ORANGE COUNTY, CA -- The latest edition of a popular world history book leans too far to the left, the Capistrano Unified School District Board of Trustees unanimously decided Wednesday.
Previously, a panel that reviews textbooks for the district narrowly recommended approving the 6th edition of World Civilizations: The Global Experience for use in AP World History classes.
“The bias was so overwhelming,” said Trustee Ellen Addonizio, who also sits on the review committee. She called the discussion one of the most fascinating the panel has ever had.
“Showing both sides is important. ... I would like us to find a stronger book for our students,” she said.
After Wednesday's vote, the book's lead author, Peter Stearns, gave a statement to Patch:
We have attempted to craft the book in a balanced fashion. It is a world history, which means that coverage does not center on the United States or just on U.S.-defined interests. We designate a number of modern political movements and changes for attention, including for example communism but also the fall of communism, the rise of conservative movements in several major countries in the 1980s, and so on. Again, no partisan agenda defined our coverage or our manner of presentation.
At Wednesday's school board meeting, textbook review panel member Bill Evers, a former assistant secretary of education under President George W. Bush and the husband of Trustee Anna Bryson, leveled a number of complaints about the book.
Chief among them, the book plays up Marxist ideas while downplaying classical liberalism, said Evers, a current fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution.
He also bashed the book for omitting a long list of historical figures, including John Stuart Mill, Khayr al-Din al-Tunisi, Friedrich August Hayek, Edmund Burke, William Ewart Gladstone, Benjamin Constant, Alexis de Tocqueville and Milton Friedman. And he said it inaccurately portrays the Russian invasion of Poland, global warming and the current political standing of South Korea.
Evers’ wife – who does not always agree with her husband on educational matters (see this article on the Common Core standards) – also slammed the book.
“Some of the things Dr. Evers mentioned are exceedingly
troubling to me,” Bryson said, citing the omission of Friedman and like-minded free-market economists. She said if more students studied conservative economists, perhaps California wouldn’t be in bad financial shape.
Bryson is running for state Assembly in 2014.
Because the latest edition of the book was rejected, a new AP World History class at Dana Hills High School will have to use the previously approved 5th edition. Although much of the content is similar, Trustee Jim Reardon, who is also on textbook review committee, said it’s better than the 6th.
“It’s one of the worst things I’ve ever tried to read. The text is sludge,” Reardon said.
Responding to the controversy, Kate Miller, a spokeswoman for the book's publisher, said World Civilizations is one of the most widely used AP high school and college history texts in America.
are renowned experts in their fields,” she said.