The Issue with Textbook Bias and Censorship

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Textbooks are used all around the world to educate students about different types of subjects. In order to properly create a textbook that is useful in schools, the author must remain unbiased and explain the whole topic, especially when it comes to a subject like history. However, some authors choose to remain biased and censor most of the subject they are explaining. Biasness and censorship can cause an event in history to either be changed to seem more glorious or tragic, completely erase an event or person, or even go as far as to speak poorly of a race or group of people. This can affect students overall education in an extremely negative way and give them a false sense of knowledge. Textbook bias disfigures events or people in history while the censorship of textbooks hides the truth from students.

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Both textbook bias and censorship are both very serious issues in the academic community. In order to understand how serious and negative bias and censorship is, one must be able to identify the difference between the two. While they are both genuine issues, they are often mistaken for being the same one. This is in fact not true as they are similar but separate issues. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, bias means to give a settled and often prejudiced outlook to. An individual or a group can favor, for example, a race or gender more than another thus making their outlook in a situation to be biased. In terms of textbook bias, one can conclude that the author would favor a certain race, gender, or outcome and decide to write out of favoritism instead of facts. As for censorship, the proper definition would be, the system or practice of examining writings or movies and taking out things considered offensive or immoral (Merriam-Webster). In textbook censorship, the author can completely erase an individual, a group, or even an event from a historical and political context. Scientifically speaking, the author could also erase facts that they either do not agree with or just do not believe in.

Textbook bias comes in many forms, and the most common form is racial bias. Racial bias can cause students to view a certain race in either a stereotypical or misconceptual way. In the article The Portrayal of Arabs in Textbooks in the Jewish School System in Israel, Ismael Abu-Saad examines how the the Arabic people are portrayed in the Jewish schools textbooks for students. Within the Jewish academic texts, they describe the Arabic people to be …a backward, primitive people with no similar ownership rights in the neglected land (Abu-Saad). The Jewish students who read these textbooks with such racist and incorrect information can be mislead to think that all Arabic people are, for example, agitated robbers and vandals. (Abu-Saad). The way the Jewish academic texts are teaching students is not only misleading but also damaging to the students perception of other races. The damaged views can lead students into needlessly hating others for their differences; in this case the differences would be racial. Similarly, the American education system textbooks hold biased information on topics like Mexican-American history. Emma Hungaski reports in the article In Texas, Textbook Bias Skews Mexican-American History that an offensive textbook made the news for not only being racially biased but for also having several incorrect pieces of information. The author behind the academic text, Cynthia Dunbar, expresses her dislike for the American education system through her writings. In her writings about Mexican-American history, she describes Mexicans as stereotypically lazy compared to European or American workers (Hungaski). When questioned as to why the writings included racially biased and incorrect information, Dunbar had simply stated that it was only necessary to show what it was like during that time and to show the good, the bad, and the ugly of it all. (Hungaski). While Dunbar was showing what it was like during that time period and how that race was viewed, the students reading her textbook may not be able to read what her intent was clearly. The authors of both of the racially biased textbooks may think they are helping students learn, but they are only teaching students to loathe another racial group.

Another common form of textbook bias, would include gender bias. According to author Suwardi Suwardi et al. of the article Gender Bias in Islamic Textbooks for Muslim Children in Indonesia, Islam is seen to teach gender bias, where the role of men is positioned higher than the role of women. Religion, in this case, can be an explanation as to why certain textbooks hold bias towards certain genders. Suwardi et al. compared three different Islamic student textbooks and focused on the imagery. It was found that in Fikih, an Islamic textbook, a majority of the imagery is gender biased as well as the Akidah Akhlak and the Arabic language texts. From the study, it was found that several of the images within the textbooks primarily focused on men. (Suwardi et al). Whether it is intentional or unintentional, it is unknown. However, the religion does solely see men as dominant and more important than women. The images easily provide proof on how males dominate the Muslim religion. Similar gender bias can be found in scientific terms specifically in the medical realm of academics. In the article Gender Bias in Medical Textbooks: Examples from Coronary Heart Disease, Depression, Alcohol Abuse and Pharmacology, Anja F. Dijkstra et al describes how some medical textbooks take studies meant for both men and women and use those results even when women were left out of the study. To be more specific about how some medical textbooks remain gender biased, it was found that any sort of gender issues were not acknowledged in the study for Coronary Heart Disease. The only implication of there being a difference between the sexes is small mentions of how to notice it in women. The quote may say something along the lines of …women, who more often have atypical chest discomfort (Dijkstra et al). With the small amount of information on womenr’s health, the medical textbooks information and examples are deemed inaccurate and incomplete as well as biased.

While textbook bias leaves students with disfigured information, censorship hides facts and truths. In the news article Airbrushed Again, Salil Tripathi discusses how in China certain parts of their history is being covered. In future-focused China, it seems, the past is becoming a foreign country (Tripathi). To add context to this quote, China is currently hiding away facts and major events that have occured in its past. For example, most students of current day China have no idea as to what Tiananmen Square is or when it even occured. Not once is it mentioned in any current day Chinese textbooks of what happened that day. One could type up Tiananmen Square into an extensively used Chinese search engine and only find images of happy people visiting the area. It is possible that students may know someone who was there that day, but even then it is still highly unlikely that it is discussed openly with them (Tripathi). By hiding away such tragic events of the countryr’s past, students are left with a false sense of knowledge about their own home. The censoring of textbooks are a common issue of the modern age but many people do not realize that the censoring of academic texts extends back to the early 1900s. According to Soyoung Kim in Textbook Inspection and Censorship in Korea during the Protectorate Period: A Study of Inspection Copies of Textbooks Compiled by the Young Korean Academy, On August 26, 1908, the Japanese Residency-General issued the Decree Concerning Private Schools and specified a provision on textbooks in Article 6 of the decree. Soyoung then continues to explain that Soon afterwards, on September 1, 1908, the Regulations on Textbook Inspection were passed. With Japan in power and setting these rules up in Korea, one can easily come to the conclusion as to why these strict rules had been created for these textbooks. Korea had a rise in private schools and many Korean educators felt it was right to create textbooks that taught students the history of where they came from. However, when the Japanese occupied Korea they saw risks in what was being taught in these schools. Of course, Japan had then placed these regulations out of fear that what was being taught in the schools was anti-Japanese sentiments and patriotism (Soyoung).

The reason for the censoring of Korean textbooks in this time period was a way for the Japanese to have some sort of control. In a way, the Japanese took the power of education and molded it to be something unrecognizable in order to remain in power and be stronger than the country they were trying to occupy (Soyoung). The way the Chinese government is hiding its dark past and the way the Japanese had tried to rid the chance of Korean students being taught anti-Japanese sentiments(Soyoung), in comparison, was done out of fear and power. The censorship of the textbooks in both cases are examples of how censorship in textbooks can leave students more vulnerable in the hands of not only the government but to the world outside of their country. In schools around the world, the number one learning tool used in classrooms are textbooks. These textbooks are supposed to help students understand all types of subjects. The authors of these academic texts are to help in teaching students about whatever topic they need to know in school. The author is to remain unbiased and not hide any sort of fact that can leave a student to be confused or lost. However, some authors choose to stay biased and censor truths. By authors censoring and remaining biased about a topic, it can affect students in a negative way. It distorts history and hides the real truth from students. Textbook bias and censorship has been a serious issue in the academic community and the question remains: how can it be stopped and is there a way to stop it?

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The Issue with Textbook Bias and Censorship. (2019, May 31). Retrieved May 22, 2022 , from

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