Developing critical thinking in students is one of the most important goals of public schools. But social studies textbooks, which by their very nature should be ideal places to do so, differ widely in how they treat the same issues (“Two American Stories,” The New York Times, Jan. 12).
Politics in the final analysis largely determines what social studies textbooks teach students. For example, Texas requires textbooks to offer an “emphasis on the free-enterprise system and its benefits.” In contrast, California stresses “the yawning gap between the haves and have-nots.” As a result, students are imbued with ideology rather than with facts.
Instead of textbooks, students would be far better served being assigned original sources. That way they would be able to draw their own conclusions about controversial issues. I realize that the hands of teachers are tied by school district policies regarding the curriculum. Although textbooks are better than nothing, they do little to force students to think for themselves.
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