Most helpful critical review
41 of 57 people found the following review helpful
Ideological leanings way too obvious; not a good characteristic for an educational text
on May 12, 2006
I was assigned this textbook for my high school Sociology class that I took as an elective in the last semester of my Senior year. I had gone into the class expecting an intriguing, thought-provoking subject that led students to ask the big questions about why people and society are the way they are, and that the textbook would help guide me along the way. Unfortunately, I was pretty dissapointed, to say the least.
Let me add a disclaimer saying that I am a firm Independent; I'm a college-bound kid who dislikes political and ideological squabbles and believes both the Right and the Left have equal merit in their own ways. That being said, the reason for my rating is that, as my title suggests, the author's opinions and biases shine through quite blatantly, much of it appealing sharply to the Left wing of the ideological spectrum. While most textbooks simply give you facts, with maybe some interpretations to help you form your own conclusion, Henslin has the negative tendency to editorialize, using word choice and selected statistics (not to mention his own "personal observations") to paint certain aspects of society in a good or bad light as he sees fit. This is a very inappropriate, and I might go so far as to call it dangerous, thing to do when writing educational material to be taught to youngsters.
As an example, take a look at his chapter on economic theories, in which capitalism and socialism are both given analysis. The problem is, when socialism is mentioned, Henslin spends a significant majority of the time in which it's mentioned explaining the goals and the lofty ideals of it, and little time mentioning its inherent drawbacks (which all ideologies have).
The whole rest of the chapter, however, is dedicated to capitalism; more specifically, how capitalism basically is so totally exploitive, greedy, and concentrates power in the hands of the tiny few, with the phrases "exploitation," "greed", "believe greed is good," and "elite" dropped here and there. Add further excerpts implying that American democracy is little more than a puppet show controled by rich business interests who sway the government, and it's not hard to see how someone impressionable would learn to unflinchingly hate the whole theory in general. This is NOT what a textbook is supposed to do.
Henslin then spends much of the time talking about class, race, gender, etc...as was to be expected. The problem here is that, again, he editorializes, rallying around whatever the oppressed group of the time may be and almost relentlessly guiltmongering against whites, men, and people in classes that can live comfortably.
The chapter about gender is a particular treasure trove for this sort of thing; near the beginning, Henslin writes a particular gem referring to gender in the workplace, which goes something along the lines of "Imagine that two women are talking when they are supposed to be working. When the male boss walks by, he would most likely tell them to get back to work. But what if it were two men talking? For instance, if they were talking about sports, would he be more likely to join in on their conversation instead of telling them to get back to work? This is just one of the inequalities that women face in the workplace." (not a verbatim quote, but that's the basic gist of it).
And it just gets better from there, some of it based off of true injustices that happened in the past and do still happen today, but a lot of it off of generalizations and editorials that I, as a young male, found quite offensive. When my class finished with that chapter, I felt as if Henslin was doing everything short of saying that I was going to roast in Hades for having an XY chromosome. Extremely one-sided, with the guilt and blame poured on heavily.
I could go on about how the book gives readers guilt trips about how people in our own supposedly-prosperous nation and around the world are living in poverty while we comfortable-living ingrates sit on our butts taking part in an exploitive culture driven by self-interest, but I've already gone on long enough.
Suffice to say this much; this book's biases are dead obvious to anyone who is truly objective-minded enough to notice it. It's kind of a shame, because I truly believe that Henslin had good intentions when he wrote this, and I do believe that, like many liberal-minded people, he has a genuine concern about the injustices of the world and a desire to see it change for the better. But that doesn't excuse the fact that opinionated language, finger-pointing, guiltmongering, and editorializing play a major role in getting this textbook's points across.
A schoolbook is supposed to present cold hard facts to students with an absolute minimum of bias, so as to respect them enough to form their own beliefs and interpretations; not indoctrine them with the exlusive ideas of a narrow ideological philosophy. I'm almost disheartened that this book has gotten so many rave reviews singing its praises about it's objectivity and enlightening messages. Then again, as much as I hate to perpetuate stereotypes, this is mostly read by college students, and, on the political spectrum college kids are often...well, you get the idea.
I wouldn't really recommend this textbook to any educator who wishes to maintain a proper balance of opinion in the classroom. If you do end up reading it, though, be prepared to take your grain of salt to class with you.