Educational CyberPlayGround

Text Book Publishers

The basic requirement for working
on a public education policy should be an interest
in the public and use of an education.

Finally break the back of textbook prices.



1933 Princeton University, in the midst of the Great Depression, launched its Student Loan Library as part of an effort to help students struggling to make ends meet. The library, made up of used books from students who had read them in prior semesters, represents one of the earliest examples of the used book trade in colleges, one that picked up a few years later, when New York University students launched a used bookstore—the result of an outcry after four students were arrested for "peddling without a license."

France: Open Access law adopted In France, the final text of a new law on Open Access has been adopted on June 29, 2016. On July 20, the Assemblée Nationale has approved the bill, and it still needs to be voted on by the Sénat on September 27. In the law text, article 17 is relevant for Open Access:


Any industry that can increase its prices by 1,041 percent over a 38-year period—as the textbook industry did between 1977 and 2015, according to an NBC News analysis—is one that knows how to keep, and hold, an audience. (It's almost like they're selling EpiPens.) Textbooks have a price that's artificially inflated based on its use case. Priceonomics writer Zachary Crockett, who spent time working for a textbook publisher, breaks down the math similarly to Whitten, though these days, publishers tend to make $40 in pure profit on a $180 book—a 22 percent margin.)
College publishers figured out that, to improve their margins, all they had to do were two things: raise prices and release new editions of the same text, forcing students to buy new textbooks even if, in many cases, they didn't need them. Another factor? Improved printing technology, which led to more visuals AND INCREASED COSTS.


2012 Major textbook publishers sue open-education textbook start-up Rage-inducing and despicable. As The Chronicle of Higher Education reports, three major Pearson, Cengage Learning, and Macmillan Higher Education, are suing a small startup company that produces open and free alternative textbooks. This startup, Boundless Learning, builds textbooks using creative commons licensed and otherwise freely available material – and this poses a threat to the three large textbook publishers. So, what do you do when you feel threatened? Well, file a copyright infringement lawsuit, of course.
Let’s back up for a second to explain exactly what it is Boundless Learning does. It is important to note this description of Boundless’ activities comes from the large textbook publishers themselves, since Boundless is still in closed beta and doesn’t want to open up at this point (the lawsuit might be a good opportunity to open up, to eliminate any doubts).


Open-sourced textbooks could ease college costs. The University of Illinois is developing a textbook that can be adapted by any other college. It could finally break the back of textbook prices. University of Illinois gets $150K to create open textbooks; other schools can customize bc licensed under CC.

Textbook publishers frequently have different editions for different states/provinces to
comply with various Boards of Education.

5/10/10 "Plagiarized Work" refers to the Texas Standards and was written By Michael Soto the Democratic Party candidate for the State Board of Education in District 3, which covers a 13-county area from Bexar County and San Antonio to Hidalgo County and the Texas-Mexico border. He was born in Corpus Christi and raised in McAllen and Brownsville, where he attended public schools throughout his youth. He received a B.A. degree in Modern Thought & Literature from Stanford University and a Ph.D. degree in English & American Literature & Language from Harvard University. Since 1999 he has served on the faculty at Trinity University in San Antonio, where he is presently associate professor of English and director of the McNair Scholars Program. He previously served as director of the African American studies program and chair of the University Curriculum Council at Trinity. Dr. Soto's research and teaching focus on twentieth-century American literature and cultural history. He is the author of three books and numerous articles on topics within his field. He and his wife, Celina Pena, are the parents of two boys: Alejo, a first-grader in the San Antonio ISD, and newborn Americo, SAISD class of 2028.
I agree with the consensus emerging that the proposed social studies standards distort American history and society to advance a lopsided agenda, often at the expense of adequate and appropriate representation of America's racial, ethnic, and religious minorities. This is especially troubling to me because my son belongs to the group of students — Texas first graders — who are the first Latino-majority cohort in Texas public school history. But let me highlight just one of the controversial standards because its potential adoption illustrates vexing problems that pervade the State Board of Education's (SBOE) standards revision process.
[. . . As a Texan, I'm embarrassed to say that the “American exceptionalism” standard is not just a shoddy misrepresentation of Tocqueville; this part of the standard was plagiarized from a UCLA Graduate School of Education website, a source that conflates Tocqueville and Lipset in potentially confusing ways. And sadly, other parts of the “American exceptionalism” standard were lifted almost verbatim from Wikipedia.  If one of my Trinity University students handed in this work, he or she would receive a D for the quality of ideas and an F for academic dishonesty.  Let me be absolutely clear for the public record:  The social studies TEXTS are plagiarized work.  Can we all agree that Texas kids deserve better than this?  Shouldn't the State Board of Education be held to a higher standard?]

Judging Books by their Covers Richard Feynman's writings on being on the State Curriculum Commission for California, ie the School Book Board from The Textbook Letter, July-August 1999.
Richard P. Feynman (1918-1988) was one of the premier physicists of the second half of the 20th century. He worked on atomic weapons at Los Alamos during World War 2, then spent several years on the faculty of Cornell University, and then (in 1950) became a professor at the California Institute of Technology. He remained at Caltech for the rest of his career. Feynman worked on the theory of superfluidity, predicted the existence of quarks, and was one of the three men whose contributions to quantum electrodynamics were commemorated by the 1965 Nobel Prize in physics. The two other men were Julian Schwinger and Sin-Itiro Tomonaga.

Why is a militant homeschooler parent on a public school textbook board?
US Christian conservatives drop references to slave trade and sideline Thomas Jefferson who backed church-state separation.

Publishing companies invest several million dollars in a textbook, employing dozens of writers, consultants, and art directors; however anyone is able to do something superior at a fraction of the cost which calls into question their entire system.


Texas schools board rewrites US history with lessons promoting God and guns.
May 16, 2010


Cynthia Dunbar a conservative Texas lawyer one of a clutch of Christian evangelists and social conservatives who have grasped control of the state's education board. The board is to vote on a sweeping purge of alleged liberal bias in Texas school textbooks in favour of what Dunbar says really matters: a belief in America as a nation chosen by God as a beacon to the world, and free enterprise as the cornerstone of liberty and democracy.
"We are fighting for our children's education and our nation's future," Dunbar said. "In Texas we have certain statutory obligations to promote patriotism and to promote the free enterprise system. There seems to have been a move away from a patriotic ideology. There seems to be a denial that this was a nation founded under God. We had to go back and make some corrections."
Changes include

  • sidelining Thomas Jefferson, who favoured separation of church and state, while introducing a new focus on the "significant contributions" of pro-slavery Confederate leaders during the civil war.
  • "the right to keep and bear arms" is an important element of a democratic society.
  • Study of Sir Isaac Newton is dropped in favour of examining scientific advances through military technology.
  • nti-communist witch-hunt by Senator Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s may have been justified.
  • dropped references to the slave trade in favour of calling it the more innocuous "Atlantic triangular trade"
  • Israeli-Palestinian conflict as driven by Islamic fundamentalism.
  • indoctrinate American exceptionalism, the Christian founding of this country, the free enterprise system. Amendments to the curriculum that portray the free enterprise system (there is no mention of capitalism, deemed to be a tainted word) as a cornerstone of liberty and argue that the government should have a minimal role in the economy. Economic prosperity requires "minimal government intrusion and taxation" Underpinning the changes is a particular view of religion.
  • teaching of creationism euphemistically known as intelligent dessign in science classes.
    "We as a nation were intended by God to be a light set on a hill to serve as a beacon of hope and Christian charity to a lost and dying world."
  • eaching the role the "Jewish Ten Commandments" played in "political and legal ideas", and the study of the influence of Moses on the US constitution. Dunbar says these are important steps to overturning what she believes is the myth of a separation between church and state in the US.
  • History students are now to be required to study documents, such as the Mayflower Compact, which instil the idea of America being founded as a Christian fundamentalist nation.
  • requiring students to "describe how religion and virtue contributed to the growth of representative government in the American colonies".
  • David Barton, the leader of WallBuilders which seeks to promote religion in history. Barton has campaigned against the separation of church and state, pupils should be taught that the declaration of independence establishes that the creator is at the heart of law, government and individual rights.

The California legislature is considering a bill that would bar them from being used in the state's schoolsConservatives have been accused of an assault on the history of civil rights. One curriculum amendment describes the civil rights movement as creating "unrealistic expectations of equal outcomes" among minorities. Another seeks to place Martin Luther King and the violent Black Panther movement as opposite sides of the same coin. "We had a big discussion around that," said Knight, a former teacher. "It was an attempt to taint the civil rights movement. They did the same by almost equating George Wallace [the segregationist governor of Alabama in the mid-1960s] with the civil rights movement and the things Martin Luther King Jr was trying to accomplish, as if Wallace was standing up for white civil rights. That's how slick they are.

Journalist Alexander Stille, writing in *The New York Review*, reviews the current status of grade school history education. History, as it is taught to children, is of course of major concern to all groups with political agendas, and it is one of the primary preoccupations of grade school teachers and their teacher-administrators.
(The New York Review 11 Jun 98) (The Monday Review 1 Jun 98)

Stille makes the following points:

1) The American history taught in schools 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.

2) The states of Texas and California taken together account for 20 percent of the textbooks sold in America. They are the biggest of some 22 states that review and choose textbooks on a state- wide basis, and their choices have disproportionate influence among the 50 states. Approval of a textbook series in Texas or California guarantees millions of dollars in sales, while reject- tion will almost certainly mean financial failure.

3) An editor at McGraw-Hill (who chooses to remain unidentified) reports: "We were told to try to avoid using the word 'imagine' because the people in Texas felt it was too close to the word 'magic' and therefore might be considered anti-Christian."

4) Spokespeople for the religious right and other conservative groups vigilantly criticize any critical references to America's traditional heroes; they equally oppose harsh accounts of slavery and positive descriptions of the "socialistic" policies of the New Deal or the charter of the United Nations.

5) Across the political court, to forestall criticism from the multicultural left, publishers have drawn up new lists of taboos: for example, out are the words "tribe", "Indian", and "slave" -- replaced by the words "group", "Native-American", and "enslaved person".

6) Another editor at McGraw-Hill: "In trying to avoid anything that might be offensive to either the left or the right, we were reduced to producing totally bland middle-of-the-road pabulum." So here is the third whack at the teachers and their teacher- administrators, who are the people, after all, who make the ultimate decisions concerning textbooks. This week marks the end of the school year, and American children now move off to a long vacation-education exclusively in the hands of the television and film industries. Nil desperandum.




(The New York Review 11 Jun 98) (The Monday Review 1 Jun 98)
The Betrayal of History By Alexander Stille
A History of US by Joy Hakim Oxford University Press, 10 volumes pp., $10.95 each (paper)
Build Our Nation Houghton Mifflin, 704 pp., $38.34
America's Story Harcourt Brace, 718 pp., $36.96
Our United States Silver Burdett Ginn, 656 pp., $39.00
United States: Adventures in Time and Space Macmillan/McGraw-Hill, 765 pp., $51.96

Columbia University Professor Jack Garraty was surprised to open the latest edition of the eighth-grade textbook he had written in 1982 and learn that a Spanish explorer named Bartolomeo Gomez, and not the Englishman Henry Hudson, was credited with being the first European to discover the Hudson River. Garraty, who had taught history for thirty years, had never heard of Bartolomeo Gomez. After some research, he learned that Gomez was in fact Portuguese and not Spanish and that his claim to have discovered the Hudson River was based on extremely slender evidence: he had sailed along the Atlantic Coast and made a map that described three rivers, one of which might, or might not, be the Hudson.
"The map didn't even include Long Island," Garraty said. "He certainly didn't sail into the river." But the publisher of the book, Holt, Rinehart, anxious to create a new multicultural hero and to cater to the substantial Hispanic populations of Texas and California—the largest markets in the nation for textbooks—had elevated this obscure Portuguese explorer into the Spanish discoverer of the Hudson and inserted him in Garraty's book without his permission.
The American history taught in schools 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. In 1994, when Texas announced that it wanted to purchase new social studies textbooks for fifth-grade students, major publishers competed to produce history textbooks that would not be offensive to political and cultural pressure groups in the state.

Four textbooks by different publishers were formally adopted as suitable for Texas last year; and children throughout the country will be reading one or another of them during the next five to ten years.
They will be doing so because the states of Texas and California taken together account for 20 percent of the textbooks sold in America. They are the biggest of some twenty-two states that review and choose textbooks on a state-wide basis, and their choices therefore have disproportionate influence among the fifty states. Approval of a textbook series in Texas or California guarantees millions of dollars in sales, while rejection will almost certainly mean financial failure.

To satisfy the religious right, many textbooks have largely banished the words "imagine" and "feel." According to an editor at McGraw-Hill, who did not want to be identified, "We were told to try to avoid using the word 'imagine' because the people in Texas felt it was too close to the word 'magic' and therefore might be considered anti-Christian. Instead of saying 'Imagine you were sailing across the Atlantic with Christopher Columbus,' we were encouraged to write 'Suppose you were…"' Some editors told me that they had taken out most references to Halloween (even in music textbooks, Halloween songs were removed) because these could be construed as encouraging belief in witches and hobgoblins and lead to satanic practices.


"In trying to avoid anything that might be offensive to either the left or the right, we were reduced to producing totally bland, middle-of-the-road pabulum," says one Macmillan/ McGraw-Hill editor who, unsurprisingly, was not eager to be identified.

Dumming in Down



"It is a process that is destined to produce a dumbed-down product," says Byron Hollinshead, the head of American Historical Publications, and formerly president of American Heritage and Oxford University Press. "The Harvard Education Letter," he told me, "once compared textbooks to pet food. Pet food is not really concocted for pets, it's meant to appeal to pet owners. Textbooks are not written for children, they are written for textbook committees who flip through them to make sure they have the right ethnic balance and the proper buzz words."
The older textbooks are mainly composed of text—with engravings or photographs appearing from time to time. During the last few decades, illustrations have become more frequent and elaborate. The most recent textbooks appear to be designed on the debatable premise that they must compete with Nintendo video games and MTV. Although recent textbooks have gotten bigger and bigger—generally about 700 large-format pages, weighing a few pounds each—the historical text itself has shrunk. The worst offender in this respect may be the Harcourt history book, whose historical text makes up about one quarter of its roughly 700 pages. Along with robbing the books of content, the shift from words to images in the books has had another drastic consequence: it has made the books extremely expensive to produce.The process is so risky and expensive that it has encouraged the formation of textbook conglomerates, with publishers swallowing one another at an alarming rate.
This process began in the 1930s when an educational psychologist, Edward Lee Thorndike, compiled a list of words and the frequencies with which they occurred in everyday American life. Textbook publishers began to test their books with the Thorndike list and a "good" score was one in which the fewest number of difficult words appeared.
Textbooks are now routinely scanned by computer programs, which measure sentence and paragraph length and also hunt down exotic words that are thought to be too difficult for the average ten- or eleven-year-old. The widely used Dale-Chall "readability" tests exclude words such as "treatment," "protection," "preparation," and "sharpen," even though the words "treat," "protect," "prepare," and "sharp" are allowed.
James Michener, who worked as a textbook editor at Macmillan: "In my opinion, however, this was the beginning of the continuing process known as "dumbing down the curriculum." Before Thorndike, I had helped publish a series of successful textbooks in which I had used a very wide vocabulary, but when I was restricted by Thorndike, what I had once helped write as a book suitable for students in the sixth grade gradually became a book intended for grades seven through eight. Texts originally for the middle grades began to be certified as being appropriate for high school students, and what used to be a high school text appeared as a college text. The entire educational process was watered down, level by level."

Joy Hakim's A History of US combines the best qualities of the earlier narrative histories with modern historical research. Convinced that history is inherently fascinating, she fills her books with anecdotes, quotations, humor, and well-described characters. Instead of talking down to children in simplified language, her books invite children to make an effort. Even though Hakim's books can be read by young children, they are surprisingly sophisticated in suggesting the complexity of moral choices. Oxford University Press agreed to publish her books, contracting to distribute them through the textbook publisher D.C. Heath. After A History of US was published, Heath was bought by Houghton Mifflin, the biggest history textbook publisher. Houghton had its own competing textbook and made virtually no effort to distribute Hakim's. She and Oxford sued Houghton for antitrust violation in a suit that explicitly raised the issue of the growing concentration in the textbook industry.
Moreover, the book has had some difficulties in breaking through the state "adoption" process. Of the five American history books presented for adoption in Texas, A History of US was the only one rejected. The reason, officially, is that because her texts were published in ten shorter volumes rather than one comprehensive one, they didn't fit the state's technical criteria. An organized letter-writing campaign to the Texas Education Authority denounced the books as "unpatriotic" and "socialistic." But the books have been adopted in traditionally conservative states such as Tennessee and Virginia, whose education officials say they want to go back to the basic skills of reading and writing. They are even widely used by religious conservatives who teach their children at home and are anxious to give them more substantial material than they get in their local public schools. The books have also been used successfully both in inner-city public schools in several cities and in such private institutions as Brearley and St. Bernard's in New York.