Research And Reports
"Chico liked to work with his hands much better than he liked to work with his brain."
"The Indians pose one of the major problems of Central America. They are an ideal group for Communist agents to work on."
Such stereotypes in commonly used textbooks, a new report asserts, help to explain why U.S. citizens are poorly informed about Central America and recent events there.
Learning About Central America: What U.S. Children's Books and Texts Teach, prepared by Rochelle Beck and Nancy Anderson for the Council on Interracial Books for Children Inc., maintains that the "chain of ignorance" about Central America begins in school.
Ms. Anderson and Ms. Beck asked a panel of 14 scholars, teachers, and teacher-educators to assess 30 commonly used social-studies texts and other materials.
Many of the books, the evaluators found, barely mention Central America, or merely refer to it as a "bridge" between North America and South America--giving children the impression that the region is not important.
Furthermore, in nearly all the books that do deal with Central America, the evaluators found persistent bias, inaccuracies, and oversimplification.
Some 87 percent of the books reviewed contain inaccurate or out-of-date infomation, the report says, and 80 percent "contain no Central American perspectives to explain historical or social events."
The quality of research and writing on Central America is so poor, the researchers conclude, that most of the books "would not help students today--or adults tomorrow--evaluate world events without knee-jerk reactions based on fear rather than facts."
Of the 30 books evaluated, the reviewers recommended only one--Paul Thomas Welty's The Human Expression, published in 1977 by the J.B. Lippincott Company.
The report will be published in the next issue of the bulletin of the Council on Interracial Books for Children, a private group that examines children's books for bias. Copies are available for $3 from the council, 1841 Broadway, New York, N.Y. 10023.
A new report on one of the most crucial disciplines--writing--has been published by the American Association of School Administrators.
"Student writing is a serious problem in most of the nation's school districts," writes Shirley Boes Neill, the author of Teaching Writing: Problems and Solutions, the 11th volume in the aasa's "critical-issues" series. Moreover, she adds, many school officials are unaware of the problem.
In a survey conducted for the report, Ms. Neill found, 40 percent of the 425 administrators who responded judged student writing to be a "serious" problem in their district. Fifty percent regarded it as a "minor" problem. But in many of these districts, Ms. Neill notes, student writing has not been formally evaluated, nor have teachers received training in the teaching of writing.
The report, however, offers solutions that may help administrators improve the teaching of writing in their schools. Successful programs are described in detail, and several authorities on the teaching of writing offer their thoughts on the subject.
The report is available from the American Association of School Administrators, 1801 North Moore Street, Arlington, Va. 22209. Single copies: $11.95. Discounts are available for multiple copies. Add $1.50 to orders of $15 and under for postage.