Sunday, January 13, 2013

Textbook Oddities

I have mixed feelings about sociology.  On the one hand, people can be grouped according to a variety of criteria and their actions are often motivated by forces that can be quantified.  On the other hand, describing human beings like they are a bunch of ants seems creepy and arrogant.  Even when they don't sound like supervillians, sociologists can appear very silly.

My textbook Religion and Politics in America is relatively good for a sociology/poli-sci book, but it nevertheless contains the requisite silliness.  Some examples:
  • Once chapter is titled, "Judaism, Islam, and other Expressions of Religious Pluralism."  I'm pretty sure that Jews don't go the synagogue because they are trying to express pluralism but because they're, you know, Jewish.
  • "Certain aspects of Catholicism resonate particularly well with Hispanics, including a strong attachment to Mary as Mother of God, reflecting the Latino emphasis on family."  I suspect that most devout Latinos would say that their devotion to Mary has a lot more to do with an apparition to a certain Juan Diego, but what do they know?  
  •  The book tells us that black spirituals "emphasize Christianity."  Who would have thought that Christian songs sung by Christians would be about Christianity?
  • The authors say that the USCCB "represents the official political positions of the Church. .  . . its leaders speak with authority for the Catholic Church."  No, no, no, no, dang it, no!  The USCCB has managed to convince just about everyone that they have some sort of magisterial authority.  They don't.
  • A proposed amendment to the constitution that would legalize prayer in public schools is described as "contrary to the weight of constitutional scholarship."  This book was written by four people with PhDs, none of whom seem to know what an amendment is.

It should be noted that though these excerpts do not reflect well on the book, most of the text is decent and I've definitely read worse.  Perhaps I'll analyze more textbooks in a future post.


  1. Well done! The content of textbooks is extremely important. Would love to hear more insight on other textbooks :-)

  2. Having worked at an institution of higher(?) learning for 22 years as well as being a college grajiat (sic), I am not surprized by what you uncovered. Oh the sarcastic responses to those statements I could come up with.
    As for the authors, may I point out that PhD stands for piled high & deep* & that seems to be what these authors have done throughout the textbook.

    * for those unfamiliar with the joke, here it is in its entirety: You know what BS stands for,MS means more of the same & PhD means it is piled high & deep.