The textbooks children learn from in school reveal and shape national attitudes—and should provoke debate.
Few, if any, instruments shape national culture more powerfully than the materials used in schools. Textbooks are not only among the first books most people encounter; in many places they are, along with religious texts, almost the only books they encounter. A study in South Africa showed that fewer than half of pupils had access to more than ten books at home. In 2010 a study by Egypt’s government found that, apart from school textbooks, 88% of Egyptian households read no books.