Removal of AP US Textbook by creator of "Broken Windows" in SOMSD

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I took the AP United States Government and Politics course this year and was appalled and horrified to read the textbook assigned for the class. It defended racial profiling, claimed global warming was good, and more offensive material. I have been trying to get this textbook, written by the creator of the "Broken Windows" theory and the creator of the term "superpredator" out of this AP curriculum. The school has been unwilling to change the textbook and listen to all of my concerns, even after writing a five page letter and multiple discussions. The last gift I want to give my high school, as I am a 2020 graduate, is a removal of this textbook and a true discussion of racism within.

Here is the letter that I wrote to the teacher of the class in December of 2019:

Since the beginning of the year reading the textbook American Government: Institutions and Policies, I have had concerns. There were swaths of biased text and portions that were incorrect. However, this continued to get worse in Chapter 7, so I did some digging into the rest of the textbook and its authors. Based on my findings, I implore that this textbook be removed from this class, as it is biased, contains racist assertions, and is factually incorrect.

The authors, James Q. Wilson and John J. Dilulio Jr., are known for their conservative and Republican advocacy and practice. James Q. Wilson was an American social scientist that created the “Broken Windows” theory of policing. The “Broken Windows” theory stated that police action on lower-level crimes would reduce major crime (Bauer). This theory would become the justification for the stop-and-frisk policy in New York City. In Floyd v. City of New York (2013), stop-and-frisk and the manner it had been implemented was declared unconstitutional. John Dilulio was the head of the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives under President George W. Bush and a University of Pennsylvania professor (Associated Press, 2008). He is known for coining the racist term "superpredator" (Haberman, 2014) while working at Princeton in the 1990s, a term that Sec. Hillary Clinton was vilified in the 2016 presidential campaign for having used decades earlier. Dilulio’s work did a great deal to demonize young black men, and help lead to the mass incarceration crisis.

This textbook has been under fire in the past for its biased, inaccurate, and discriminatory language. A high school senior, Matthew LaClair, of Kearny, NJ, brought the problems with an earlier version of this textbook to a national audience in 2008 (Zuckerbrod, 2008). (His AP Government class at Kearny High School had been using the 2005 edition of the textbook. While CHS uses the 2011 edition, many of his complaints remain applicable to this almost 10-year old edition.) LaClair  referenced the book’s defense of global warming, its exaggerated claims about prayer in school, among other issues. LaClair’s advocacy, backed by NASA climate scientist James Hanson, the Center for Inquiry, Friends of the Earth and People for the American Way, resulted in Houghton Mifflin, the publisher of American Government: Institutions and Policies, agreeing to review the textbook. Many schools stopped using this textbook after LaClair’s op-ed on the issue appeared in the Los Angeles Times.

The problems in this textbook were brought to national attention, and yet the Maplewood-South Orange school district uses it to this day. While some of LaClair’s objections were addressed in the edits, many issues remain in the textbook we use today. A sampling of biased or inaccurate quotes are listed below:

  • On “Racial Profiling”: “But there is another side to this issue. Perhaps people of a certain race are more likely to break the speed limit or smuggle drugs in their cars; if that is the case, then stopping them more frequently, even if it means stopping more innocent people, may make sense” (Wilson and Dilulio, pg. 139). 

This atrocious section of the book defends racial profiling! The inclusion of a book in our curriculum that makes this argument seems to be a total odds with a district that announces it celebrates “diversity...human rights...equality” on its home page. After all, people of a “certain race” are not more likely to smuggle drugs, or speed in their cars; they are simply more likely to be stopped by the police. According to a report to the UN by the Sentencing Project, “More than one in four people arrested for drug law violations in 2015 was black, although drug use rates do not differ substantially by race and ethnicity and drug users generally purchase drugs from people of the same race or ethnicity. For example, the ACLU found that blacks were 3.7 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than whites in 2010, even though their rate of marijuana usage was comparable.”

  • “The second view holds that if it is wrong to discriminate against African Americans and women, it is equally wrong to give them preferential treatment over other groups. To do so constitutes reverse discrimination. The Constitution and law should be color-blind and sex-neutral” (Wilson and Dilulio, pg. 145).
  • “Reverse Discrimination: Using race or sex to give preferential treatment to some people” (Wilson and Dilulio, pg. 146).

Reverse discrimination is a term created by conservatives to combat progressive policies like affirmative action. White people have used this term in defense of their anger of people of color getting opportunities in businesses and colleges trying to diversify.

  • They have argued that “affirmative action admissions policies deemed to discriminate against white applicants” (Newkirk, 2017). 

This is inaccurate. Affirmative action is a policy that improves the educational benefits and opportunities of people of color and women. However, Peter W. Cookson Jr., a senior researcher at the Learning Policy Institute, says believers in reverse discrimination think affirmative action means giving preference to a person of color over a white person in every scenario: “If there are two students with equal qualifications and one happens to be African American and one happens to be Caucasian, that the African American will have an advantage over the Caucasian” (Webster, 2017). There is no evidence of this occurring (Webster, 2017), but the theory has caused a lot of damage. Several people have sued colleges claiming reverse discrimination in admissions, hurting people of color who justly received those spots in the process (Newkirk, 2017). The belief in reverse racism has been increasing since the civil rights movement, especially under the Trump presidency. It is wrong of the textbook to promote this idea as fact; however, Wilson and Dilulio take it another step further and make it a vocab word.

Also the Constitution, just like our society, has never been color-blind or gender neutral. The Constitution still includes the 3⁄5ths compromise. It took mulitiple amendments to even start to expand the ability to vote; there is still a lot of voting discrimination because of loopholes in the Constitution. However, many people of color and women, myself included, don’t want the Constitution to be colorblind or gender-neutral. People of color and women face so much discrimination in life that they need to law to support them. This idea is a conservative talking point.

  • “There is one irony in all of this: ‘Roe,’ the pseudonym for the woman who started the suit that became Roe v. Wade, never had an abortion and many years later, using her real name, Norma McCorvey, became an evangelical Christian who published a book and started a ministry to denounce abortions” (Wilson and Dilulio, pg. 144).

This paragraph ends a section on sexual harassment and privacy laws. This phrasing was clearly meant to add a skeptical note and imply that abortion rights are potentially not worth having that. It is also incorrect, as McCorvey did attempt to get an abortion prior to her lawsuit, but it was illegal in Texas at the time if the mother’s life was not at risk. By the time the trial ended, her baby had been born (Langer, 2017). The use of the word “irony” denies all of the social good Roe v. Wade did, which extended far beyond the personal feelings of just one person. McCorvey also came out recently and stated that she was paid to change her position on the issue by anti-choice lobbists.

  • “Do you think that permitting ‘public nuisance’ or other lawsuits against otherwise law-abiding gun manufacturers might violate their ‘civil rights’?” (Wilson and Dilulio, pg. 139).

This is clearly a leading and biased question - in a legal context, we do not ask whether we should convict an ‘otherwise law-abiding’ murderer or an ‘otherwise law-abiding’ embezzler. If you are determined to have broken one law, or acted in a manner in which others are entitled to compensation, you should be held responsible. Period. What the authors gloss over here is that gun manufacturers have a unique level of immunity to lawsuits thanks to the NRA-backed PLCAA bill. Do they think that gun manufacturers deserve special immunity from all legal challenges - for example, the legal suit against Remington for shady marketing practices from the parents who lost their children at Sandy Hook?

  • “Indeed, the Civil War illustrates the way certain fundamental beliefs about how a democratic regime ought to be organized have persisted despite bitter conflict over the policies adopted by particular governments. When the southern states seceded from the Union, they formed not a wholly different government but one modeled, despite some important differences, on the U.S. Constitution. Even some of the language of the Constitution was duplicated, suggesting that the southern states believed not that a new form of government or a different political culture ought to be created but that the South was the true repository of existing constitutional and cultural order” (Wilson and Dilulio, pg. 80).

This section states as fact the conservative talking point that the Civil War was just about governmental ideas. This section doesn’t mention the fact that the Civil War was about slavery at all, a huge and offensive oversimplification.

  • “Cross-national differences wrought by political culture seem even sharper between America and countries such as Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, and the Philippines. Why do these countries, whose constitutions are very like the American one, have so much trouble with corruption, military takeovers, and the rise of demagogues?” (Wilson and Dilulio, pg. 79).

There are multiple problems with this quote. This sounds very biased against non-white countries. Also, there have not been military takeovers or ‘demagogues’ in some of these countries in decades, though corruption may still be present in these countries. With our current government, it feels rather ironic to compare them against the United States. In this section the US is presented as completely uncorrupt.

  • “But other organizations, such as the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC), have produced reports arguing that greenhouse gases have not caused the earth to warm. The NIPCC argues that the IPCC neglects the effect of the sun and other natural forces have had in making the earth warmer and ignores periods in the past when, long before greenhouse gases had been produced, people were managing farms in Greenland. Second, if human activity has caused global warming, what would it cost in lost productivity to reduce greenhouse gases? Since America acting along cannot eliminate greenhouse gases, we have to figure out how to get other countries, especially rapidly growing ones such as China and India, to absorb their share of the cost. Third, how large would be the gains to humankind, and when would they occur? On the one hand, a warmer globe will cause sea levels to rise, threatening coastal communities; on the other hand, greater warmth will make it easier and cheaper to grow crops and avoid high heating bills. As with most kinds of entrepreneurial politics, global warming has resulted in conflict among elites who often base their arguments on ideology as much as on facts. Environmental activists raise money with scary statements about the harm global warming will cause; conservatives raise money with scary statements about the economic pain an American cut in greenhouse gases will cause” (Wilson and Dilulio, pg. 559).

Wilson and Dilulio’s sources for the “skeptic” comments were author Gregg Easterbrook who, until 2006, said that he believed that global warming wasn’t caused by human activity; Frederick Seitz (1911-2008) who was a leader against the idea of Global Warming, contradicting his own institution, the National Academy of Sciences, and who worked for the R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company (Hevesi, 2008); and Patrick J. Michaels, a libertarian scientist who argues that global warming may be beneficial. The NIPCC, which the text cites, is a climate change denial advocacy organization arguing against an intragovernmental UN agency that tracks climate change. It’s absurd to cite the NIPCC as a legitimate source - it’s been called “infamous” by the National Center for Science Education, which sent a mailing out to teachers urging them not to confuse NIPCC with IPCC (2013). The NIPCC gets their funding from the Heartland Institute, a fringe conservative think-tank aligned with the Koch brothers and ExxonMobil.

In conclusion, the students in this class shouldn’t have to parse out what’s accurate and what’s not through the biased and inaccurate sections. This book promotes conservative talking points along with purely discriminatory ideas. These should not be stated as fact to students, as this textbook does. There were a lot of quotes that I could not even include in here that also included discriminatory, racist, and incorrect language and information.

It’s fine to read conservative viewpoints as long as they are being presented as such and taught alongside opposing viewpoints. If they are being presented as fact, as is currently the case in this class, that is when major problems arise. It is implied that all the quotes above are correct and not to be questioned, simply by the fact that they come from a textbook that we are told is an unbiased source of truth.

I hope you remove this textbook from the rest of our curriculum as soon as possible, and advocate that it not be used again.

Please sign the petition to get this racist, discriminatory textbook out of Columbia High school.