May 01, 1998 1 min read

Trashing Textbooks: Alexander Stille, a writer for the New Yorker, took a close look at some of the most widely used American history textbooks, and he wasn’t happy with what he found. “The American history taught in schools,” he writes in the June 11 issue of the New York Review of Books, “has been rewritten and transformed in recent decades by a handful of large publishers who are much concerned to meet the demands of both the multicultural left and the conservative religious right.” The result: “middle-of-the-road pabulum,” according to one textbook editor. Stille offers some particularly egregious examples of safe, dumbed-down writing, much of which, Stille contends, is scanned by computer programs to measure sentence and paragraph length and to hunt down such “exotic” words as “treatment,” “protection,” “preparation,” and “sharpen.” By contrast, Stille praises renegade textbook author Joy Hakim, whose series, A History of US, has a loyal following despite having been rejected

Class Warfare: Vermont, reports Geoffrey Norman in the August issue of the American Spectator, is at war--with itself. The Green Mountain State’s three main factions--aging flower children, rugged individualists, and yuppie newcomers--are fighting over public schools and how to pay for them. “The state’s towns,” Norman writes, “are pitted against one another in a struggle over who pays and how much, who gets gouged and who gets a pass.” The reason? A law known as Act 60, which attempts to level school funding across the state. Poor towns, naturally, are thrilled at the prospect of getting more money (without paying more taxes) for their underfunded schools. But in the so-called Gold Towns--wealthy enclaves like Stowe and Manchester--there’s a revolt brewing. “Some towns have said they will not send the taxes they collect to Montpelier,” the capital, Norman writes. Novelist John Irving, a liberal Democrat who has described the bill as “Marxism” and “vindictive,” has decided to start his own private

--David Hill