A New Jersey school board rejected a sociology book last month for being too opinionated and ideological.
Tensions were high during a Bernards Township School Board meeting on April 24 when a debate broke out over a textbook called "The Real World: An Introduction to Sociology" printed by W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. Board member Timothy Salmon noted that the book was approved by teachers and students prior to the recommendation.
However, School Board President Keith Molinari claimed that the book is not sociology.
"This is ideology," he said.
Board member Kevin Rascio shared concerns that the textbook did not accurately address voter ID laws and their impact on minorities, and did not accurately represent the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown in Missouri in 2014.
"I'm not a cop, but I can recognize a murder when I see one. I'm not a teacher, but I can recognize an opinion piece when I see one," Rascio said.
Rascio also expressed concerns over the book’s sources, including an editorial from the Washington Post.
"The Washington Post Editorial hardly qualifies as a beacon of scientific knowledge. These are not peer-reviewed studies. They are working papers. It is almost laughable that someone used them in the matter of which this textbook did," Rascio said.
"This book is just a straight-on opinion piece," he added. "It’s trash, for lack of a better term."
Salmon pushed back against Rascio's points.
He asked Rascio "You think Ridgewood also agrees that this book and also the publisher Norton - who is one of the biggest textbook publishers in the world - agrees with that, that they are publishing like what? Blatantly false information?"
"Yes, I do," said Rascio.
Rascio added, "What's the reason for pushing this textbook that is clearly fearless opinion?"
He went on to say, "We are not preventing kids from getting textbooks. You are not presenting us with books that are worthy of approval."
The Board was set to approve the purchase of 60 textbooks for a cost of $5,370 for the advanced placement Sociology elective course.
Board member Jennifer White pushed back against the other board members for criticizing the book.
"Some board members have taken issues with some of the topics that are being discussed. Rather than looking at these topics as opportunities for students to engage, debate, and critical thinking and research on different points of view with teachers helping to navigate them through thoughtful conversation," White said. "And to me, this demonstrates a lack of trust in our educators and a profound lack of understanding of educational pedagogy."
After the discussion, the Bernards Township school board voted 5-4 to not include the book in the curriculum.
The book is also already being used in school districts such as Bridgewater-Raritan, Ridgewood, and Livingston.