Last week Ms. Dean-Burren, an African-American from Pearland, Texas, pursuing her doctoral degree in education, called it "erasure." That was the term she used to describe the World Geography textbook's substitution of the word "workers" in America for "slaves." Her 15-year-old son had called the terminology to her attention with a sarcastic quip on his cellphone: "we was real hard workers, wasn't we."
|Photo of random schoolbooks|
To quote the section of the textbook describing America as a nation of immigrants: "The Atlantic Slave Trade between the 1500's and 1800's brought millions of workers from Africa to the southern United States to work on agricultural plantations." Another page referred to Europeans coming to America as "indentured servants" but did not describe Africans the same way.
Ms. Dean-Burren posted shots of the text on social media, along with her objections. She also made a video flipping through the book and pointing out the many academic consultants, teacher reviewers, and the state advisory board who approved the book. The video received nearly two million hits.
It is estimated there are 100,000 copies of the textbook in school districts in Texas. A spokesperson for a district in south Texas said, "Students use the textbook, but the section with the caption was not part of the curriculum." Do they skip the entire topic??
McGraw-Hill responded in a statement on its Facebook page that the caption would be updated "to describe the arrival of African slaves in the U.S. as a forced migration and emphasize that their work was done as slave labor." The digital version will be updated immediately, but the textbook version will be updated in the next print run.
It's not the first time Texas textbooks have come under fire. Said Kathy Miller, president of the Texas Freedom Network, "We have a textbook adoption process that's so politicized and so flawed that it's become almost a punch line for comedians." The state is one of the largest purchasers of textbooks.
|School photo from 1910|
Information in this article is from "Texas Mother Teaches Textbook Company a Lesson on Accuracy" by Manny Fernandez and Christine Hauser, New York Times, October 6, 2015, p. A10.