Many Textbooks Not Current with Events Teachers Use Web to Fill Sept. 11 Gap

Article excerpt

Byline: Beth Kormanik, Times-Union staff writer

Bill Clinton's re-election as president is the last thing covered in eighth-grade history textbooks at Orange Grove Middle School for the Arts in Tampa, leaving teacher Susan Farmer no guidance when teaching students about the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and aftermath.

"They see everything as it happens," said Farmer, president-elect of the Florida Council for Social Studies. "They almost want answers then and there."

Many schools' textbooks have not caught up with current events, leaving teachers without that resource in their classrooms. But educational publishers do provide lessons on Web sites and teachers are finding other resources on the Internet so they can include Sept. 11 in their lessons.

New social studies textbooks will not be available in Florida until the 2005-06 school year. The state evaluates textbooks for subjects on a rotating schedule and social studies does not come up until 2004-05. Evaluation teams will spend that year reading textbooks and approving some for state use.

Only a fraction of textbook publishers were able to include information about Sept. 11 in new editions anyway, according to educators and publishing experts.

"Actually getting information into textbooks used this fall was a real stretch and probably not doable for many of the publishers," said Stephen Driesler, executive director of the Association of American Publishers, school division.

Some publishers stopped their presses to insert a page or two in the back of their texts about Sept. 11, while others produced supplements to previously published texts.

For teachers, the bad news is they'll have to wait for complete textbooks. But the good news is that by then textbooks will present a fuller picture of the events surrounding Sept. 11.

Gilbert Sewall, director of American Textbook Council, compared Sept. 11 to the challenges publishers faced in writing about the fall of the Berlin Wall.

"What was going on in Europe from 1989 to 1991 was pretty obvious at the time. But publishers were forced to deal with those issues in a few paragraphs at the end of the book," he said. "It took a while, much of the '90s, for new books to be developed and new editions to be revised. …