Undersecretary of Education Gary L. Bauer last night criticized American high school textbooks as often being "hyper-critical of American institutions" while "glossing over" the misdeeds of Communist governments.
"Many textbooks reflect the views of prominent historians and social scientists who refuse to see a difference between the United States and the Soviet Union," Bauer said in a speech here to a meeting of the schools division of the Association of American Publishers.
The speech was laced with examples of what Bauer said was a misplaced "neutrality" in the texts between democracy and communism. Bauer said he was "not suggesting that textbooks be in accord with the policy positions of this administration or any other," and said the books "should not contain indoctrination," but added, " . . . they also should not read as if they were written by neutrals in the struggle between freedom and slavery."
Bauer's speech is part of an effort by Education Secretary William J. Bennett to promote American values and pride instead of what Bennett has often called "cultural relativism."
Yesterday, Marlowe Teig, chairman of the schools division's executive committee, said the "implication" of Bauer's remarks was that American publishers should "become the counterparts of the authors of Soviet teachers' manuals."
"The undersecretary suggests that authors and publishers of textbooks in a free society become advocates of a free society, but is that appropriate?" said Teig, who heads the textbook division of Houghton Mifflin Co. "Is it not more appropropriate that children be given the facts of life in a free society and the facts of life in a totalitarian state and let those differences speak for themselves?"
In his speech, Bauer said the texts often do not fully represent Soviet communism and thus "seriously mislead them students about the nature of the Soviet system."
For example, he said that one world history text, "Human Expression," published by Harper and Row, praises "equality for women" in the Soviet Union, saying they "receive equal pay for equal work . . . , are treated equally under Soviet law, and . . . may marry or vote when they are 18."
Bauer commented, "These statements would be laughable if the misinformation they spread were not so dangerous. Soviet women have the right to vote . . . as Soviet men . . . for hand-picked candidates of the Communist Party."
In an interview, Bauer said the Education Department has no plans to use federal funds to develop new texts as the Johnson administration did in the 1960s.
Teig said he was unable to discuss Bauer's specific criticisms of texts. But he noted that his company's 1985 U.S. history book, "America: The Glorious Republic" is "a very affirming book and is written with a real sense of the new patriotism that is valued by us all."