TEXTBOOKS, STORY MAPS, AND FOSSIL USE CARDS: A NEED FOR MORE INCLUSIVE NARRATIVES IN LEARNING ABOUT PALEONTOLOGY AND THE HISTORY OF LIFE
This study conducted an analysis of 439 individuals mentioned in five paleontology and Earth history textbooks published in the last 20 years. Names were retrieved from the index of each commonly used textbook and the demographics of these individuals examined. Of all names recorded, 363 were listed only once, 46 mentioned twice, 22 mentioned three times, 6 mentioned four times, and only 2 scientists were featured in all five textbooks. Of the 76 individuals who were noted in at least two textbooks, nearly all were white men of American or European heritage. Of the 363 remaining individuals mentioned only once across these textbooks, similar patterns emerged (337 men and 26 women; predominantly white) and with limited representation of global cultures.
The continued focus on only a subset of individuals in the discipline is problematic. More should be done to acknowledge diverse representation in paleontology from the perspective of intersectional identities and how knowledge of the fossil record has derived from many different cultures. To that end, several projects are underway to raise the visibility of more inclusive narratives that feature multiple intersections between paleontology and culture. The creation of “Fossil Use Cards” available in both English and Spanish provide activities to explore how humans have engaged with fossils from different cultural perspectives worldwide. The development of an ArcGIS story map highlighting historical contributions by diverse paleontologists as well as other ways in which cultural connections are linked to the fossil record offers additional resources to promote more meaningful learning of paleontology. The narrow view of our field needs to be expanded; it’s not enough to simply focus on teaching the science.