The thing about education is that it’s not supposed to be subjective; it’s an objective issue. However, our textbooks, which are written by humans, all contain a bit of error – no matter how hard producers intended otherwise. It’s something that we call textbook bias. Here’s how to identify and spot it in textbooks, so that you can take their bias out of the equation and take the information as is, to the best of your ability.

Bias is everywhere. (photo by Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com)

Bias is everywhere. (photo by Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com)

There are seven forms of bias, and they are as follows:

  • Invisibility; excluding a group from the entirety, ultimately blinding someone towards what could be an essential aspect of history.
    Although after the 1960s, society started to see African Americans, Latinos, and Asian Americans more often, there are still some groups of people that are ultimately left out, including women, disabled persons, and homosexuals.
  • Stereotyping; essentially dismantling individualism for general characteristics of a group.
    Stereotypes can be both positive or negative, but in textbooks we see that men are generally not talked of as fathers or husbands, but as successful men in career, women are generally seen as the caregivers, and jewish persons are seen as wealthy.
  • Telling Only Half of the Story; who knows where the other half goes!
    Literature is mainly drawn from male authors, for example.
  • Unreality; what we know today as untrue, but textbooks perceive as true.
    For example, the ideology that expanding technology will resolve all of our social issues, as well as women’s wages being the same as men’s (it’s apparently seventy-five cents to one dollar!)
  • Linguistic Bias; using words to depict a group with negative or positive connotation.
    For example, using words like “roaming” or “wandering” for Native Americans connotes a picture of Native Americans being goal-less peoples.
  • Fragmentation and Isolation; special chapters or text involving a group or isolating another.
    In fragmentation and isolation, although not as harsh as stereotyping, racial groups are seen only interacting among people of their own race.
  • Cosmetic Bias; convincing one, aesthetically, that the textbook will contain equal representation, ie. a cover of a woman in a lab coat, but not involving many details about women inside of said textbook.

With all of the knowledge that you have now been given, I am sure that you can think of a time that you have read or seen something in a textbook that didn’t exactly give the whole picture. If you’re not looking for bias, it will be hard to spot – but in order to look at anything objectively, you must forget the very innate human characteristic of bias. You must learn to put that on the back burner and look at things only from factual and logistic means.

Teaching these concepts to your students will only better their understanding of the subject at hand.