Thursday, January 14, 2016

Random thoughts about educational textbook publishers

I'm feeling a bit hot under the collar this morning and the following blog post which is a far departure from my usual book reviews is the result.

Educational textbooks have always been adapted to adhere to whatever latest and greatest educational standards are being touted. At times, educational publishers have created specific editions of certain books to address individual state standards. For example, our library collection contains Indiana specific editions of numerous K-12 textbooks particularly in the field of social studies. At other times, most textbooks adhered to the educational standards of Texas and California as they are the largest states and where publishers knew they could make the most money. The New York Review of Books states, “As a market, the state (Texas) was so big and influential that national publishers tended to gear their books toward whatever it wanted.” If anyone has ever thought that educational textbook publishers have been about anything beyond making money, they are sadly mistaken. The textbook publishers did not create the standards, but yes they publish books that adhere to the standards. Individual districts then can choose whether or not to purchase those items.

I find it incredibly sad that an individual who was employed as a regional sales manager for a large textbook company and whose job in that company was to sell books—not write books or edit books or teach using the books-has been fired for stating her focus is to sell books. Yes, she made some other inappropriate comments, but she spoke truthfully in that her main emphasis is to sell books. She uses the script provided by her company to go into schools and tout how the textbooks align to the current educational standards. Then districts can choose whether to use those textbooks or any of the others currently on the market. People are upset that she indicates “I hate kids,” yet her job doesn’t involve working directly with kids at all. If she liked kids she would be employed as a teacher, but instead her background is in business and sales where she didn’t work with kids. Job descriptions for account manager and strategic account manager positions with her company call for a B.A. or B.S. with 3 years of k-12 or corporate training experience. It’s about sales not education!

In my employment, I frequently receive sales calls. I defer them to my director or at times I tell the person, “sorry, your product does not fit our collection.” Some sales people have been very persistent. However, they are simply doing their job. They are not educators or librarians. They are simply sales people who are doing their job and trying to make an honest living. Common Core decrier Truth in American Education writes the following in regard to this specific incident:

It is highly unlikely that she had any insider knowledge of the company and there isn’t evidence that this is a belief that is held company-wide. Barrow also had nothing to do with the creation, adoption and implementation of the standards. What was revealed is that textbook publishers, in particular account managers, do what they do for money. Does this really surprise anyone? It shouldn’t they are, after all, a for-profit business. Will this knowledge advance our cause? Not really. It sounds bad (because it is bad), but regardless of what the standards are textbook and curriculum publishers are in the business of making money.”

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