Pearson publications probed by pundits and professors


Multiple Bush administration embarrassments in Roots and Reform, such as FEMA’s response to Hurricane Katrina, were either shortened or omitted.

Nelson Gomez, Managing Editor

Pearson Education has become a leading force in education in New York, having entered a five-year, thirty-two million dollar contract with the New York State Department of Education to design state examinations for grades four through eight. The Massapequa School District also relies on Pearson for new textbooks and PowerSchool gradebook software.

Massapequa educators, however, have recently called the corporation into question after discovering that large passages in its Advanced Placement (AP) Government textbooks regarding political scandals associated with the George W. Bush administration had been removed.

Among the revisions made to American Government: Roots and Reform were the omission of the Abu Ghraib prisoner torture and Jack Abramoff scandals and many sections critical of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Additionally, the coverage of Hurricane Katrina and FEMA’s response to the storm, a topic previously addressed across several chapters, was only briefly mentioned in one short line and a few pictures. The new revision of the textbook, in comparison to its predecessor, has been shortened by nearly one hundred pages.

“You can’t put everything about American government into one book,” AP Government teacher Mr. Daniel Bachman said, “but it’s alarming that [Hurricane Katrina], an incident that occurred less than ten years ago which is directly related to the curriculum, … has now been relegated to one sentence and two photos.”

According to Mr. Bachman, the school district purchased the newer 2011 edition textbooks out of necessity: textbooks lost in Hurricane Sandy needed to be replaced and the 2009 version of Roots and Reform was no longer available for sale through Pearson.
It seems as though most of the information that was removed was replaced by discussion of scandals and developments that had occurred under the Obama administration. Still, the sudden disappearance of such large amounts of information, which dealt primarily with relatively recent events, has prompted suspicions of economically and politically motivated redaction of information. Not only was Katrina was omitted, but other Bush administration blunders, such as the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal and the federal implementation of the No Child Left Behind Act were barely mentioned as well.

“Most textbooks are written with Texas and its state standards in mind,” AP Government teacher Ms. Suzanne Borger said, “so it is possible that in order to sell more textbooks to Texas schools, the newer edition intentionally downplayed some Bush administration blunders.”

In fact, Hofstra University graduate social studies director Alan Singer spoke out against Pearson’s lobbying interests, citing donations that the company had made to the Foundation for Excellence in Education (FEE), which was founded by George W. Bush’s brother, former Florida governor Jeb Bush; FEE is an education advocacy and lobbying group involved in writing education laws in six states.
Regardless of Pearson’s suspected or actual intentions in publishing its material, Massapequa educators remain concerned about Pearson’s growing role in their profession as it acquires more publishing companies.

“The number of publishers we have is now greatly diminished… so any time you have that, you tend to lose some insight into all of the facts or all the different sides of the story,” social studies Curriculum Associate Mr. Brian Dowd said.

“Pearson PLC has been buying textbook companies since the mid-90’s, so essentially they’re becoming somewhat of a textbook monopoly,” Mr. Bachman added.

The adverse effects of having a large, powerful and for-profit group so greatly involved in the educational process have been made apparent numerous times in the past. In October, the New York Daily News reported that New York City educators ordering materials from Pearson found numerous errors, including mismatched reading and question pairings, pages printed upside down, and teacher texts that did not match student books.

In addition, the New York State English Language Arts assessment in April 2012, which was produced and administered by Pearson Education, was required to be re-evaluated after numerous complaints about meaningless passages and misleading questions, including a widely mocked story about a talking pineapple.

Unlike a public entity, Pearson is not state-funded, and therefore is not legally obligated to provide a significant amount of information about its operations other than that required by its partners and the Securities and Exchange Commission, as well as other federal and local laws and regulations for corporations. It is likewise not held to educational standards other than those stipulated in contracts it forms with state governments and municipalities.

This trend of redactions is a possible cause for alarm due to the fact that other textbook companies could be acting similarly to Pearson; it is not implausible that major publishers are also engaging with political groups or producing tests and books with various errors and misprints.

After all, if one publisher can make these kinds of errors and omissions, who else may be doing the same?

Despite multiple requests, Pearson Education could not be reached for comment.

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