The Textbook Wars: An Historical Perspective

The Texas Textbook controversy has recently received a lot of attention, but it is only the most recent chapter in a long struggle over what our children should be learning. It is this history that Christopher Babits examines in order to add perspective to the current polemics. Babits found that debates over the content of textbooks goes back at least 130 years, but one episode in particular stood out as the most instructive in the current textbook wars. This episode began in the late 1920s.
The Great Depression brought great social change and a willingness to critically examine the causes of the crisis, even if it wasn’t pretty. Therefore, according to Babits, “many Americans embraced what came to be called the social reconstructionist curriculum. Observing the consequences of capitalism run amok, Americans became more comfortable with curricula that not only critiqued economic inequality but also encouraged students to ask critical questions about the American past.” In the schools the “[s]ocial reconstructionist curricula focused on the economic challenges facing the United States and the ways that schools could improve society.” This curricula came under attack from conservatives in the 1930s, but it wasn’t until the 1940s that this approach was replaced with a patriotic focused curriculum in response the rise of fascism and World War II.
Read the entire history of the textbooks wars here:

History News Network | The Texas Textbook Controversy. It’s Part of a Long, Awful, Tradition.

textbook wars

History Wars: “Fight over AP U.S. History framework lands in N.J.” | The Auditor |

Republican state Sen. Joe Kyrillos proposed a resolution (SR128) that would encourage the College Board to alter the AP U.S. history framework, because “the framework the College Board adopted in 2012 ‘reflects a seemingly biased view of American history, overemphasizing the negative aspects of our nation’s history while omitting and minimizing many of the positive aspects,'” and that “the new test’s framework ‘does not adequately discuss America’s Founding Fathers, the principles of the Declaration of independents the religious influences on our nation’s history.'” Even though this non-binding resolution is unlikely to pass, the efforts to teach our students a distorted patriotic version of history is troubling. We should be educating and challenging our students, not indoctrinating them. Progress requires an educated and thoughtful citizenry. And it is only by confronting the past honestly that we can actually live up to our ideals.

Fight over AP U.S. History framework lands in N.J. | The Auditor |


“The History Wars in Ukraine Are Heating Up” |History News Network

What happened to the Ukraine that wanted to look West? The Ukrainian parliament just passed legislation regulating historical truth.  The first law (“On Condemning the Communist and National Socialist (Nazi) Totalitarian Regimes and Prohibiting the Propagation of their Symbols) outlaws “the public denial, particularly in the mass media, of the criminal nature of the Communist totalitarian regime of 1917-1991 in Ukraine and the National-Socialist regime”as well as Soviet and Nazi symbols.

The second law (“On the Legal Status and Honoring of the Memory of the Fighters for the Independence of Ukraine in the 20th Century”) bans publicly insulting those who fought for Ukrainian independence as well as questioning the legitimacy of the struggle for independence. The law justifies these restrictions by claiming that they “insult[] the dignity of the Ukrainian people.” As Christopher Gilley and Per Anders Rudling point out that there is no punishment included in the legislation.
Gilley and Rudling explain the contradictions and possible consequences of this legislation here:

History News Network | The History Wars in Ukraine Are Heating Up.

Ukrainian Independence Day Parade

Ukrainian Independence Day Parade

History News Network | Historians Should Honor Protesting Colorado Students

Students in Colorado protested against the conservative school board’s attempt to impose an ideologically driven U.S. history on students. One of the conservative school board members, Julie Williams, complained that the current Advanced Placement curriculum emphasized “race, gender, class, ethnicity, grievance and American-bashing.”  In a History New Network article, Peter Dreier, the chair of the Urban & Environmental Policy Department, at Occidental College, is calling on “The American Historical Association (AHA) and the Organization of American Historians (OAH) should honor these students for standing up to their school board’s effort to distort U.S. history around a blatantly political agenda.”

History News Network | Historians Should Honor Protesting Colorado Students.

see also this Associated Press article on the Colorado student protest.

colorado students protest conservative history 2014