Phi Beta Cons

Feds to Meddle with College Textbooks

On March 28, in response to an Los Angeles Times editorial, Donald J. Boudreaux, a professor of economics at George Mason University, posted the following important missive at Cafe Hayek:

You eloquently explain that K-12 textbooks are infected with intellectual stupor because statewide adoption of textbooks, especially by California and Texas, compels publishers to satisfy the lowest common denominator of the many vocal interests who are eager to exhibit faux outrage at any perceived slight to their pet cause or conviction (“Textbook cases,” March 28).
So I invite you to study the Federal Textbook Act, signed by Pres. Obama last AugustPres. Bush in 2008. This legislation looks to be a first step toward federal oversight of the contents of college textbooks.  Most ominous is the requirement that publishers provide to every faculty member considering a textbook “A description of the substantial content revisions made between the current edition of the college textbook or supplemental material and the [three] previous editions, if any.” And the Comptroller General “shall report to the authorizing [Congressional] committees on the implementation of this section by institutions of higher education, college bookstores, and publishers.”
If statewide political influence over K-12 textbooks results in tomes whose contents are intellectually dreary, just imagine what nationwide political influence over college textbooks will do.

We can do without leaden mind control of college students by government. I invite scrutiny of this little noticed legislation.

Candace de Russy is a nationally recognized expert on education and cultural issues.

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