The “Authors” » Who’s writing the secular textbooks?

How Is an Author like an Appendix?
Both Are Added at the End

So do you know who wrote the textbook you are using?
“Of course,” you say, “the author’s name is on the titlepage.”

Most people do not realize that in modern textbook publishing, the name on the title page often has little to do with who wrote the books.

In their book The Trouble with Textbooks, Gary Tobin and Dennis Ybarra explain, “the well-credentialed scholars whose names appear as authors of the textbooks have little if anything to do with the actual writing or content of the book. Those prestigious names may have at one point been associated with the publisher, they may have provided an initial outline, may provide a cursory read of the material, perhaps even an edit, or they may simply have leased the cachet of their renown to lend legitimacy to the textbooks.”1

“The books are done and we still don’t have an author!”

The reality is that, in many cases, modern mainstream secular textbooks have no author at all.

Tamin Ansary, former editor for a leading publisher of elementary and high school textbooks, confesses his disillusionment with the whole process of creating textbooks. When he first began his career as an editor, his idealism about the creation of books was destroyed when he overheard his boss complaining, “The books are done and we still don’t have an author! I must sign someone today!”2

In other words, textbooks often are not written at all; they are compiled by teams of people with various purposes and goals. In fact, many textbook errors result from the limitations of these people.

Tobin and Ybarra explain, “In many cases, those at the keyboards have little expertise in their assigned areas. They may work inside the publishing company; they may be contract writers; or they may be staff at any number of textbook developing agencies that hire young writers to produce less expensive volumes.”3

Find out more about

How are secular textbooks compiled?
What happens when a textbook has no author?

1The Trouble with Textbooks (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2008), p.4.

2 Tamim Ansary, “A Textbook Example of What’s Wrong with Education.Edutopia (November 2004).

3The Trouble with Textbooks, p. 9.