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Capo School Board Rejects 'Too Liberal' History Book

Officials say the AP World History text promotes Marxism and ignores conservative figures. The publisher disagrees, and says it's one of the most widely used history texts in America.

Former Bush Administration education official Bill Evers listens to the Capistrano Unified school board debate the an AP World History textbook. June 12, 2013. Patch photo by: Penny Arévalo
Former Bush Administration education official Bill Evers listens to the Capistrano Unified school board debate the an AP World History textbook. June 12, 2013. Patch photo by: Penny Arévalo

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 MillKhayr al-Din al-TunisiFriedrich 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.

“The authors are renowned experts in their fields,” she said.

Dan Avery June 24, 2013 at 03:11 AM
Capo Mom, Wish I could say the same thing to you that I just said to Jeff. Here's where you did imply that I called someone a troglodyte, moron, and the rest. "I am attacking you simply by pointing out the logical fallacy in your comments, Dan? Boo woo! It's not like I called you a troglodyte, a tool or a moron." No you didn't outright say it. But that's lame, given how I've shot down your argument at every step and rather then try to refute me, you pull the losing move of changing the argument in the next comment. For example, you take a cheap shot at me over an internet comment, and laugh at how the net wasn't around 20 years ago and how I must have helped Al Gore start it, and then when your incredible ignorance is pointed out you try to back peddle on how you were on the net in the 80's? You don't think you're kids read that and wonder just how stupid their mom really is? I'm serious.
Dan Avery June 24, 2013 at 03:16 AM
And by the way, Capo Mom, any English major can read a piece of writing and tell you what the tone was. It's not that hard. What you heard, this business about how you can't interpret the conversational tone on the internet, is the same thing when we say in a classroom that there are not stupid questions. Of course there are stupid questions. Scads and scads of them. And, of course, you can't tell what the tone is because you didn't study that, so we have to point out that to you. See what I am saying? But any English major can read any piece of writing and tell you the tone of it, because the tone is created by the words the writer picked. So you can tell us you're not angry, but your word choice tells us the truth. Sorry, just the way language works.
fact checker June 24, 2013 at 10:25 AM
Google academic research? Isn't that an oxymoron?
Dan Avery June 24, 2013 at 01:00 PM
fact checker...good one. Wikipedia is passing as a legitimate source these days, along with youtube. Two sites that anyone with a six pack of beer and a modem can "contribute" to as far as the "knowledge" base goes. I used to tell my students that 1/5 of the sources could come from the internet. The first essay required four sources so....anyone with internet sources failed and then they were angry at me because they couldn't do simple math.
shelly June 24, 2013 at 04:28 PM
From what I observe from my children in their AP classes their teachers have encouraged them to seek many additional resources besides the assigned text book. I think it is impossible to actually learn all of what is required in most of the AP courses by just reading the required text. And it really should be. Do you get your information from just one source? And do you seek out or believe only sources that fit your political leanings? Have the people rating this book actually read the whole book? Have they researched what is supposed to be taught and have they researched similar books and how the subject matter is presented? Or do they just read opinions on and critiques of the book? If they only read the opinion and critiques of the books then did they read the passages that they found to be "too liberal" in context? Who is judging the extent of liberal or conservative thought in these books and how does their own political leanings affect their opinion? But really if there is no clear, significant new information in newer editions of any of our current texts then save the money and use some of the money to rebind the older books. And encourage your children and students to do their part and to use book covers and treat their books with more care to save the wear and tear on the current text books.

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