is the that the liberal causes of the 1960s are praised for their "prophetic inspiration." Naturally, no inspiration is ascribed to conservative causes.
Regardless of who is or is not a fundamentalist, the text shows bias on page 409 in hypothesizing that the rise of Protestant fundamentalism is due to anxiety in people who believe they are losing control of their life. "Such status anxiety is easily transformed into moral outrage that is at the heart of fundamentalist doctrine." Here we have another blatant example of bigotry. Moral outrage - anger - is said to be the foundation of fundamentalism! (I'm not sure I know any real fundamentalists, but I'm sure they'd be pretty outraged to read this! Actually, I may know many fundamentalists, for the text links conservative Christians in general to fundamentalists, and I know a lot of conservative Christians.) Is this statement on page 409 balanced by other passages in the text? I find no such balance. Does it reflect diversity or sensitivity to the views of others?
"Explaining social movements in terms of individual feelings of alienation or loss of certainty is, however, not completely satisfying to sociologists....What might account for the reawakening of fundamentalism in the 1980s? One answer is that fundamentalist leaders took advantage of public distress over the manifest failures of modernism."
(Here Christian leaders are unfairly portrayed as manipulative, taking advantage of public distress.) A lengthy listing of social and civic problems follows, with the claim that "fundamentalists" could trace all these events to a single cause, the spread of "secular humanism." "The only aspect of life not out of control was faith in the old-time religion." Given that secular humanism has already been defined as a system of extremely positive values that conservative Christians fear, the present passage argues that "fundamentalists" are paranoid, blaming all ills on the bogeyman of humanism, and reacting out of anxiety over their loss of control in life.
There is no room provided for the possibility that Christian influence is growing because people are sincerely accepting Christ or being drawn to drawn to the advantages religion offers. Rather, the growth of evangelical and other forms of Christianity - incorrectly grouped under the buzzword of "fundamentalism" - is said to be due to fear, anxiety, and religious leaders who take advantage of modern problems.
Some may still miss the bias in these passages. For further clarification, consider your reaction to a passage claiming that the influence of liberal groups in America was not due to a sincere belief in liberal ideals, but to "status anxiety" and fear that was exploited by leaders of liberal causes. What if a passage said that liberals traced all problems in America to the Reagan Administration, when a prior section had described Reagan as a benign hero who wanted peace and justice, values that were feared by his liberal opponents? Would you not agree that such text would be bigoted and inappropriate for a textbook in public schools?
This section presents the authors opinions - arguably a "sour grapes" view of the electoral victories of conservatives. I have heard conservatives argue that the election of Bill Clinton or Jimmy Carter was not reflective of people's actual viewpoints, but was just due to media bias. That is an opinion which would be inappropriate in a textbook, as are the opinions on page 409.
Page 409 offers a patently biased opinion in stating that the the "line between Church and State had been blurred" by the 1980 election, which gave the NCR legitimacy. This implies that it is a threat to the Constitution when candidates supported by Christians are elected! Christians, conservative or not, should have the same right to participate in the political process as anyone else. (Must we impose a religious test to ensure that only secularists are allowed to vote?) The attitude of the authors again reflects their bias against conservative Christians.
Continuing with the text, we find the bigotry escalates rapidly:
"Once the link between Church and State had been blurred, NCR leaders were quick to define the 'Christian' position on a range of issues, not all of which appear directly religious, including women's and gay rights (against), nuclear power (for), sex education (against), defense spending (for), antipoverty programs (against)..." (Sociology, p. 409)
This neat list is simply bigoted. What if it said, "Liberals have views on issues such as the killing of unborn children (for), religious tolerance (against), the Constitutional right to self-defense (against), the raising of taxes (for), sex without responsibility (for), the growth of big government (for)..." These issues are complex - resolving them to a simple "for" or "against" can be used to distort anybody's views. The conservative Christian view has been grossly distorted in a bigoted way.
Let me further reveal the bias by indicating what typical conservative Christians do support and oppose, based on my limited perspective (other Christians may disagree with some of the following statements). Typical conservative Christians are not against sex education, but oppose teaching of sex without a clear moral foundation. They support what they feel are fundamental and legitimate rights for all people, but do not see abortion for convenience as a right, while human life has sacred status. Homosexuals are not feared (contrary to statements on page 160) and their human rights are not opposed, but they do not feel that society must legitimize what they feel to be a destructive perversion; gays as fellow humans need to be loved and helped, but the practice of homosexuality should not be condoned. Conservative Christians seek to alleviate poverty, but some see governmental redistribution of wealth as an exacerbation of the problem (through the creation of destructive dependency and the natural potential for corruption) rather than a solution. It is unfair to say that they are categorically opposed to antipoverty programs, but they may be opposed to the existing federal programs due to their manifest failure.
The textbook does not attack religion per se. Indeed, the views and causes of liberal clergy are described positively - indeed, the liberal causes of the 1960s are said to have been charged with "prophetic inspiration." Furthermore, the religion of modern witches is described in positive terms (pages 406-407) and contrasted to the repression of women by conservative Christians such as Catholic charismatics. The rise of the "New Christian Right" and fundamentalism (a term used with bias) is described negatively, without balance and without a consideration of others views.
Although several pages are used to make students aware of the feminist perspective, the homosexual perspective, and the belief systems of modern witches - all in contrast to their ideological opponents, conservative Christians - I find no attempt to provide insight into the Christian experience or the perspective of religious conservatives. If Christians and conservatives represented a negligible minority in America, this lack of balance might be forgiven. Yet the text itself points out that many people subscribe to such views and bemoans their increasing influence. No avenue is provided for students to understand the conservative or Christian world view. Students are sensitized to discrimination of many forms, but not to religious discrimination or anti-Christian bigotry.
Proponents of the text have argued that it provides fairness, balance and a diversity of viewpoints. The highly divisive issue of abortion is another clear example of just the opposite. Only one viewpoint is portrayed, and the treatment of the topic does not even come close to being objective, fair, balanced, or diverse.
For example, page 157 offers another highlighted section entitled "When Urban Adolescents Choose Abortion." This section addresses the social and psychological effects of abortion, drawing upon one study of Zabin et al. for its "fascinating answers." This study examined three classes of African-American teenage women: those who had abortions, those who were pregnant and bore the child, and those who were not pregnant. Of the three groups, those who had abortions ended up being better of economically, suffered no additional emotional distress, and learned to become better users of contraception. The consequences of abortion are presented as positive, while elsewhere on page 157, the consequences of early child bearing are described as largely negative (which is certainly true for the mother), making the decision to have an abortion seem to be entirely logical. There is absolutely no discussion of adoption as a reasonable alternative (adoption was not even considered in the Zabin study). There is no reference to reasons why many people find abortion morally repugnant. There is no reference to numerous other studies which indicate adverse consequences of abortion (increased risk of sterility or subsequent miscarriage, for example, or the controversial issue of post-abortion stress syndrome). There is no indication that abortion causes the death of a human or even a potential human being. ONLY ONE SIDE OF THIS DIVISIVE ISSUE IS PRESENTED. Diversity of views? Balance? Absolutely not.
At the end of page 157 is a highlighted header, "Social Policy Issue: Abortion - Whose Body? Whose Baby?" This begins a new section loaded with bias, presenting abortion in terms of who will control women's bodies - themselves, or the state? Even Roe v. Wade is implicitly criticized on page 158 as being too restrictive, allowing the "interest of the state" to "supersede the wishes of the mother" by limiting third trimester abortions. "The sociological importance of this decision lies in making the abortion issue a medical one, thus denying women an absolute right to reproductive choice."
The authors are using the phraseology of the abortion-on-demand lobby, speaking only of choice and avoiding any hint that there are other rational views concerning the sanctity of life or the humanity of the unborn. Again, only one side - arguably, an extreme side - is presented. Fairness? Balance? Diversity?
Finally, the authors on page 158 discuss some of the political threats to abortion rights. "In addition, pro-life forces have successfully pressured physicians and hospitals, so that large numbers of them will no longer perform abortions...even though the health risks of giving birth are very much higher than for legal abortion, particularly for teenagers." The insertion of the phrase "even though ..." again reveals the bias of the authors. There is no suggestion that there are rational and moral reasons why doctors might not wish to perform abortions, nor is reference made to the ancient Hippocratic oath which forbids doctors to perform abortions. The pro-life movement is simply presented as a threat to the health of women, without balance.
The presence of bias becomes truly unmistakable on page 159. The facade of objective scholarship is dropped as youth are urged to vote for pro-choice politicians, again couching the debate in unfair terms to manipulate the child's response:
"Over the next several years you will be asked to vote for politicians who will determine the availability of abortions in your local community and state. You will have to decide who has choice and who does not. And whether or not the unborn has rights independent of the women in whose womb it resides. Is the fetus entitled to medical treatment even against the wishes of the mother and at some risk to her health? Can there really be two persons in one body? Who will decide - individual women or the state? This is the crux of a fierce ideological struggle over control of reproductive choice in contemporary America."
The abortion issue is presented to the prospective voter solely in terms preferred by the pro-abortion movement: choice, availability, control of one's own body, protection of the mother, individual rights versus state control. The rhetorical question, "Can there really be two persons in one body?" is clearly intended to prejudice the reader to the view that the unborn baby is not a person, not a human at all, and does not have a separate body. Such language is not only medically misleading (the baby has a separate body, with its own circulatory system, its own brain, its own nervous system, its own immune system, etc.) but is manipulative and reflective of extreme bias. The authors clearly wish that students will vote for pro-choice politicians. No other viewpoints are presented.
The context, which I am accused of ignoring, is one of pro-abortion bias and even propaganda, as I have shown above. The context makes the effect of the passage on voting all the more biased and manipulative. In context, the paragraph regarding voting is completely unacceptable in a textbook.
To those who have difficulty finding bias in the discussion of voting on the abortion issue, consider your reaction if the passage had been written with a pro-life bias. Such a passage might read like this:
"Over the next several years you will be asked to vote for politicians who will determine the protections we place on human life. You will help decide whether or not a child loses the most fundamental of all rights - the right to live - just because it has not yet left its mother's womb. Can we take away life with impunity? Will we remove all protections for the weakest and most helpless among us? Can we honestly say that an unborn child is not human? Can a separate being with its own beating heart, its own brain, and its own active brain waves be treated as merely a part of someone else's body? Who has the right to take away a human life for the personal convenience of someone else? This is the crux of a fierce ideological struggle in contemporary America." (my text)
Even pro-life activists should be able to detect that the above passage was written with extreme pro-life bias. If such a passage were in a sociology textbook, would Appleton officials advocate use of the book because of its diversity of views? Would we not be troubled that the text was manipulative and too biased for use in public education, even though we might share that bias? By the same token, I feel that the pro-abortion bias on page 159 of the sociology text will be evident to all.
As a final note, page 405 asserts, without documentation, that a majority of Catholics favor legal abortion. I find this hard to believe. There is no discussion of the reasons offered by the Catholic Church for its pro-life stand.
I have already noted many examples of bias against conservative Christians. In addition, conservatives in general are denigrated in the text. For example, page 161 bemoans the present increasing influence of conservatives, saying that the "general conservative trend in society [is] part of the backlash against all the changes initiated in the 1960s." The use of the word "backlash" again implies a reaction based on anxiety, anger, or fear. The changes initiated in the 1960s are described as positive. These changes, including "liberal causes" charged with "prophetic inspiration" (p. 408), comprise 1960s movements for civil rights, justice, and equity (p. 408), the gay rights movement of the 1960s (pp. 159-163); secularization, which is unfairly defined as the shift from "unquestioned faith" to "reason, science, and technology," (p. 400); increasing equality for women (p. 407); increased reproductive choice (pp. 157-159); and "sexually liberating currents" (p. 159). Some negative events in the 1960s are listed in passing on page 409 (notably assassinations and riots), but these are isolated events rather than lasting "changes initiated in the 1960s" against which conservatives are prompted to "backlash."
On page 409, the conservative political groups (apparently segments of the Republican party) that joined forces with conservative Christians are said to be organizations "that had previously been considered 'too extremist' to have much effect on public policy," but now, through "mailing lists, media know-how, and funding sources," they - with their Christian counterparts - became "a powerful force in electoral politics."
I have already pointed out the extreme anti-Christian bigotry in the passage on secular humanism. That passage on page 400 contains further bias, not pointed out above, in the definition of secular humanism, which is said to emphasize "rationality, science, and personal effort rather than blind faith in supernatural powers." Most religious people I know, and the denominations I am most familiar with, disavow "blind faith" and encourage people to apply logic and reason to develop an intelligent faith. The powers of the human mind are viewed as a gift that must be developed and used as much as possible. The text portrays rationality as the opposite of traditional religious faith, but this is a biased opinion.
In two other instances on page 400 (a margin note and in the first paragraph), "secularization" is defined as a shift from "unquestioned faith" to a focus in "reason, science, and technology." This definition demonstrates bias on the part of the authors. It is unfair to denigrate nonsecularists by calling their approach one of "unquestioned faith" or "blind faith." The Christians I know personally have typically questioned their faith at some time and have sought to apply rational thought to their religion. Reason, science, and technology are important to many Christians, including myself. Many churches teach that all truth must be self-consistent, and that genuine religious truth and scientific truth will be in harmony. Religious faith has inspired and motivated many great scientists, including Newton and Pascal, and many modern scientists (including scientists in this community) accept Christianity in some form.
What would be a fair definition of secularization? My college edition of Webster's Dictionary defines "secularize" as "to deprive of any religious character, influence, or significance; to convert to secularism." (Sounds applicable to this textbook!) Secularism is:
"1. secular spirit, views, or the like; especially a system of doctrines and practices that rejects any form of religious faith and worship. 2 the belief that religion and ecclesiastical affairs should not enter into the functions of the state, especially into public education."
The American Heritage Dictionary defines "secularize" as "to cause to draw away from religious orientation, make worldly." The dictionary definitions are much more objective than the textbook, for the latter imparts biased judgments: one side is impugned with the phrase "unquestioned faith" in contrast to "reason."
Scientific arguments are commonly used by secularists to deny divine creation or the existence of God, so it is appropriate to indicate that secularization reflects an increased belief in science rather than God. It is also appropriate to say that secularists see their viewpoint as one of rationality. However, it is unfair to ignore the viewpoint of those with religious faith.
Proponents of the text have called attention to a neutral statement on page 400, that science is not necessarily in opposition to faith for there will always be some issues which cannot be explained by science. However, that statement is the beginning of a discussion which indicates that the need for religion is steadily dwindling because of increasing technical mastery, and that religion is not needed in modern society except perhaps in time of stress:
"Nonetheless, the areas of life in which technical mastery has replaced faith are ever widening. The integrative functions of religion have been supplemented by political and economic structures. Although religious observance may be important for individuals in time of stress, most members of modern societies base their personal decisions on a rational calculation of costs and benefits rather than relying on commands of spiritual leaders.
"It is this modern way of thinking (the secular mind) that most conflicts with religion." (Sociology, p. 400)
Religious observance is described as a crutch for times stress. This shows remarkable ignorance of the role that religion plays in the daily lives of millions of people in "modern societies." With their manipulative wording, the authors devalue and marginalize sincere religious faith and imply that it is out of place in the modern world. Religion is contrasted with "rational calculation" - as if religion were irrational. Finally, with flagrant bigotry, the authors state that those with religious faith rely "on commands of spiritual leaders" rather than using their own reasoning - a statement which is simply incorrect.
Perhaps I must explain some basic facts about religious belief to illustrate the nature of bias in the textbook. The vast majority of Christians, Jews, and Moslems that I know do not "rely on commands of spiritual leaders" without the use of rational thought. Relatively few believers, in my experience, rely on anything but their own rational thought in making decisions. In religions where spiritual leaders offer anything close to "commands," their counsel may be appreciated, perhaps even prized, but not accepted blindly. The spiritual leaders in my particular denomination, for example, have explicitly warned against such blind faith in humans, however inspired they may be. Their suggestions, teachings, or instructions are to be weighed against scripture and considered and interpreted with logical thought, as well as faith and prayer. Christians generally are taught to ponder their decisions and to use their minds and hearts in solving their own problems. Many Christian religions emphasize the importance of human liberty and free agency - that we have the freedom and the responsibility to choose our own course, though there are consequences to the choices we make. Fortunately, we are not left in ignorance but have been given divine resources such as scriptures and prayer to provide guidance, and have access to the power of Christ to gain true freedom. But the choice is ours, and rational thought must play a role. Indeed, many Christians might say that their religious commitment is a result of "a rational calculation of costs and benefits," with the benefits of Christianity (peace and joy in this world - not just the next - and the hope of eternal life) far outweighing the costs.
In contrast, many secular people rely on almost anything but "a rational calculation of costs and benefits" in making decisions.
In context, I maintain that the sociology text belittles religious faith as irrational. blind, and unquestioning, useful perhaps only in times of stress, and at odds with the modern "secular mind" which is pictured as purely rational. This treatment of religion is unfairly biased in favor of secularism.
Not surprisingly, the text on page 400 soon departs from the bias against religious faith per se and narrows its focus to conservative Christians, specifically, "the new prophets of Protestant revivalism, who have defined 'secular humanism' as the great enemy...." This more focused area of bias has been treated above.
Several examples of bias or questionable accuracy can be cited:
p. 165 "In addition, the limited data indicate that homosexual parents are as successful as other parents in raising emotionally stable children...."
What limited data? No discussion is offered of the obvious problems that might exist in such an arrangement, nor of the reasons for concern on the part of conservatives. Throughout the lengthy section on homosexuality, the only viewpoint presented is one which favors homosexuality.
"Some homosexual relationships may be judged healthier - or at least less destructive - than some heterosexual marriages."<
"... the homosexual scene is probably no more violent or sexually exploitive [sic] than the heterosexual world."
These are both opinions without factual basis. Only one side of a hotly debated topic is presented.
p. 159: The text points hopefully to "sexually liberating currents" that have already helped homosexuals.
Again, this paints the picture using terms chosen for the advantage of only side. To label increasing sexual permissiveness as "liberating" successfully conveys the opinions of the authors. There is no attempt to provide balance.
p. 157: Opponents of reproductive clinics in schools have had success in limiting funding, "even though the data show that it is sexual ignorance and not sex education that accounts for American teenagers' high level of sexual activity and low level of contraception."
This irresponsible statement is offered without substantiation and, in fact, is contradicted by extensive data. Sexual ignorance is not the cause of sexual activity! Quite the opposite. This statement reveals the bias of the authors.
Finally, let me add one more point I have noted since my initial review. On page 160, during the course of the lengthy and favorable treatment of homosexuality, those who oppose homosexuality are said to suffer from homophobia. Rather than make any attempt to provide diverse viewpoints or to provide the viewpoints and motivations of Christian opponents of homosexuality, those who oppose homosexuality are described as suffering from a phobia. This provides only one viewpoint. The lack of balance - and the use of name calling - again shows a serious level of bias in the sociology text. Where is diversity, balance, and fairness? Only side of complex issues are shown.
This text is extremely biased and unfair in dealing with issues of religion, party politics, and sexual morality. Christians (especially conservative Christians) are denigrated, while modern witches are praised. Conservatives are presented as fearful, prone to backlash against progress, while liberals are highly praised. Youth are urged to support pro-abortion politicians.
Basic standards of fairness, intellectual honesty, and objectivity have been sacrificed for the sake of advancing the authors' personal biases in areas of party politics, sexuality, and religion. These divisive topics demand a cautious and fair approach in public education, respecting the views of the families in our community. Such an approach is absent in this textbook on sociology. Therefore, I feel a more equitable and inclusive text should be sought instead.
The text reviewed here (in much more brevity due to lack of time) is William Haviland, Anthropology, 6th ed., Holt-Rhinehard-Winston, 1991.
This text contains anti-religious bigotry and factual errors which make it a questionable choice for public schools. Perhaps anthropology textbooks are equally or more deficient. If this text is adopted, teachers should at least be sensitized to some of the problems to allow them to compensate or provide balance.
P. 563: Religion is defined: when people are unable to solve their problems through knowledge and science, they "turn to the manipulation of supernatural beings and powers."
"Religion consist of various rituals ... through which people try to manipulate supernatural beings and powers to their advantage."
These definitions fail to adequate include many of the world's religions! Opponents of Christianity may wish to slur that religion with such definitions, but I feel most Christians would be offended to be told that they seek to manipulate God. Indeed, Biblical teaching and a common Christian perspective is that we must seek to do God's will rather than the other way around. Christians want God to transform them into purer, more Christlike beings, to the glory of God - which could be described as "manipulation of humans by a supernatural power to His advantage." The teachings of several other major world religions are consistent with this general idea - that religion is used to transform the believers rather than to manipulate supernatural powers.
Other less biased texts describe religion as the belief systems that acknowledge the supernatural, systems which make distinction between the sacred and the profane, systems which teach reverence for powers or beings outside the scope of worldly existence, or systems of belief which offer specific precepts of a metaphysical nature. The Humanist Manifesto I, signed by prominent intellectuals including educators such as John Dewey, defines humanism as a religion, with a religious perspective focused on man rather than God. The definitions given by Haviland not only show bias, they are factually incorrect and fail to include many recognized religious systems. This is inexcusable in a serious textbook.
Page 565 shows a bias against conservative Christians ("Jerry Falwell and others") by referring to "Christian fundamentalism with its marked antiscience bias." The general definition on page 563 also implies that science and technology are at odds with religion. As a scientific researcher, I can say that there are many scientists who are also devout Christians and who see no conflict between scientific truth and religious truth.
Page 580 begins a major section entitled "Religion, Magic, and Witchcraft" - continuing the association of religion with magic. The text makes some distinction between religion and magic, but this hardly provides balance. Religion is presented in much the same terms as primitive magic - manipulation of supernatural powers.
Pages 428 to 429 argues that prohibitions on sex outside marriage are unusual - claiming that less than 5% of the world follow such a system. This "fact" is grossly incorrect. It is like saying that World War II ended in 1492. There are strict sexual prohibitions taught (though not always followed!) among many of the world's 1.7 billion Christians, one billion Chinese, and many other peoples. Where does Havilland come up with the undocumented and ridiculously low figure of 5%? This is misinformation.
Further bias is evident in his omissions. Nowhere does the author discuss any basis for such prohibitions (or even the "excuses" offered for such prohibitions) - a glaring oversight in a text attempting to discuss human culture and society. Instead,, this section on marriage cites at length (over 1 full page) the case of the Nayar people of India, who are said to give their young girls early for casual sex without obligations or commitments. This favorable portrayal of what appears to be child abuse, coupled with the overall tone of this section, teaches that early, casual sex is acceptable and free of negative consequences. Advocates of the text point out that the author states that Nayar practices are much different than what occurs in America. That is obvious, but does not constitute a departure from the author's ideological bias. In context (the 5% statement, the omission of other points of view, the omission of commonly offered reasons for restriction on sexual activity, and the incest section described below), the author is paints a positive picture of sexual permissiveness and early sex, reflecting his personal biases, not objective scholarship. His personal values will be offensive to many members of our community and are inappropriate in a textbook for public school.
On page 430, incest is discussed as if it were not inherently unacceptable. It is "a challenge to anthropologist to explain why incest should be commonly regarded as such a loathsome thing." Then Haviland states that there is still no truly convincing explanation for the incest taboo. The severe psychological and physical consequences of incest are well known and heavily documented - there is no excuse for the doubting stance displayed by the author.
The genetic risks alone provide a convincing reason against taboo, apart from elementary moral concerns. The author does refer to the theory that the incest taboo is due to the deleterious effects of inbreeding, but goes on to argue against that possibility. The paragraph on page 430 begins:
"Early studies of genetics thought that the incest taboo precluded the deleterious effects of inbreeding. While this is so, it is also true that as with domestic animals, inbreeding can cause desired characteristics as well as deleterious ones. Furthermore..."and more biological reasons for doubting the validity of the incest taboo are given. The author follows this paragraph with the statement that "A truly convincing explanation of the incest taboo has still to be advanced." [my italics]
This kind of misinformation is inexcusable and unprofessional. Coupled with the favorable discussion of very early sex with Nayar girls and the author's misstatement that prohibitions against premarital sex are unusual, this section shows that the textbook suffers not only from factual errors but from disturbing personal biases.
Haviland is a well-known anthropologist, but his textbook reflects a personal bias against religion and against the sexual mores taught by most organized religions. Given the importance of religion to most members of our community, this type of bias is not appropriate for the Appleton schools. It is one thing to ignore religion, but to distort its nature by describing it as Haviland does is unjustifiable. His irresponsible writing on the topic of sexual values (questioning the incest taboo, claiming that prohibitions against nonmarital sex are had among less than 5% of the earth, and citing a case of apparent sexual abuse of children in favorable terms) reflects personal bias rather than scholarship. Certainly more equitable textbooks are available.
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