October 15, 2008

Obama textbook is stupid, but inconsequential

Update 2: The JT's coverage of this is funny. Their headline right now reads, "Text book mentioning Obama angers parent." The problem is the reporter doesn't know that. Fred Dooley reported an anonymous parent's complaint about the book. The JT doesn't even go that far. The reporter simply reports the district's reaction to the story. From what we know, there is no public complaint about the textbook, except from Fred's website (and Fox News, other bloggers, etc.)

The district has a well-reasoned response here. The gist: The text book includes excerpts from a contemporary minority leader who teachers hoped would connect with the remedial English students who use the book.

Original Post:

Fred over at Real Debate Wisconsin has been on us the past few days about excerpts from Barack Obama's autobiography and 2004 speech at the Democratic National Convention in an eighth grade text book used in Racine Unified.

It's a great story, and Fred did a good job of reporting it on his site, Real Debate Wisconsin. The story has taken off around the Internet and I hope a few people are clicking on his blog ads along the way. We would have run the same story.

Here's why: It's so frickin' stupid. Who put together this text book? How could they not see what was going to happen? The poster on Fred's site notes that the head of the publishing company is an Obama supporter. That's fine, but using school text books for a political agenda is really, really dumb.

That said ... let's be realistic. This will only be an issue until Nov. 4. Obama will win or lose the election on that day, and at that point he's either: 1.) President of the United States, and certainly worthy of a text book; or 2.) The junior senator from Illinois who has a nice life story. In either case, the text book is fine. (And, since the profile starts on page 847, I highly doubt the classes will get to it first semester.)

It's also worth noting this is an eighth-grade text book. The students can't vote, and I highly doubt a text book will sway their parents. It's true the students could vote again in four years, but again, Obama's political career rests on more than the opinions of 18-year-olds.

So, in summary:

1. This is really, really stupid on the part of the publisher (and possibly the district ... did no one see this coming?)

2. It won't have any effect on the election.

3. The text books will be fine to use in a couple of weeks.

4. Congratulations to Fred for running a story that brings a lot of traffic to his website.

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