Pros:Clearly written and documented examination of the legal struggles over textbook content.
Cons:Perhaps a bit dated ...but the process and message remain true to this day.
The Bottom Line: Take responsibility for your child's education. Teach your values and morals to your children. Do not let 'Uncle Sam' or your local school board 'raise' your children.
Recommend this product?
The topic of censorship will always be contentious in our modern society. The belief that one group should define for another group what ideas are appropriate for public dissemination and debate will always be repulsive to those who believe 'the light of day' is the best way to find the kernel of truth in any idea.
It is difficult enough when adults debate among themselves about what is appropriate in the public arena and what is not.
But the topic of censorship becomes even more important and critical when we consider its effect on the textbooks used in primary education and the ideas and concepts that millions of schoolchildren are taught in America and around the world.
Joan Delfattore taught at the secondary school level for a decade before moving to the University of Delaware. That background surely gave her first-hand experience in trying to balance the wants and needs of parents across the spectrum in the instruction of their children. She brings that work experience and her academic talents to the examination of textbook selection in American schools.
What Johnny Shouldn't Read: Textbook Censorship in America examines how school textbooks are written and rewritten to meet the expectations of teachers, the requirements of school boards, and the demands of parents across the country.
While it is somewhat dated (original published in 1992) the system it examines apparently operates to this day in a similar manner. Indeed, the idea of 'Intelligent Design' and other controversial topics continue to roil and boil in the halls of academe to this day. A brief google search finds numerous up-to-date blog postings and news releases relative to textbook content and selection.
What Johnny Shouldn't Read:... focuses on the power of the states of Texas and California to influence the production and tone of textbooks used across the country. Because of their sheer size in numbers of textbooks that would be purchased publishers want to make their final products acceptable to the state and local boards of education in these states.
Delfattore compiles a coherent and interesting timetable and discussion of several lawsuits brought in these two states, and Tennessee, and how the arguments raised in these cases effected decisions about textbooks that last for years. Indeed, even the possibility of challenge by activist parents and groups undoubtedly effects what is initially written as possible textbook content.
While local parents are often the spark of a dispute over textbook content, the book outlines how outside national special-interest groups become involved in the process. It truly is amazing to read about the antics, histrionics, and hair-splitting of legal points these cases often degenerate into.
Near the end of this exploration of the topic of textbook content and censorship Delfattore hints at a solution that even she could not have imagined. Her idea twenty five years ago was for local teachers and school boards to supplement textbooks with locally prepared materials. Given the growth of the Internet and the immense amount of material available this possibility has surely flowered beyond her wildest dreams.
Of course, the same problems of ideological slant, accuracy, religious bias, etc. in this supplemental material are surely present at the same level, or greater, to this day.
The Bottom Line
Several times in What Johnny Shouldn't Read: Textbook Censorship in America the author hints at the true solution to the problem: simply remove one's children from the public education arena. While a family obviously will suffer a financial penalty for doing so it truly is one of the main benefits of home schooling or associating with others in founding or attending a private school.
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Write-offs are a long and storied tradition here on Epinions. Writers here join together to review products related to a common topic.
This review is an entry in fellow user pestyside's Read Banned Books and Celebrate—Banned Books Write-Off 2.
As an avid reader, parent, and 'thinking' human being I can not imagine anything more dangerous to critical thinking and effective learning than the wanton, silly censorship of ideas and books that challenge. I may not always agree with you or your written words but I will respect your right to express your ideas in an appropriate forum.
I urge you to participate in pestyside's write-off as a writer if possible or perhaps simply participate by reading and reflecting on some of the entries and the messages they deliver.
Certified 'Lean-n-mean' review.
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