Published November 22, 2013
A biography of President Obama being studied by at least one fourth-grade class has received criticism for glossing over negative aspects of the president, painting white voters as likely racists and highlighting the commander-in-chief’s early identity struggles by focusing on his teenage drug use.
The book, “Barack Obama,” was published by Lerner Publishing in 2010 as part of their series “History Maker Bios.” All presidents going back to Richard Nixon -- except George W. Bush -- were the subjects of similar biographies published by Lerner, which did not respond to questions from FoxNews.com.
Critics also say the new Obama book is biased, pointing to a passage that reads, “but some people said Americans weren’t ready for that much change. Sure Barack was a nice fellow, they said. But white voters would never vote for a black president.”
Kyle Olson, founder of the conservative Education Action Group Foundation and EAGnews.org, said that is a problem.
“I have no problem with kids learning about Barack Obama ... he’s the President of the United States," said Olson. "However, the book teaches fourth graders that white voters didn’t want to vote for black men.”
Asked whether the sentence could also be interpreted as simply noting that some people said that white voters would be racist, he agreed but said such nuance could easily be lost on fourth-graders.
Another passage of the book discusses Obama’s youthful identity crisis and drug use, which Obama himself wrote about in his own biography. One passage reads, “When Barry looked in the mirror, he saw a young black man. But he didn't know how to be black. And no one was there to teach him. He decided to act like the black characters he saw on TV. He started acting tough. He cursed. Was that what it meant to be black? As he got older, he started smoking and drinking. Was that what it meant to be black?"
Some parents also found the content of the book problematic.
“The content of this book should be found objectionable by everyone in the country. America is a melting pot - it's not made up of hyphenated Americans (African-American for example) separated by those who like to foment discord,” Oklahoma mother of five Jenni White told FoxNews.com.
Olson also took issue with book’s general tone.
“I’m not saying fourth-graders shouldn’t know about drugs – I think what I find troubling about books like these is they’re kind of like the Oliver Stone version of history, where kids are not getting an accurate picture of his background and his policies – it’s generating a mythical character of the man,” Olson said.
Much of the book is publicly viewable on Google Books. The author, Jane Sutcliffe, did not respond to a request for comment.
Olson added that depictions of Republican presidents, by the same publisher, have had different tones.
“The George H. W. Bush book had lines about how wealthy he was, how many maids he had, all of those sorts of things,” Olson said.
Specifically, the book about the elder President Bush reads in one part:
“The Bushes had money for a cook, two maids, a chauffeur (driver), and private schools,” it reads on page 8.