Here’s a proposal for pacifying the great textbook shootout. All this week, we’ve been discussing how a powerful Texas education agency has, in the words of historian Eric Foner, “twisted” history. “Judging from the updated social studies curriculum,” Foner writes in The Nation, “conservatives want students to come away from a Texas education with a favorable impression of: women who adhere to traditional gender roles, the Confederacy, some parts of the Constitution, capitalism, the military and religion.”
Topics the Texas State Board of Education wants their kids to not learn include, Foner says, “women who demanded greater equality; other parts of the Constitution; slavery, Reconstruction and the unequal treatment of nonwhites generally; environmentalists; labor unions; federal economic regulation; or foreigners.”
Foner is a history professor at Columbia University and author of the popular textbook, “Give Me Liberty!” which does not espouse a conservative ideology but is used in the Lone Star state. Stephen Colbert called Foner to “answer for his liberal crimes” of doing such a thing. (You can watch the Colbert clip below.)
Of course, one person’s twisted history is another person’s true history. But it’s impossible to remove ideology from history or social studies, as I discussed yesterday. We always have a point of view. So here is mine.
A Recommendation to the Texas Education Agency
Let’s have kids learn their history with the revised standards, those rewritten by the conservatives in power. Then, make them read Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States.” This is the history that doesn’t make it into mainstream history texts. It’s written from the point of view of the vanquished, the poor, the powerless, the politically and economically exploited, the victims in American history. Then the kids can decide for themselves.
A brief note about Howard Zinn: He died in January this year, at age 87. He fought in World War II and participated in the very first use of napalm, as well as aerial bombings that (he later learned) killed more allies than enemies. Those experiences contributed to his anti-war stance. (Read more about Zinn here.)
What do you think of my recommendation?
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(Originally posted in www.OurValues.org)