People Making Choices.

Whenever a new controversy comes up over the content of textbooks in Texas, we're reminded that because the state is so large, the demands it makes on textbook publishers can set an agenda for the whole country. The latest controversy concerns some conservatives' belief that textbooks have been indoctrinating students with pro-Islamic propaganda. Sure, it's insane, but hey -- Texas is really big, so those publishers are going to have to do whatever the state school board wants. Right?

But what if the textbook publishers just said, "You know what? We've had it with you nutballs." After all, these companies aren't run by robots; they're run by people, people who have free will. And people in the publishing industry presumably have, at least on some level, a belief that knowledge is a good thing, and ignorance is a bad thing. There's nothing to stop them from saying to Texas, "These are the books we're selling. If you want to buy them, that's great. If you don't, that's too bad, but we're not going to keep making revisions every time Glenn Beck tells you there's a new conspiracy afoot."

They could do that. I'm sure they won't, but they could. And they can't just put their failure to do so down to the fact that Texas is a big market. Institutions, whether in business or government or anywhere else, don't make decisions. People make decisions, and if they want to, they can make different ones. The institution may be oriented in certain directions, or have certain kinds of biases built into it, but in the end, it's human beings who decide to go along with those biases. Or not.

-- Paul Waldman

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