Three Case Studies in Contestability and Controversy in the Use of Textbooks

There are at least three categories of textbook culture in developed nations. First, there is the pluralist textbook system, for example, in Australia and the UK, where a significant number of rival publishers, some large and some small, compete within an education system to gain a profitable share of an entire market or a market sector. Second, there is the adopted textbook system where a limited number of mega-publishers compete with each other for adoption by a major education system, as in half the states in the USA, for example, including the large and politically important states of California and Texas (Whitman, 2004). Third, there is the endorsed system where state-approved textbooks published by a limited number of large publishers are given an imprimatur (or denied one) by a government agency. Prominent examples of this endorsed model are the Russian Federation and Japan—although it needs to be said in the latter case that the notoriously nationalist Japanese New History Textbook has had a very low take-up rate in that nation’s middle schools (Taylor, 2008). What follows is a series of three case studies in textbook use and the political/historio- graphical context in which these case studies exist. There is no attempt in this account to draw point-by-point comparisons. They are meant to be illustrative examples about which generalisations might be made. Nevertheless, as with the need for more research into how teachers actually use textbooks, there is a similar need for more comparative studies on textbook use in different political environments. These case studies are intended to provide a starting point.

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