Bias in education

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Bias in education refers to real or perceived bias in the educational system.

Bias in school textbooks[edit]

The content of school textbooks is often the issue of debate, as their target audience is young people, and the term "whitewashing" is the one commonly used to refer to selective removal of critical or damaging evidence or comment. The reporting of military atrocities in history is extremely controversial, as in the case of the Holocaust (or Holocaust denial) and the Winter Soldier Investigation of the Vietnam War. The representation of every society's flaws or misconduct is typically downplayed in favor of a more nationalist or patriotic view. Also, Christians and other religionists have at times attempted to block the teaching of the theory of evolution in schools, as evolutionary theory appears to contradict their religious beliefs; the teaching of creationism as a science is likewise blocked from many public schools. In the context of secondary-school education, the way facts and history are presented greatly influences the interpretation of contemporary thought, opinion and socialization. One legitimate argument for censoring the type of information disseminated is based on the inappropriate quality of such material for the young. The use of the "inappropriate" distinction is in itself controversial, as it can be used to enforce wider and more politically motivated censorship.

Religious bias[edit]

Religious bias in textbooks is often observed in countries where religion plays a dominant role.

Many countries and states have guidelines against bias in education, but they are not always implemented. The guidelines of the California Department of Education (Code 60044) state the following: "No religious belief or practice may be held up to ridicule and no religious group may be portrayed as inferior." "Any explanation or description of a religious belief or practice should be present in a manner that does not encourage or discourage belief or indoctrinate the student in any particular religious belief."[1]

Bias in education by country or region[edit]

United States[edit]

Many recent allegations against the United States have surfaced about the hiding of many historical facts from the public through public education and thus luring the public to believing that the actions taken by the U.S. government are justified and provide a global benefit.

Howard Zinn and James Loewen are among the well-recognized critics of US history as presented in school textbooks. A People's History of the United States, by American historian and political scientist Zinn, seeks to present American history through the eyes of groups rarely heard in mainstream histories. Loewen spent two years at the Smithsonian Institution studying and comparing twelve American history textbooks widely used throughout the United States. His findings were published in Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your High School History Textbook Got Wrong.

In a landmark book called “The Trouble with Textbooks,” Dr. Gary A. Tobin and Dennis R. Ybarra show how millions of American schoolchildren are taught anti-Semitic versions of Jewish history and faith, particularly in relation to Christianity and Islam. The authors found that U.S. textbooks “tend to discredit the ties between Jews and the Land of Israel. Israel is blamed for starting wars in the region and being colonialist. Jews are charged with deicide in the killing of Jesus. All in all, there are repeated misrepresentations that cross the line into bigotry.” [2]

Middle East[edit]

Extreme bias against Israel has been found in Arab textbooks, and classroom maps are often altered to replace the label "Israel" with "Palestine". Their writings frequently refer to Israel as "the small Satan" and America as "the great Satan."[3] Arab schools almost unniversally teach Holocaust denial; Israelis are often labelled as Nazis, and Zionism is treated as comparable to Nazism.[4] In February 2007, eight 12th grade Palestinian textbooks were analyzed by the Palestinian Media Watch. The official report stated:

The teachings repeatedly reject Israel's right to exist, present the conflict as a religious battle for Islam, teach Israel's founding as imperialism, and actively portray a picture of the Middle East, both verbally and visually, in which Israel does not exist at all. The following description of Israel's founding represents the dominant dogma about Israel in Palestinian schoolbooks: Defining Israel's founding as a "catastrophe unprecendented in history," "a theft perpetrated by Zionist gangs," together with numerous other hateful descriptions of Israel as "colonial imperialist" and "racist", compounded by the presentation of the conflict as a religious war, leaves no latitude for students to have positive or even neutral attitudes towards Israel. This negative imagery and religious packaging are compounded by hateful presentations of Israeli policy. The young students are imbued with a Palestinian identity as "victims" just by virtue of Israel's existence. The well-meaning student is left with no logical justification or religious option to accept Israel as a neighbor or to seek coexistence. Given the total rejection of Israel's right to exist, on nationalistic and religious grounds, Palestinian terror against Israel since Israel's founding in 1948 is defined as: "resistance … acts of most glorious heroism."[5] PA educators teach that fighting Israel is not merely a territorial conflict, but also a religious battle for Islam. The schoolbooks define the conflict with Israel as "Ribat for Allah" – "one of the actions related to Jihad for Allah, and it means: Being found in areas where there is a struggle between Muslims and their enemies".[6]

In addition, the report describes the Islamic World and the United States as being involved in a "Clash of Civilizations" and describes the Iraqi Insurgency as being engaged in "brave resistance to liberate Iraq".[7]

Following the 2001 terrorist attacks against the US, America asked that Saudi textbooks be revised to remove sections that promoted violence against Jews and Christians. Saudi officials claimed to have completed the adjustments, though a 2006 report claimed otherwise.[8]

South Asia[edit]

Bias in education has been a common feature in the curriculum of many South Asian countries. According to Waghmar, many of the oriental societies are plagued by visceral nationalism and post-imperial neurosis where state-sanctioned dogmas suppress eclectic historical readings.[9] Issues such as the preaching of hatred and obscurantism and the distortion of history in Pakistan have led the international scholars to suggest the need for coordinated efforts amongst the historians to produce a composite history of the subcontinent as a common South Asian reader.[10] Bias against Indians and Hindus, as well as other religious minorities, have been found in Pakistani schoolbooks.[11] However, Nelson here stresses the need for any educational reform to be based at the needs of the level of local communities.[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ California State Law, Education Code 60044, Standards for Evaluating Instructional Materials for Social Content, 2000 Edition. Retrieved on 15 June 2008
  2. ^
  3. ^ Lewis, Bernard, "Muslim Anti-Semitism", Middle East Quarterly, June 1998
  4. ^ Sufot, E. Zev, "Anti-Semitism Today", Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, August 20, 2011
  5. ^ Arabic Language, Analysis, Literature and Commentary, grade 12 p 105
  6. ^ Islamic Education, grade 12, p. 86
  7. ^
  8. ^ Saudi Textbooks Still Teach Hate, Group Says National Public Radio
  9. ^ Waghmar, B. (2005). Pakistan Studies: The State of the Craft. Dawn. 27 February. p. 5. Retrieved on 9 June 2008.
  10. ^ Verghese, B.G. (2004). Myth and hate as history. The Hindu. 23 June. Retrieved on 7 June 2008.
  11. ^ Seyyed Vali Reza Nasr, The Vanguard of the Islamic Revolution: The Jama`at-i Islami of Pakistan (University of California Press, 1994) p121-122
  12. ^ Nelson, M.J. (2006). Muslims, Markets, and the Meaning of ‘A Good Education’ in Pakistan. Asian Survey. 46(5). pp. 699-720.

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