Following protests from activists, textbook publisher McGraw-Hill announced earlier this month that it was withdrawing and planned to destroy a political science textbook, Global Politics: Engaging a Complex World.
The college textbook was criticized for its use of a set of a set of four maps of what is now Israel, the Gaza Strip, and the West Bank which were described in the caption as depicting the “Palestinian loss of land” from 1946 to 2000.
You can see the maps below, and I will explain a few of the disputed details in a comment on this post.
Catherine Mathis, a spokesperson for McGraw-Hill, told Inside Higher Ed via email, “As soon as we learned about the concerns with it, we placed sales of the book on hold and immediately initiated an academic review. The review determined that the map did not meet our academic standards. We have informed the authors and we are no longer selling the book. All existing inventory will be destroyed. We apologize and will refund payment to anyone who returns the book.”
So why does this matter?
Maps are funny in that changing or removing the most subtle details can often bias the viewer. Placing a particular country in the center of the map creates the impression that it is the most important, and automatically orienting the map so north is up can have a similar effect. Similarly, leaving parts of a map unlabeled creates the false impression that no territory or political unit exists in that part of the map (keep this in mind the next time you view a map of the ancient world).
The publisher did not explain how the map was chosen, merely noting that it had been submitted by the authors. The authors of this work were Natalie Hudson, associate professor of political science at the University of Dayton; Mark Boyer, professor of geography at the University of Connecticut; and Michael Butler, associate professor of political science at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts. They didn’t respond to requests for comment.
This story brings to mind a similar incident from last year where McGraw-Hill withdrew a Texas high school history textbook for its description of the slave trade as having “brought millions of workers from Africa to the Southern United States to work on agricultural plantations”.
images by byJoeLodge