A nice companion piece to my (I hope polite) rant about the effect of quotas on the materials presented to California school children shows up in this Daniel Golden article about how school textbook publishers are desperate to meet their quota requirements. After describing the nice wheel and crutch props Houghton Mifflin Co keeps on site for able bodied kid models to use for photo shoots, Golden has this to say:
Houghton Mifflin’s little-known stratagem illustrates how a well-intentioned effort to make classroom textbooks more reflective of the country’s diversity has led publishers to overcompensate and at times replace one artificial vision of reality with another.
To facilitate state approval and school-district purchasing of their texts, publishers set numerical targets for showing minorities and the disabled. In recent years, the quest to meet these targets has ratcheted to a higher level as technological improvements enable publishers to customize books for individual states, and as photos and illustrations take up more textbook space.
Although publishers describe these numbers as guidelines, many people familiar with educational publishing say they are strict quotas that must be adhered to. Moreover, in filling these quotas, publishers screen out a wide range of images they deem stereotypical, from Asian math students to barefoot African children.
Some educators complain that, at best, the efforts reflect political correctness gone awry — and, at worst, that publishers are putting politics, and sales, ahead of student learning.
“There’s more textbook space devoted to photos, illustrations and graphics than there’s ever been, but frequently they have nothing to do with the lesson,” says Diane Ravitch, a New York University professor and author of “The Language Police,” a 2003 study of textbook censorship. “They’re just there for political reasons, to show diversity and meet a quota of the right number of women, minorities and the disabled.”
Hat tip: Independent Women’s Forum