The Trouble With Textbooks

I think I was in fifth grade when I began to suspect that textbooks weren't entirely on the level. The first tip-off came from the word problems in math class. They typically began with scenarios that, even to a 10-year-old, seemed a little unlikely: "Julio's mom is a welder. His father is a pediatric nurse. If his mom welds for 9 hours a day, then..."

Or: "If Maria wins her first three prizefights by knockout, and her next three by TKO, how long before she can leave her job as a lumberjack and fight full time?"

The characters in my textbooks didn't sound like anyone I had ever met. Years later I realized, that was exactly the point. The educators who wrote them weren't interested in describing the world as it was, or had been, but rather as they wanted it to be. They were ideologues, and my math and history books were their pamphlets, disguised as academic texts.

Thirty years later, few textbooks bother with the disguise. Entire chunks of the English language have been banned from the classroom, liquidated in a P.C. purge. First to go were words containing the dreaded term "man," the three letters most offensive to professional feminists. Mailman, chairman, snowman, fisherman, manhole cover--every one now extinct, disdained relics of a bygone age.

But the purges didn't stop there. Pollyanna, polo, primitive and hut were eliminated too, to name just a few of literally thousands of examples. Their crime? These words supposedly contained "bias" and might therefore make some groups feel uncomfortable. Other words, meanwhile, were said to imply "regional bias," whatever that is. These include snow cone and snowball, now both verboten.

So did it work? Did shielding children from scary words like "mailman" turn them into better students? Compare the test scores in your kids' school district to those from 1960, and judge for yourself. Or consider this: When asked about the Vietnam War recently, almost a quarter of students described it as a conflict between North and South Korea.

Yet even flat ignorance is better (and certainly more amusing) than the hard-edged propaganda that now suffuses history textbooks. A thorough cover-to-cover reading of almost any high school history text leaves you with the impression that the United States is at best embarrassing, and at worst a menace to world peace. The internment of Japanese-Americans during World War Two gets almost us much emphasis as the American liberation of Europe.

Non-American cultures, by contrast, receive every benefit of every doubt. Try to find a high school textbook that even mentions the widespread practice of slavery among American Indians. Good luck. Even September 11, an event hardly shrouded by the haze of time, gets a rewrite. In Prentice Hall's textbook on contemporary American history, for instance, the 19 hijackers are not identified as Islamic extremists. Students are left to guess why they did it.

Don't take my word for it. Make a pledge to yourself to look through your children's textbooks this year. Take a look at what's there, but also at what's missing. If you find bias or distortions, don't be silent. Raise holy hell. Someday your kids will thank you for it.

Tucker Carlson hosts "FOX News Reporting: Do You Know What Textbooks Your Children Are Really Reading?" on Friday, September 4 from 9 - 10 p.m. ET on FOX News Channel. The special re-air throughout the weekend including on Saturday at 4 and 10 p.m. ET and again on Sunday at 1 a.m., 3 and 9 p.m. and 2 a.m. ET.