A new political science textbook, American Democracy Now, actually makes a stab at balance and, to a surprising degree, can claim some success.
The attempt to level the academic playing field is particularly noteworthy since the publisher is McGraw-Hill, which has been scored for inaccuracies in its textbooks by reviewers in Texas and California—the two largest markets for texts. Moreover, the publisher promoted it as the first textbook written by an all-woman team, a politically correct distinction that suggests a similar treatment of civics.
Even the title is reminiscent of the left-leaning Amy Goodman series on PBS. Nevertheless, given the frequency with which bias occurs due to omission rather than commission, what the authors include is rather novel among political science texts.
For example, ADN features two whole paragraphs on media bias, a couple more than most texts give it. Still, conservatives might have a hard time recognizing themselves in the sentence, “Advocates of conservatism recognize the importance of preserving tradition—of maintaining the status quo, or keeping things the way they are.”
Arguably, that depends on the tradition to be preserved, whether it be that of the U. S. Constitution, which conservatives revere, or the Environmental Protection Agency, which they do not. Still, the authors go on to assert, “In fact, one of the best ways of determining your own ideology is to ask yourselves the question, To what extent should the government be involved in people’s lives.” Ironically, this book came out before the TEA parties started.
“Conservatives believe that families, faith-based groups, and private charities should be more responsible for protecting the neediest and the government less so,” the authors write. “When governments must act, conservatives prefer decentralized action by state governments rather than a nationwide federal policy.”
“Conservatives also believe in the importance of individual initiative as a key determinant of success.” What is perhaps most stunning in this text is the largely sympathetic page the authors devote to property rights, another subject few political scientists want to address.
Specifically, they offer a summary of the Kelo Supreme Court case in which a New London, Connecticut homeowner challenged the municipality’s confiscation of her home. The city fathers wanted to clear it for developers attempting to build luxury homes and shops.
“Despite her loss in court, Susette Kelo chalked up an important gain for American democracy,” the authors state. “Indeed, her actions have opened up a passionate civic conversation concerning property rights—a dialogue directed at all levels of government—that is ongoing.”
“Local governments, pleased with the Kelo decision’s support of economic development, find themselves at odds with state legislators, who are formulating and debating bills and state constitutional amendments to limit the definition of public use in state and local eminent domain cases.” ADN was written by:
- Brigid Callahan Harrison, a professor of political science and law at Montclair State University in New Jersey;
- Jean Wahl Harris of the University of Scranton; and
- Susan J. Tolchin of George Mason University.
Malcolm A. Kline is the executive director of Accuracy in Academia.