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Teacher Voices Concern About Textbook Image
By Christine Sabathia
Published October 4, 2007
The image found on a textbook cover for 12th grade LAUSD students features a culturally diverse student group, minus a Black face

Cover represents culturally diverse student group, minus a Black face

Secondary educator Carma Chinyere, also known as Dr. See Love, is fully aware of the meaning behind the cliché “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover,” but when she received the textbook for her 12th Grade Reading and Writing Expository Course it was hard for her to get past the cover’s image.

On the front of the book, which was issued by the Los Angeles Unified School District in conjunction with California State University, is a racially diverse group of five young students in an academic setting; however, there is not one African American represented.

In a school district where there are 78,743 Black students of 704,417, Love says this is disheartening.

“I think that in this day and age when we’re spending public dollars in public education, the textbook covers certainly ought to represent the students that are going to be using these textbooks.”

She added, “Subliminally, what this [image] implies is that African American students don’t read and write, and we’re missing in academics. At this time we need to be promoting education in the inner-city community, and we should certainly be represented on the book cover.”
The textbook is compiled with material developed by a task force of high school and CSU faculty for its expository reading and writing course, which is a full-year college preparatory English course for high school juniors or seniors. The task force organized 14 modules based mainly on non-fiction texts to emphasize the in-depth study of expository, analytical and argumentative reading and writing.

The texts vary in style, genre and complexity, and according to Nancy Brynelson, co-director of the CSU Center for the Advancement of Reading, reflect all groups of the state-wide audience.

“The course work includes topics such as Fast Food, Rhetoric of the Op-Ed, Racial Profiling, Juvenile Justice, Childhood Love Lessons and Bullying at School,” said Brynelson. “They are topics that the students want to talk about.”

She added, “We have made an effort to be culturally responsive and we have had good reviews from all around the state.”

As far as the images that accompany the course work, Brynelson explained that they are stock photos selected by the Chancellor’s office. She also noted that the photo on the front cover of the second volume to the textbook, which is used for the second semester and is the more advanced of the two, features an African American student engaging in studying with a Caucasian student.

Said Brynelson, “I hope that the images do not overshadow the important work that is within the book.”

She also said that although the CSU task force does provide the material, the District chooses what to incorporate in the textbook.

The District’s office of Secondary Literacy did not respond to an email request to explain its choice of image usage as of Sentinel press time, but a spokesperson for LAUSD did say that the question was posed before the initial printing of the textbook.

Before leaving the Sentinel office with textbook in hand, Dr. Love noted that it is not the content of the book that is in question, because as she said it is good in covering current issues relative to students, rather it is the cover.

She said, “I think it’s important that we continue to be conscious of the images that we are projecting to young people and make sure that they are here and and are represented.”

Categories: Education

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