KPBSD keeps biased book

  • By Kelly Sullivan
  • Tuesday, April 7, 2015 11:40pm
  • News

A textbook that has been criticized as having a biased view of history has been approved for continued use after Kenai Peninsula Board of Education members voted to retain it.

Some board members said they had issues with the book, but ultimately found that it would be cost-prohibitive to find replacement material. In addition, a review committee found that the book contained several biased statements that counteracted each other — effectively rendering it balanced in its slanted representation of historical events.

The eighth grade social studies textbook was questioned by Kenai Peninsula resident Mary Toutonghi, who said it was a “highly prejudiced book.”

Varied copies of “America: History of Our Nation, Beginnings through 1877,” are currently in use in local classrooms, according to the request for reconsideration of instructional materials Toutonghi submitted to the school district.

“I am going to support this (keeping the material) with great reservations,” said board member Sunni Hilts.

The Instructional Materials Review Committee, which reviewed the literature, found it to be balanced in the coverage of gender, ethnicity and politics, Director of Elementary Education Christine Ermold said to the board during a Monday work session.

She said the book did contain errors and misrepresentations of events, but all books have biases and errors,

When reviewing instructional materials, the committee needs to determine how egregious those issues are, she said.

An analysis of the text found partisan statements, or those biased toward Democrat or Republican stances, to be fairly distributed, Ermold said.

Pro-Democratic statements made up 18 percent of references, pro-Republican statements made up 36 percent and the remaining 45 percent were neutral, according to findings Ermold presented to the board.

“The book is generally unbiased, with some bias in each direction,” Ermold said. “It doesn’t add up to 100 percent because decimals were dropped in each direction.”

School board member Penny Vadla said she found the book to be incredibly unfair. Democratic President Bill Clinton is represented as being only known for having an affair during his presidency, and the only reference made to President John Kennedy was his assassination, she said.

If the book were immediately removed from instruction, it would cost the school district roughly $80,000 to replace it, said board member Dan Castimore.

In addition, he said it would take time for the review committee to find replacement material. The disruption to the student’s learning process is not worth removing the book, he said.

Educators would have to be trusted to encourage students to analyze the presentation critically and reflectively to offset the discrepancies, Hilts said.

The board added an amendment to its approval saying the textbook should be removed once district employees find a good substitute and when its removal wouldn’t cause disruption.


Reach Kelly Sullivan at

More in News

Renewable IPP CEO Jenn Miller presents information about solar power during a meeting of the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly on Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2021 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Company looks to build solar farm on peninsula

It would be roughly 20 times the size of the largest solar farm currently in the state.

(Image courtesy CDC)
Officials: COVID is at a plateau in Alaska

The approved COVID vaccines, Zink said, are the best tool to get cases to drop off.

Clem Tillion of Halibut Cove poses for a photo on Jan. 9, 2020, in Homer, Alaska. The veteran Alaska legislator was passing through Homer while waiting to take the M/V Tustumena ferry to Kodiak. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)
Clem Tillion, PFD founder and former legislator, dies at 96

Tillion died Wedneday, Oct. 13, at Halibut Cove home.

“Soctober” will take place from noon to 5 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, at the Cook Inlet Counseling parking lot at 10200 Kenai Spur Highway in Kenai, and consists of rock painting, the winter gear giveaway and a free spaghetti lunch. (Image via Cook Inlet Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse)
Recovery group to host outreach event

The event will include rock painting, the winter gear giveaway and a free spaghetti lunch.

Finn Petersen, left, is announced the winner of a $49,000 Alaska 529 scholarship on Thursday, Oct. 14, 2021, as part of the “Give AK a Shot” COVID-19 vaccine program. (Photo via the Alaska Chamber of Commerce)
Anchorage residents win latest vaccine lottery

“Give AK a Shot” awards $49,000 in cash scholarships to one newly vaccinated adult and one child.

Jason Floyd testifies in opposition to COVID-19 mandates during a meeting of the Soldotna City Council on Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Protesters pack council meeting, declare ‘medical liberty’

Attendance at Wednesday’s meeting was reduced to standing-room only.

Baked goods are on display during a Soldotna Chamber of Commerce pie auction in this undated photo. (Photo courtesy Soldotna Chamber of Commerce)
‘Local gourmets’ to share baking skills at Soldotna Pie Auction

The Great British Baking Show-esque event showcases local culinary talent.

A spruce bark beetle is seen on the underside of a piece of bark taken from logs stacked near Central Peninsula Landfill on Thursday, July 1, 2021 near Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Chugach campgrounds to be closed for beetle kill mitigation

Only one campground will be closed at a time, and updates on closures will be shared to the Chugach National Forest’s website.

Most Read