Beyond Textbooks: Massachusetts Schools Find New Ways To Teach Racial History

Historians in the News
tags: education, textbook, Racial History



Textbooks are often thought of as a critical tool for teachers in the classroom. But when it comes to teaching the history of race in the United States, WBUR has found that more and more teachers in Massachusetts are moving away from traditional textbooks.

At Lowell High School, social studies teacher Robert De Lossa opened up a 20-year-old textbook, "A History of the United States,” by Ruth Frankel Boorstin, Daniel J. Boorstin and Brooks Mather Kelley. Published by Prentice Hall, which is now owned by Pearson, the book is about 1,000 pages long.

As De Lossa flipped through the pages, he arrived at the passage he was looking for — on one of just 10 pages in this 1,000-page book that cover the contributions of minorities to U.S. history. It’s a chapter on the 1960s civil rights movement. And it's called "The Problem of Civil Rights: The Black Revolt."

“One of the things that troubles me as an educator,” said De Lossa, “is that it’s almost antagonistic in its language. So a student who would be using a textbook like this, the last images they would have on the black rights movement is that it's revolt, it's rebellion and it’s problematic.”

De Lossa now uses an updated version of a textbook by the same publisher, but he noted that the older version is still in use.

“The problem that we have, and the problem that a lot of schools have, is I’ve got over a thousand copies of this,” said De Lossa. “To adopt fully a new text that has the characteristics that we want would be over $100,000.” ...




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