Copy article link
TO THE EDITOR: The Bernards Board of Education voted to reject a second sociology textbook during the June 22 meeting.
The book rejected was Sociology: A Brief Introduction 14e by Richard T. Schaefer. This follows the rejection at a previous meeting of a previous sociology book, The Real World: An Introduction to Sociology 8e by Kerry Ferris and Jill Stein.
Struggling learners in this elective course may be denied an opportunity to have a textbook which could help improve their reading and critical thinking skills.
What could possibly be so bad about this newly rejected textbook that was the first choice of our professionally educated teachers?
Here is one of the comments by board member Lawrence Rascio: Im a pretty simple person. Once a liar always a liar. I really did not need to read a lot to understand that this author wasnt for real. A study in 1986 suggests that racial tensions contribute to medical problems in Blacks. Thus, we believe the stress of racial prejudice and discrimination explain the higher rates of heart disease in Blacks. I mean really? Thats a fact? Back it up with facts and science. I want an author who is going to give me facts.
This quote is from the online video of the board meeting, available on the website. It occurred at the 1 hour, 55 minute, 56 second mark.
Here is some context that you can use to assess Mr. Rascios comment. Clearly, it is not professional and not appropriate for an official board meeting. But is it correct or accurate in any sense?
I quote from the book:
On page three, sociology is defined: Sociology is, simply, the scientific study of social behavior and human groups. It focuses on social relationships: how those relationships influence peoples behavior, and how societies, the sum of those relationships, develop and change. A key element in this sociological imagination is the ability to view ones own society as an outsider would, rather than only from the perspective of personal experiences and cultural biases.
In Chapter 1, author Schaefer summarizes major theoretical perspectives: The Functionalist Perspective, the Conflict Perspective and the Interactionist Perspective.
On page 13, he further defines the conflict perspective: The conflict perspective assumes that social behavior is best understood in terms of tension between groups over power of the allocation of resources.
In each chapter, a topic is presented, framed using a sociologists perspective, and then given a balanced examination from each of the three theoretical points of view. Chapter topics include Culture, Socialization and the Life Course, Social Interaction, Groups and Social Structure, Mass Media and Social Media, Deviance, Crime and Social Control, Stratification and Social Mobility in the United States, Global Inequality, Racial and Ethnic Inequality, Stratification by Gender and Sexuality, The Family and Household Diversity, Education and Religion, Government and the Economy, Health, Population and the Environment and Social Change in the Global Community.
Mr. Rascio was objecting to a paragraph in the chapter Health, Population and the Environment, in the section Social Epidemiology and Health, in the subsection Race and Ethnicity.
Drawing on the conflict perspective, sociologist Howard Waitzkin (1986) suggests that racial tensions also contribute to the medical problems of Blacks.
In his view, the stress that results from racial prejudice and discrimination helps to explain the higher rates of heart disease found among African Americans compared to whites. Hypertension, which affect over 41 percent of Blacks but fewer than 29 percent of non-Hispanic whites, is believed to be a critical factor in high mortality rates from heart disease and stroke founds among African Americans. (Gillespie and Hurvitz 2013; Office of Minority Health 2019).
Examples of the other two theoretical perspectives on topics in Social Epidemiology and Health were given earlier in the chapter.
In my view, Mr. Rascios comments did not accurately convey the content and scholarship of the paragraph.
Furthermore, they were not given at the appropriate time in the meeting. They should have been given during his remarks in the board discussion preceding the vote on the textbook instead of during board forum.
They also should have been given in writing to Ms. Fox, the head of curriculum, ahead of the meeting so that the administration could provide a response that he could consider prior to the vote.
This is just one example of unjustifiable comments by the majority members. None of the board members who voted against the book appeared to comprehend the approach used in the book to present a balanced view.
Board member Keith Molinari said the book was a disqualifier – and he was a sociology major in college.
Board member Csilla Csipak felt the book did not provide a balanced perspective but her metric for imbalance was her highly personal ideology as she explained in detail. See the meeting video.
However, a major focus of the book was to provide a balanced sociological view, including in all of the chapters objectionable to Ms. Csipak.
Justifying a vote against a textbook recommended by education professionals at Ridge using comments rooted in a board members personal and political point of view does not align with the behaviors required by the N.J. School Board Code of Ethics.