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  • Originally published 09/17/2014

    Why we're still fighting over U.S. history

    There’s trouble afoot in Texas, where a recent watchdog review of proposed new social studies textbooks for Grades 6-12 has found a whole slew of problems.

  • Originally published 03/19/2013

    Jonathan Zimmerman: What’s Not Being Taught About the Iraq War

    Jonathan Zimmerman is a professor of education and history at New York University. He is the author of Small Wonder: The Little Red Schoolhouse in History and Memory and three other books. Upon the 10th anniversary of America’s war in Iraq, a critical question with serious ramifications has been little explored: What are our children being taught in schools about the conflict, as it passes from “current events” into history?To answer this question, one obvious place to start is school textbooks. I looked at several of them, and was happily surprised. The books present a fairly complex and balanced view of the war in Iraq, avoiding the falsehoods and sugarcoating that has so often marred American history instruction. But textbooks only tell part of the story.Just as important is what is actually emphasized in the classrooms, and the ability of teachers to engage in real inquiry. Unfortunately, a combination of school policies and judicial decisions have made it so that many kids learn little or nothing about what we have done in Iraq, or why we have done it.

  • Originally published 03/14/2013

    What Japanese history lessons leave out

    Mariko Oi is a reporter for the BBC.Japanese people often fail to understand why neighbouring countries harbour a grudge over events that happened in the 1930s and 40s. The reason, in many cases, is that they barely learned any 20th Century history. I myself only got a full picture when I left Japan and went to school in Australia.From Homo erectus to the present day - 300,000 years of history in just one year of lessons. That is how, at the age of 14, I first learned of Japan's relations with the outside world.For three hours a week - 105 hours over the year - we edged towards the 20th Century.It's hardly surprising that some classes, in some schools, never get there, and are told by teachers to finish the book in their spare time.When I returned recently to my old school, Sacred Heart in Tokyo, teachers told me they often have to start hurrying, near the end of the year, to make sure they have time for World War II....

  • Originally published 03/11/2013

    Textbook: Hippies worshipped Satan

    "Voucher schools in Louisiana and Indiana are using a “U.S. History” textbook in their eighth grade classes that teaches that the “hippies” of the 1960s were draft dodgers who were rude, didn’t bathe, and worshipped Satan." [Check out a photo of the section on Satanic hippies here.]The offending hippie textbook, entitled "America: The Land I Love" and published by A Beka Books, a company affiliated with Pensacola Christian College, is only one of a number of textbooks produced by evangelical Christian publishers and used (at taxpayer expense) in voucher school programs in Louisiana (Gov. Bobby Jindal signed legislation last year which implemented one of the most ambitious voucher programs in the country).These headlines summarize the content of the most popular textbooks (most of the examples below come from books published by Bob Jones University Press):

  • Originally published 02/05/2013

    Israelis unhappy with study of their textbooks and Palestinians’

    JERUSALEM — A State Department-funded study released Monday on the contentious issue of how Israelis and Palestinians depict each other in textbooks says both are locked into narratives that portray the other side as the enemy and erase it from maps, yet do not dehumanize each other.The independent study, billed as the first empirical and quantitative analysis of textbooks on both sides, was boycotted by Israel’s Education Ministry, which refused to cooperate. The ministry called the study biased and said it was based on a false comparison between the Israeli and Palestinian school systems....Funded with a grant from the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, the study was directed by Bruce E. Wexler, a professor of psychiatry at Yale University who worked with two Israeli and Palestinian experts on textbook analysis, subjecting books from both sides to identical evaluation questions, with results fed to a database....

  • Originally published 08/29/2010

    Textbooks and History Standards: An Historical Overview

    Clashes over what students should learn about American history are not unprecedented.  The debate over social studies standards in the Lone Star State is merely the latest act in this ongoing drama.History defines a nation and its vision for the future, and history is unceasingly controversial.  The taboos of polite conversation—politics and religion—have been at the core of American history textbook controversies for over a century (See Schoolbook Nation: Conflicts over American History Textbooks from the Civil War to the Present by Joseph Moreau [2003]).  As historian Joseph Moreau wrote in 2003:  “For those who would influence textbooks and teaching—Protestant elites in the 1870s, Irish-Americans in the 1920s, and conservative politicians today—the sky has always been falling.”Textbooks have provoked censorship, charges of bias, distortion, omission, and libel, and even burning and community violence.Early American textbook history

  • Originally published 10/18/2005

    Japanese Textbooks, Koizumi, Sex Slaves, & the Nightmare of Nanking

    We had fun killing Chinese. We caught some innocent Chinese and either buried them alive, or pushed them into a fire, or beat them to death with clubs. When they were half dead we pushed them into ditches and burned them, torturing them to death. Everyone gets his entertainment this way. Its like killing dogs and cats. --Asahi Shimbun, Japanese soldier, describing Japanese atrocities during the Rape of Nanking.

  • Originally published 05/23/2005

    The American Textbook Wars: The Revised Edition

    Disputes over history textbooks in the United States have not sent protesters into the streets (not recently, anyway), as they have this spring in China. But as readers snap up copies of The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History by Thomas Woods, Jr., the old story of a fight between “traditionalists” and “revisionists” has returned. With it comes an irony. The bitter opponents in this history war actually have a common misunderstanding of the past—a vision of history teaching fundamentally transformed, for better or worse, by the 1960s.Here’s the common view, repeated endlessly in the mass media, and even in many academic circles, for the last quarter century. Before 1960 American historiography was dominated by synthesizers, scholars like Charles Beard or, going further back in time, George Bancroft. They examined the grand sweep of America’s past and explained it with a single, coherent story. Their narratives, after some pruning and simplification, then found their way into a relatively homogeneous collection of textbooks for middle and high schools.

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