Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Barron's Insulting Blunder

Barron's in the seventh edition of its AP European History prep book made a shocking error.  In a table meant to explain different political ideologies to students, Clarence Thomas' name was placed in the same box as that of the Klu Klux Klan as examples of more conservative view points that tended towards Reactionary or Facist.  The fact that this escaped notice is inexcusable as both poor historical writing and academics on the part of the writers and lazy editing on the part of company.  Whatever your political view point, the mistake represents two different but equally bad lessons to students. First, it insultingly equates a Supreme Court justice with a hate group (one that hates him I would like to point out) which is both insulting to Justice Thomas personally and to the justice system more largely.  Secondly, this mistake diminishes the threat that the Klu Klux Klan poses to Americans today as well as the damage that they have wrought since their inception during the Reconstruction period of the South after the Civil War.  Not to mention it leaves students with completely inappropriate examples of facists.   In a way the book is explicitly harming students' education and ability to succeed on the AP exam.  While I cannot quote CollegeBoard on this issue, presumably those examples would be deemed unacceptable evidence on the exam.  This mistake goes beyond any political view point and provides ammunition to those who oppose the balanced, analytical, legitimate historical education that is the goal of most academics to provide to their students.  This mistake was first identified according to the LA Times on the conservative website the Daily Caller, by education editor Eric Owens.  While the article goes a bit far in its own rhetorical claims, it provides the pictorial evidence which leaves no doubt of the severity of Barron's error.

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