History textbooks in the public schools range from OK to woefully inadequate, based on a critique by the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, which assembled a panel of experts to look at U.S. history and world history textbooks commonly used in the schools.
Each reviewer was asked to grade each text by 12 criteria: accuracy, context, organization, selection of supporting material, historical logic, literary quality, use of primary sources, historical soundness, democratic ideas, interest level and graphics.
Reviewers also were asked to explain what they liked most and disliked most about each textbook, thus giving them an opportunity to expand their comments.
While there were errors in fact, the report found the books mostly left reviewers "with a sense that they make history dull."
History is exciting, a stirring pageant of mankind's adventures on Earth. Without reflecting that fact in some measure, the textbooks are not likely to engage students and, thus, students will not learn.
Florida is partly to blame. Along with California and Texas, it dominates the book market. Those three states also are among 22 that purchase textbooks en masse for the public schools.
"No mass-market publisher dares to ignore their specific demands related to curriculum, format, illustrations, content, binding and issues of race, ethnicity and gender," the report said. Therefore, what gets to the market is like peas in a pod. …