As an educator in a multicultural society, the fair and accurate representation of racial and ethnic groups is an important concern. The foundation of classroom teaching is the textbook, a medium of expression that the educator cannot assume is without bias. Textbooks are written by human beings, and each person addresses the task from his or her unique perspective. A significant factor in this perspective is the race or ethnicity of the author. Recent occurrences like the Rodney King beating and the O.J. Simpson trial demonstrate that, on certain issues, African Americans and whites hold divergent views. Thus an examination of textbook discussions involving African Americans is likely to show bias since the majority of textbook authors are white.
The objective of this paper is to determine whether textbook bias exists, and to what extent. If textbook bias does indeed exist, then it is the responsibility of the educator to compensate for this bias. Students have the right to learn comprehensive truths; presenting the widest range of relevant perspectives can enhance student learning.
The procedures used in this paper include a review of related literature and a survey of three classroom textbooks. The textbooks are written for eighth grade students, and all focus on social studies. Of specific emphasis is the inaccurate/unfair portrayal of twentieth-century African Americans in classroom textbook published since the Civil Rights Movement; textbooks sampled were published in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s.
The question of textbook bias centers on the issue of whether or not Americans share common values and traditions. To some extent, this is true. For instance, the average American, regardless of race or ethnicity, believes in the principle of freedom. But teachers of social studies, particularly history, often incorrectly assume that all students share a common collective memory. Apple and Christian-Smith (1991...