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Textbooks Are Hazardous to Your Child

November 04, 1998|GARY HULL | Gary Hull is a senior writer for the Marina del Rey-based Ayn Rand Institute

Society's greatest concern, claim the so-called humanitarians, is children suffering from inadequate nutrition, shelter and health care. Yet these same "humanitarians" are silent about the scourge destroying children's minds: textbooks.

Consider math textbooks, which should train students to think logically. Instead, using texts such as Addison-Wesley's "Secondary Math: An Integrated Approach," students are bamboozled with "team math," which encourages each child to defer passively to the group as it guesses at solutions. These textbooks reject the notion of correct answers arrived at by individual problem-solving. The team math approach employs "jigsawing," whereby Susie, Johnny and Sally each are given one part of a problem to work on. Then the group agrees on an overall solution.

This kind of "learning" destroys a student's independent, cognitive development. The result is that your child will not know how to build a bridge or calculate the tip on a restaurant bill, but he will be forever obedient to an assertive clique.

The same anti-intellectual attitude permeates history textbooks. Such books should be filled with narrative explaining the important events of the past, including the ideas that caused them. But the new texts are gutted of any substantive presentation of history as a sequence of interrelated events. Pages are now filled with colorful visuals, not to support the narrative, but to replace it.

Modern textbooks are one more symptom of our culture's growing rejection of the central role of reason in human life. Unless we start to grasp the urgent need to develop the individual child's conceptual ability, our schools will be turning out an ever-increasing number of students who simply do not know how to think.

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