America’s history education is still held captive to the notoriously anti-establishment Texas Board of Education, which buys enough high school textbooks that it can dictate the content of history curriculum nationwide. A recent decision to recall a popular history book for its abject religious bias, written by one of the Texas Board’s most controversial experts, is a strong reminder of why every classroom needs an iPad, which allows school districts to curate their own reading material. Piecemeal textbook platforms, such as the Wake Forest University-designed Biobook, have created a unique opportunity for teachers to select what they feel is the most compelling (and factually accurate) content from around the web. The most immediate benefit would be the end of the Texas Board’s stranglehold on America’s historical literacy (for a funny explanation of how Texas defines our national awareness of historical figures, check out The Daily Show clip below)
Christian publisher Thomas Nelson took the embarrassing, but nonetheless brave, decision to recall the controversial book, The Jefferson Lies, which wrongly depicted the American Founding Father as a “conventional christian” who championed civil rights (perhaps his more than 200 slaves gave him the free time to be such a champion). “There were historical details — matters of fact, not matters of opinion, that were not supported at all,” said Thomas Nelson Senior Vice President and Publisher, Brian Hampton.
As The Examiner points out, the Texas Board of Education ignored an outcry from actual history experts in favor of folks like shamed author, David Barton. Among many controversial decisions, the Board
- “removed the word “Enlightenment” from its history curriculum;
- required that textbooks refer to the US as a “constitutional republic” to remove the word “democratic” from the description,
- and required that students be taught that the words ‘separation of church and state’ do not appear in the US Constitution.”
And, local districts are beginning to see how iPads can release them from the influence of Texas, “Now with the miracle of technology, states and school districts can customize what they want their textbooks to look like,” said Idaho Superintendent, Tom Luna.
BioBook, for instance, is creating a free online database of chapters and multimedia created by other professors from around the world. California educators are pushing the Open Source Texbook Project, aimed at replacing expensive paper books with customized, high-quality, and free content from the web. While these projects are still gaining momentum, it shouldn’t be long until customized textbooks are universal.
So, for the sake of our democracy, let’s hope all children have access to ebooks soon.