Sunday, October 14, 2012

UK: How textbooks shape a culture

The Economist

It ain’t necessarily so

The textbooks children learn from in school reveal and shape national attitudes—and should provoke debate

Oct 13th 2012 | BRAUNSCHWEIG
Sex seems a particularly American difficulty. In September the New York Civil Liberties Union published a study on sex education in schools in conservative upstate New York. The research showed that all the most commonly used health textbooks are stubbornly silent on the subject of condoms or other contraceptives as methods of preventing pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases. Teachers are allowed to add their own materials and say what they want in class; but they must still teach from textbooks that warn pupils that being sexually active “interferes with your values and family guidelines” and counsel them that abstinence is a sign of good character.
In America creationists—mostly of the Christian variety—have long campaigned for textbooks to include alternatives to evolution by natural selection as an account of the natural world and human origins. They are not the only ones. In June a campaign led by the Society for Textbook Revise (STR) appeared to have succeeded in persuading South Korea’s textbook publishers to remove certain references to evolution. The umbrella group responsible for the STR includes the Somang Church, one of a number of evangelical churches and megachurches that are increasingly active in Korean politics.
The STR’s shenanigans led to uproar (although Christianity is growing in South Korea, a sizeable number of people declare no religious affiliation at all). The government has now set up a panel, led by the Korean Academy of Science and Technology and including biologists and palaeontologists, to oversee any changes to science books. The committee stressed that evolution was a part of modern science that all children must study. The STR, which sees its exclusion from the committee as a sign of bias, says it will fight on.

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