Thursday, April 10, 2008

Student Claims to Have Found a Textbook Case of Conservative Bias

Charges by a high-school senior and a think tank that a popular college textbook on American government is politically biased have prompted the book’s publisher to change some passages and reconsider others.

The book, American Government: Institutions and Policies, was written by James Q. Wilson and John J. Dilulio Jr., two well-known conservatives. It is used in both college and high-school courses.

According to the Associated Press, Matthew LaClair, a senior at Kearny High School, in New Jersey, complained to the Center for Inquiry, in Amherst, N.Y., about passages in the textbook that cover global warming and school prayer, among others.

“I just realized from my own knowledge that some of this stuff in the book is just plain wrong,” Mr. LaClair told the AP.

In a report it released in late March, the Center for Inquiry — a think tank that studies science — criticized the textbook’s statement that global warming may not be scientifically valid. It also took issue with the book’s statement that the U.S. Supreme Court has outlawed all school prayer. First Amendment experts told the AP that, in fact, students are allowed to pray privately in school, or in groups before lunch, as long as they do not disrupt the school day.

Mr. Dilulio, a professor of political science at the University of Pennsylvania, worked for the Bush administration as director of faith-based initiatives. Mr. Wilson is a professor of public policy at Pepperdine University. Neither responded to the AP’s requests for comments.

Richard Blake, a spokesman for the book’s publisher, the Houghton Mifflin Company, said the it would be “working with the authors to evaluate in detail the criticisms of the Center for Inquiry.” Mr. Blake said some disputed passages already had been excised from the book’s newest edition. —Robin Wilson

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