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A textbook stereotyped how racial groups respond to pain. The publisher is apologizing

A page from a textbook published by Pearson Education.Facebook

A London-based textbook publisher apologized and launched a review of its curriculum Thursday after an outcry about a nursing education book that reinforced stereotypes of religious and ethnic groups.

Pearson Education, which has an office in Boston, has removed the “offensive information” from e-text versions of the book and future print editions, according to a video posted by Tim Bozik, a Pearson executive in charge of global product development.

“In an attempt to have nursing students think through the many facets of caring for their patients, we reinforced a number of stereotypes of a number of ethnic and religious groups. It was wrong,” Bozik said. “We should have been more thoughtful about the information we put into our curriculum.”


On Facebook, a user posted a screenshot from a textbook page that addressed “common cultural differences” related to pain. The section included stereotypes about how different groups, including “Arabs/Muslims,” Asians, “Blacks,” Jews, Hispanics, and Native Americans, might respond to pain.

Among other stereotypes, the page included references to “Arabs/Muslims” considering pain a “test of faith” and Filipino patients as resistant to medication because they view pain as “the will of God.” The textbook also said Jews are “vocal and demanding” and Native Americans may pick a sacred number when asked to rate pain on a numerical scale.

The page did not include any references to Caucasians.

Backlash across social media called out the textbook as racist and culturally insensitive.

Onyx Moore took to her Facebook page to respond, calling the section “an excellent example of how not to be even remotely culturally sensitive.”

She went on to criticize the textbook for lumping together “various groups whose belief-systems vary widely,” including Native Americans, Asians, and “Blacks.” She also pointed out that Jews and Muslims can fall under any of the racial categories presented.


“These assumptions are not evidence-based,” she writes, “they encourage nurses to ignore what a patient is actually saying...they list common behaviors as culturally specific...and they don’t actually teach nurses how to engage in a CULTURALLY SENSITIVE way.”

Pearson is in the process of reviewing its other nursing textbooks in search of similar content, and “if we find it, we will remove it,” Bozik said in the video.

The company also took to Twitter to apologize and pledged to publicize its efforts to “correct our offerings.”

John Hilliard can be reached at Globe Correspondent Martha Schick contributed to this report.