Three officials approve textbook for Franklin Regional students with reservations
Franklin Regional students will have new social studies textbooks for the first time in a decade next year, but three school board members are cautioning teachers to be mindful of what is not included in the new texts.
Board members Larry Borland, Dennis Pavlik and Jane Tower said they reviewed several of the books the district plans to buy this summer and were worried about what they perceive to be biases in the texts.
“The books are mostly factual,” said Borland, a pediatrician. “Things were left out by accident or not by accident, but the charge is for teachers to provide additional information.”
Several years ago, the district adopted a policy that enables board members to observe classes and review textbooks, Superintendent Emery D'Arcangelo said. The procedure helps bring another perspective to the table, he said.
“Not all of our board members have the time,” D'Arcangelo said. “In today's political atmosphere, there's so much talk about different issues. Those are issues that get into the classroom that some members of our board care about deeply.”
Among the topics the trio expressed concern about are the way the Constitution is presented, slavery and the role of government.
Tower said she knows that “good-quality” teachers will expound on the ideas in the textbooks. On the topic of slavery, she suggested that teachers encourage students not to judge slave owners.
“History is a unique subject, in that we have 20/20 hindsight,” Tower said. “It's not always right to judge (history) in the context of today. With slavery, you have to take it in the context of the time. It's not an excuse. But the idea is to be grateful that we have improved today.”
Borland agreed with the idea. Among his concerns was how an Advanced Placement government book presented the idea that the Constitution can change on the basis of society and what he perceived as a bias on state vs. federal authority — that the federal government is the “be all, end all,” he said.
“I'm not nixing the text because there's no other options, really,” Borland said. “I do feel there has to be a charge for discussion, perhaps in outside monographs.
“We have to be careful to not present one edge of a cube and not present all sides.”
Shelley Shaneyfelt, director of instructional services, said students are required to examine and analyze both sides of issues taught in the advanced government class.
The board will vote on buying $325,000 in new social studies textbooks Monday evening. The books will replace other texts that range from 10 to 13 years old, Shaneyfelt said.
Pavlik said he doesn't care who writes the book, so long as teachers are willing to bring in outside sources to give students all sides of the story.
“There are errors, even in math books,” Pavlik said. “The books are of reasonable quality, but even with the errors — whether they are accidental or on purpose — the teachers have to look outside the books.”
Daveen Rae Kurutz is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8627, or firstname.lastname@example.org.