Pearson’s Guidelines to Eliminate Systemic Racism in Educational Publishing

Pearson, which bills itself as the world’s learning company, is a major publisher of textbooks and other learning tools that are used by colleges and universities throughout the United States. The company, founded in 1884 in Yorkshire, England, now has 35,000 employees in 70 countries worldwide. About 60 percent of the company’s revenues come from North America.

Recently, the company released editorial guidelines with the aim of fighting systemic racism in education. The guidelines aim to help content developers – including authors, reviewers, and editors – “create meaningful representations of minorities and challenge racial stereotypes and associated prejudices in all Pearson courseware, digital materials, services, qualifications, and assessments,” according to the company’s statement.

The guidelines identify five main challenges that are commonly highlighted in academic sources including: underrepresentation of minorities, exaggerated negative associations, limited positive associations, missing stories, and the idea that disadvantages are personal, rather than systemic. The guidelines provide examples of each challenge and recommended solutions to guide Pearson content producers.

Here are some examples of the recommendations made in the editorial guidelines for building content:

  • People of different ethnicities should be included in all material and should be portrayed as equal and active participants.
  • Choose texts and imagery that promote racial equality.
  • In video and audio material, only use actors/voiceover artists of the same/similar ethnicity as the character portrayed and do not exaggerate characteristics to emphasize their ethnicity.
  • Deliberately present people of minorities in roles that disrupt intersectional stereotypes.
  • Remove any suggestion that a characteristic or behavior is unique to one ethnicity and never carried out or displayed by another.
  • Proactively include more examples of individuals of minority ethnicities as positive role models across all written content, illustrations, photos, and accompanying media to challenge role and behavior stereotype.
  • The contributions of people of minority ethnicities should be included and recognized as par for the course in any subject.
  • Develop content so that contributions to history include people of a range of ethnicities and nationalities.
  • Deliberately challenge any language, imagery or other content that frames individuals from minority ethnic or religious groups as passive, helpless, incapable or operating at an intellectual deficit.
  • Be wary of using terms like ‘disadvantaged’, ‘oppressed’, ‘vulnerable’ in relation to individuals or groups from minority ethnicities or religions.
  • Be alert to the removal of racial stereotyping where characters are animals, aliens, talking objects, etc.

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  1. This course of action by Pearson would be more monumental and groundbreaking than the formulation of the US Constitution or even sending a “man to planet Pluto. In other words, this would require the so-called White decision makers at Pearson to immediately and permanently remove themselves from Pearson. Anything less would be nothing more than another contextual and theoretical exercise under the guise of political correctness. Do you really think a company with revenues of $3.8 billion is going seriously change their philosophy and racist worldview in order to accommodate political correctness? Don’t hold your breath.

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