This item appeared in the "Editor's File"
in The Textbook Letter, May-June 1996.

Pakistan's Little Slaves

William J. Bennetta

In a review of Prentice Hall's book World Cultures: A Global Mosaic, I said that it was pervaded by overt racism, and I supported that charge by citing some cases in which the writers had used distortion and selective omission to promote racist fancies. One case involved a passage about "Evils of Child Labor," which told only about child labor instituted by Europeans. There was not a word to tell that child labor, with all its evils, is common today in countries such as India, Pakistan and Mexico. (See TTL for March-April 1994, page 4.)

Some of the evils that the Prentice Hall writers concealed are cogently described in Jonathan Silvers's report "Child Labor in Pakistan" in the February issue of The Atlantic Monthly. It is strong stuff -- an account of how millions of Pakistani children, many of them only six or seven years old, are used as slaves in brick factories, carpet mills, steel mills and other industrial operations. Silvers goes beyond the simple cataloguing of horrors, however, for he views child labor in a broad social context that includes Pakistan's ruinously high birth rate and an education system that can accommodate only one-third of Pakistan's school-aged children. His report will be valuable to teachers who give courses in geography or in cultural studies.

William J. Bennetta is a professional editor, a fellow of the California Academy of Sciences, the president of The Textbook League, and the editor of The Textbook Letter. He writes often about the propagation of quackery, false "science" and false "history" in schoolbooks.


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