I agree with much of Alastair’s comments above.
However, for me the issue is not that we can’t fit into coursebooks materials about Paris Hilton’s ‘fab’ lifestyle, but that we can’t include many things happening in the lives of students or in their own cultures.
As I mentioned in the example of China, what’s often missing is content about, or their personal experiences of, events in their own country, not what some ditzy blonde is doing with her purse pet!
Of course, the English textbook is not the place for absolutely ANY topic. For instance, it’s not where we would teach sex education for elementary students. Still, for older youth and adults, it’s entirely appropriate to include many of the ‘taboo’ subjects where this assists language learning and communication, which must remain the focus of our teaching efforts.
The world is not a neat, tidy, always sanitised place. Fortunately many teachers try teaching for the “real” world where real communication happens, rather than the “fantasy” world maintained by some textbooks to appease blinkered governments.
Posted June 30, 2010 at http://scottthornbury.wordpress.com/2010/06/27/t-is-for-taboo/#comment-1444