Friday, March 21, 2014

Pearson PLC and the Mis-Education of America's Youth

Sounding like the grumpy old man I have become, I often shake my head and complain about the lack of basic knowledge among young people today when it comes to government, history, geography, literature, and civics. Ask a college-aged student about the branches of government and Constitutional provisions, and one gets blank stares or impassioned (though incorrect)pronouncements more often than accurate answers. I know I have not been alone in throwing my hands up and asking, “what are they teaching these kids?!” (And I’m a teacher!)

Well this week I found at least one of the answers – and it lies in the textbooks and textbook companies being chosen.

Pearson PLC is one of the largest textbook manufacturers in the United States, with sales in 70 countries. Like most large text publishers, they seek multi-million dollar monopoly contracts to supply books for all public schools throughout a state via state education departments. But they have also wrapped their tentacles around more than just printing books, as they have now become the predominant publisher of testing systems as well (in spite of a 2012 discovery in New York State that at least 30 of their answers on such student tests were incorrect.)

Last year, I was hired by Pearson on a temporary contract to grade qualifying exams submitted by new teachers. These were individuals who were seeking to become certified public school teachers, and they took essay tests relating to their chosen subject area. As a college business teacher, I was selected to help grade aspiring high school business teacher exams.
We were told to grade essays on a 1-4 scale. If a candidate at least "grasped some of the issues", we were instructed to grade that essay a 3 out of 4 - a passing grade. It was a group effort, whereby scores were agreed upon by consensus, and I was constantly critiqued for scoring essays too low. I was also overruled.

The most frustrating part is that we were told specifically that we could not reduce our scoring for spelling, grammar, or organization.

Yes, that’s right. America’s next generation of teachers: spelling, grammar, and organization are unimportant for the purposes of obtaining teacher certification. Perhaps that's part of the problem...

But now I've run across this textbook gem, currently making the rounds on Facebook… I'd like to say it's a hoax, but, I am sad to say, it’s been verified.

The American Nation, a Pearson textbook (ISBN 0131817159), is a mandated textbook used throughout New York State. On page 237, the text discusses the Constitutional Rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights. Rather than allowing the Constitution’s words to speak for themselves, and rather than drawing on legal principles, the text explains the Second Amendment this way:

“Each state has the right to maintain a militia, an armed force for its own protection. Today, the militia is the National Guard. The national government and the states can and do regulate the private ownership and use of firearms.”

That’s not fact: that's pure political sentiment. As a matter of Constitutional Law, it is a complete failure.

In striking down the Firearms Control Regulations Act as unconstitutional, the U.S. Court of Appeals held as follows:

“[The Second Amendment] protects an individual right to keep and bear arms…the [right] was premised on the private use of arms for activities such as hunting and self-defense, the latter being understood as resistance to either private lawlessness or the depredations of a tyrannical government (or a threat from abroad)."

They also noted that though the right to bear arms also helped preserve the citizen militia, "the activities [the Amendment] protects are not limited to militia service, nor is an individual's enjoyment of the right contingent upon his or her continued or intermittent enrollment in the militia." The court determined that handguns are "Arms" and concluded that thus they may not be banned by the District of Columbia.

On appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court (District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008)), the Court affirmed the decision, holding that text and history of the Second Amendment demonstrate that it connotes an individual right to keep and bear arms, not a right restricted to national guards or formal militias.

Pearson’s textbook is absolutely, legally, and ethically, incorrect. And if you wonder why today’s young people don’t understand their government, country, or history, here is a prime example why.


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