chapter  12
33 Pages

Race, Class, Gender, and Disability in Current Textbooks

The publication of A Nation at Risk1 escalated the continuing debate over cur­ riculum in schools (elementary through college) to a greater intensity, and focused more attention on both the skills and the content of curriculum. It recommended, for example, that graduation requirements in English, social studies, mathematics, science, and computer science be increased. Many of the educational reform reports2 that responded to A Nation at Risk argued for eliminating nonessentials in the curriculum without really defining what makes a body of knowledge nonessential, and raising standards in traditional academic subject areas.3 However, they did not specify what content should be taught in the traditional academic subjects. Subsequent responses did. Allan Bloom, in his number one bestseller The Closing of The American Mind, explains “How Higher Education has Failed Democracy and Impoverished the Souls of Today’s Students,” and argues for a college curriculum based on the Great Books of the Western tradition and guided by the fundamental work of Western philosophy, especially ancient Greek philosophy. Bloom notes:

Men may live more truly and fully in reading Plato and Shakespeare than at any other time, because then they are participating in essential being and are forgetting their accidental lives. The fact that this kind of human­ ity exists, and that we can somehow still touch it with the tips of our out­ stretched fingers, makes our imperfect humanity, which we can no longer bear, tolerable. The books in their objective beauty are still there, and we must help protect and cultivate the delicate tendrils reaching out toward them through the unfriendly soil of students’ souls.4