NYU’s James Fraser find himself in a rightwing vortex after Fox News attacks his textbookHistorians in the News
tags: education, Fox News, textbooks, James Fraser, By the People
Hey, did you hear about the new anti-Trump history textbook by the radical New York University professor?
If you watch Fox News or visit conservative websites, the answer is probably “yes.” And the story provides a textbook case of everything that’s wrong with our frayed democracy right now.
Earlier this month, Fox ran an interview with a Minnesota high school student who had posted several pages from “By the People,” an Advanced Placement history textbook that has been used in more than 40 high schools in California, including at least seven in San Francisco. It was recently revised to include sections on the Barack Obama presidency and on Donald Trump’s rise to the White House. Seventeen-year-old Tarra Snyder objected to the book’s characterization of Trump voters as “overwhelmingly white” and to its claim that opponents questioned his “mental stability.”
Then the right-wing spin machine took over. The Internet exploded with headlines like, “High school history text: Trump deranged, all whites racist.” Other accounts took issue with the book’s discussion of the Black Lives Matter movement and the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., especially a passage that supposedly depicted police in Ferguson as “an occupying army.”
Oh, and I almost forgot: people trolled the book’s author, NYU historian James Fraser. A few sites published his email address and phone number, so that viewers could voice their hostility more directly.
So we now live in a country where you can post two or three pages of a 933-page book, paint the writer as an evil propagandist, and get thousands or perhaps even millions of people to believe you.
For the record, the book did not claim that Trump supporters were racist or that Trump was unstable; it said that some of his opponents believed that. That’s true, of course. Outlets like Fox wouldn’t spend so much energy defending Trump if there weren’t lots of Americans denouncing him.
Likewise, the text never said that police in Ferguson were an occupying army. It said that the police were perceived as such by some citizens in the majority-black town. Again, that’s not an opinion; it’s a fact.
The book also cites a vehement repudiation of Black Lives Matter by former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, a strong Trump supporter who recently joined the president’s legal team. “When you say black lives matter, that’s inherently racist,” Giuliani said, in the passage quoted by the textbook. “White lives matter. Asian lives matter. Hispanic lives matter. That’s anti-American, and it’s racist.”
And here’s something else you won’t learn from the Web attacks on “By the People:” it describes negative perceptions of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, not just of Donald Trump. Clinton’s opponents saw her and the Democratic Party as “elite snobs out of touch with many Americans’ economic pain,” the book states. It also notes that the Obama White House deported so many undocumented immigrants — more than any other administration, the book adds — that Obama’s critics took to calling him the “deporter in chief.”
Does that render the book anti-Obama? Of course not, any more than statements about Trump’s critics make it anti-Trump. It’s just a way to familiarize students with the controversy surrounding these figures, so they can come to their own conclusions about it. ...
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