Schoolbook Nation: Conflicts over American History Textbooks from the Civil War to the Present

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9780472113422: Schoolbook Nation: Conflicts over American History Textbooks from the Civil War to the Present
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"A superior book. . . . Many readers will be surprised to see that today's arguments about history education follow the culture wars that go back to almost the beginning of the republic. Moreau's writing is engaging, with brilliant flashes of insight, as well as balance and wit."
-Gary B. Nash, Director of the National Center for History in the Schools
Taking Frances FitzGerald's textbook study America Revised as a point of departure, Joseph Moreau in Schoolbook Nation challenges FitzGerald's premise that the 1960s were the beginning of the end of the glory days of American history education.

Moreau recounts how in the late twentieth century, cultural commentators such as historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. and politician Newt Gingrich preached that a new identity crisis had shaken American history in the sixties, and that the grand unified view of our past had given way to various interest groups, who dismantled the old national narrative while demanding a more "inclusive" curriculum for their children.

Moreau discovered, however, that American history, while grand, has never been unified. Delving into more than 100 history books from the last 150 years, the author reveals that the efforts of pressure groups to influence the history curriculum are nearly as old as the mustiest textbook. "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," according to Moreau.

Schoolbook Nation offers a history lesson of its own: when the story of the past is written or rewritten, truth is often a victim. With its comprehensive treatment of the subjects of honesty and politics in the teaching of history, this is an essential book on the side of truth in a complex debate.

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About the Author:

Joseph Moreau is History Instructor at Trinity School in New York City. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan.

From Publishers Weekly:

What makes us proud to be Americans? What historic traditions unite us? Moreau, who teaches history at New York City's Trinity School, demonstrates how the search for and conflicts over national identity have been presented in American children's textbooks. He bases his book on an analysis of more than 100 pre-college textbooks published from 1824 to the present. Moreau says the debate over what liberals call "multiculturalism" or "inclusion" and what conservatives denounce as "multicultural revisionism" is long-standing and that "Americans have continually renegotiated their myths... in the changing content of textbooks." Today, many teachers, politicians and even some historians believe the call for a multicultural history curriculum is a direct, spontaneous result of the social revolution of the 1960s. But Moreau disagrees, writing that minorities (including African-Americans, Native Americans, Catholics and Jews) have appeared and disappeared in our children's textbooks over the past 175 years, with their portrayals (or lack of them) depending on the views of the day's historians, politicians, parents and school boards. The textbooks yield some surprising findings. For example, Moreau refers to 19th-century textbooks that amply cover Native American cultures, with "detailed maps showing the dispersal of tribes and languages." But later, in the 20th century, as historians stressed the economic advantages of westward expansion, it appears textbooks deemed "Indians" to be "essentially irrelevant," Moreau notes. Although academic in tone, Moreau's work should attract historians, educators and politicians interested in establishing national teaching standards, as well as those interested in the history of American education. FYI: Diane Ravitch's The Language Police: How Pressure Groups Restrict What Students Learn covered similar ground and makes a good complement to Moreau's more historical survey.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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