More Textbook Controversies

Here we go again: yet more allegations the textbooks for schoolchildren contain inaccurate statements. You can read about this here and here: the case often mentioned was discussed briefly on this blog, and more extensively elsewhere.

It’s disappointing to hear the following declaration:

Will we hear objections from the progressive historians who are so quick to jump on other issues? I doubt it. This bad history fits their agenda – indoctrination.

Now, it may be that I’m not a “progressive historian,” whatever that term means in this context (for me, when I hear the term, I think back to an interesting book by Richard Hofstadter on Frederick Jackson Turner, Charles A. Beard, and Vernon Louis Parrington). Also, if there’s an agenda floating around, I haven’t received the memo, so maybe that should tell me I’m not in that club, any way.

I found the description of the Second Amendment clunky, to say the least. It’s just wrong. As for the single-sentence summary of how the Civil War came about, well, that’s misleading, too, although I would say that it would be hard to reduce an explanation about how the war came to a single sentence that would be appropriate for the reading level indicated.

I won’t speculate about the blogger’s motives in highlighting these errors or in making the associations he made. That’s irrelevant (even when declarations such as this remind us that it’s no mystery). Bad history is bad history. I look forward to the day when we can simply go about discussing good history and bad history without resorting to much claims, but I doubt it is coming soon.

8 thoughts on “More Textbook Controversies

  1. Jimmy Dick March 23, 2014 / 1:01 pm

    I’ve seen some attempts to attribute that Second Amendment excerpt to the Common Core. It is not from the Common Core as far as I can tell. As to whether it is accurate might depend on the state one lives in. I know some oppose registration while others are in favor of it. I think that forms the basic problem with how this is read, but I think this version also errs badly by leaving out the militia aspect which was the most important part of the amendment as it was written.

    The real concern should be on what to write for the age group that lesson is for. We see a nation of adults arguing over how the Second Amendment should be interpreted. We see a large group disregard the history of that amendment in the process. (both sides actually!) So what do we tell kids about this amendment at what age?

      • Tony March 25, 2014 / 1:41 pm

        Speaking of Common Core … I looked up the history curriculum for middle schoolers for Common Core, and it appears focused more on analysis and reading comprehension than teaching any actual history (evaluation of sources, recognition of primary and secondary resources, discerning fact from opinion, etc.). I’m curious how you feel about this as a historian.

  2. M.D. Blough March 23, 2014 / 2:54 pm

    The first item certainly was inaccurate. The southern (more accurately “rebel” since not all southern states joined the rebellion) states did NOT attack the northern states. The rebel states attacked the government of the United State of America. Ft. Sumter (which was a man-made island, constructed to create the fort) was US property pursuant to Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution.

  3. Bob Huddleston March 23, 2014 / 3:50 pm

    A least he admits that Stonewall did not have thousands of Black Confederates!

  4. Andy Hall March 24, 2014 / 4:32 pm

    I understood that the Common Core standards deal strictly with math and English — not history or social studies, although lesson plans may use examples from many subjects (as in the case of the text analysis lesson based on the Gettysburg Address that had peoples’ hair on fire recently). Correct?

  5. Michael Lynch March 24, 2014 / 8:51 pm

    “Progressive” in this context means anybody to the left of Franco.

  6. Al Mackey March 25, 2014 / 12:19 pm

    Whoever wrote that book re the 2nd Amendment conflated the 2nd Amendment with other laws surrounding firearms. It’s poor writing on their part. If we expand the focus beyond the 2nd Amendment to the status of firearms in today’s society, the statement is more accurate.

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