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ERIC Number: EJ845916
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2009-Jul
Pages: 6
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: N/A
ISSN: ISSN-0360-9170
Louis's Lightbulb Lesson (and Other Advice for Textbook Writers)
Sheinkin, Steve
Language Arts, v86 n6 p458-463 Jul 2009
In this article, the author reflects on his work as a textbook writer. Given that knowledge is memorable when it is related to engaging stories, the author wonders if it is possible to turn the history of our great nation into such tales to motivate children's learning. Attempts to make his textbook writing more vivid, however, are met with a whole world of unwritten rules. These rules dictate which stories must be told and which stories can never be told. It's also a compilation of more subtle guidelines about how stories should be told, which characters, quotes, and details to emphasize, which to finesse, which to avoid. The result of these prohibitions is that textbooks are created in an atmosphere of intense fear. The single greatest fear is that something in a textbook will be seen as unbalanced, upsetting, or offensive by someone somewhere in the United States. An expert knowledge of all the objections that have been made in the past gives editors the invaluable ability to look at a manuscript and be preemptively offended on behalf of others. They can cut potentially troublesome stories or details before any text leaves the office, so textbook authors always end up choosing from the same old list of stories. The author asks, "Are these the pieces most likely to engage and inspire young readers?" Not necessarily, he concludes. Instead, they're the stories that have been used hundreds of times without causing trouble.
National Council of Teachers of English. 1111 West Kenyon Road, Urbana, IL 61801-1096. Tel: 877-369-6283; Tel: 217-328-3870; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Elementary Education; Elementary Secondary Education; High Schools; Secondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: United States