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"Are U.S. History Textbooks Still Full of Lies and ...." Topic

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1,541 hits since 26 Jul 2017
©1994-2018 Bill Armintrout
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Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP26 Jul 2017 12:36 p.m. PST


"Textbooks in recent years have certainly become more inclusive, but giving the nod to multiculturalism is not synonymous with getting the story right. We've come a long way, baby but we have a long way to go.

In conjunction with my latest book, Founding Myths: Stories that Hide our Patriotic Past, I have reviewed twenty-two current elementary, middle school, and high school texts. Fourteen were displayed at a recent National Council for the Social Studies convention, while eight are approved for use in California, which has among the strictest criteria in the nation. I compared the mythologies of the American Revolution discussed in my book with those perpetuated in these texts, and the results are startling. Although some texts fare better than others, all are culpable of some serious lapses.

Most texts do mention African American participation in the war, but they focus primarily on those who sided with the Americans. In fact, those who sided with the British were far more numerous, but you'd never guess it from reading the texts. When they offer numbers, they typically compare the estimated number of black patriot soldiers during the course of the entire war (5,000) with the number of slaves who sought freedom with the British in a single week (generally cited as 300…."
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Which country has not history textbooks full of lies???…. (smile)


Personal logo Cacique Caribe Supporting Member of TMP26 Jul 2017 12:48 p.m. PST

Yeah. People who lived during or close to the time of those events had no idea what they were talking about. People today know everything. Hindsight is 50/50*

* I'm being generous. Modern armchair revisionist are wrong in their assumptions more than half the time. :)

Dwindling Gravitas Inactive Member26 Jul 2017 1:22 p.m. PST

@CC … I get the sentiment of your post, but IMO you're wrong :-)

Perspective is notoriously difficult to maintain when you're directly involved in something. Doesn't necessarily have anything to do with revisionism.

Personal logo Cacique Caribe Supporting Member of TMP26 Jul 2017 1:59 p.m. PST

LOL. In that case, I'll be better off if I just wait a generation or two to read about news of today.


Dwindling Gravitas Inactive Member26 Jul 2017 2:02 p.m. PST

OK … perspective AND context

Let's not go OTT here ,-)

Personal logo Cacique Caribe Supporting Member of TMP26 Jul 2017 2:08 p.m. PST

Yes, because in a generation or two the writers will interview people who are still alive from today, who may or may not remember all the details. Or they'll consult the few surviving records from our time.

Together with their lack of understanding of the feelings, fears and aspirations of our time, those future writers will put together the most reliable accounts ever. Not.

PS. They'll just fill in the blanks with their own brand new prejudices and conclusions about their elders. In fact that will probably be their starting point, and then just look for what information fits.

Legion 426 Jul 2017 2:15 p.m. PST

I don't think many kids read them anyway …

Personal logo Bobgnar Supporting Member of TMP26 Jul 2017 2:31 p.m. PST

If these are American history textbooks why do we worry about telling the side of the British? I'm sure there's not much coverage of euro loyalist troops either.

Dwindling Gravitas Inactive Member26 Jul 2017 2:53 p.m. PST

@CC Has it ever been any different?

Not quite sure what Bobgnar's point is?

Personal logo Cacique Caribe Supporting Member of TMP26 Jul 2017 3:08 p.m. PST

DG: "@CC Has it ever been any different?"

Lol. It's the difference between interviewing many witnesses while the memory is fresh or being left interviewing just a handful of elderly ones many decades after the event or picking from secondhand testimony (called "hearsay" in court) typically of the more well-connected survivors or, worse still, be stuck having to reconstruct the event forensically decades or even centuries later with reduced sources like a badly diluted cold case file.

Not only would the writer be closer to more and fresher sources but, being a contemporary him/herself, the writer would also be able to understand the context of the times. It's the same principle that is used with the textual criticism of antique documents and commentaries.

So, if something written by a contemporary is already hit or miss because of personal biases and agendas (my arbitrary 50/50 reference), then something written much later runs the risk of being even less reliable.


Legion 426 Jul 2017 3:42 p.m. PST

It is very scary when even college students don't know who the Americans fought in the French & Indian War, AWI, ACW, etc. And from what I've seen in the media that is just the tip of the iceberg.

Personal logo Editor in Chief Bill The Editor of TMP Fezian26 Jul 2017 8:03 p.m. PST

"Lies" is a loaded term. I would hope that most historians are not deliberately lying.

Pythagoras26 Jul 2017 8:40 p.m. PST

One person's lie is another's damn dirty lie.

attilathepun4726 Jul 2017 9:59 p.m. PST

Most of the "lies" are the result of smugly self-righteous and superior attitudes on the part of writers (of any era), who assume that their own ideas represent all that is right and good, while scorning any attitudes of past generations which do not accord with the writer's own notions.

As to future history, there may not be much, considering this generation's reliance on digitized record-keeping. A very few electro-magnetic pulses from nukes in low-earth orbit would wipe out most of our current records. Can we think of any people who might deliberately do something like that?

langobard Supporting Member of TMP27 Jul 2017 3:47 a.m. PST

I seem to recall William L. Shirer saying in the preface to his Rise and Fall of the Third Reich that French historians told him it was a mistake to write about WW2 so soon after the event, and that nothing more recent than Napoleon could be written about with any level of academic reserve.

Given how polarizing Napoleon remains, I thought it was an interesting idea…

Personal logo etotheipi Sponsoring Member of TMP27 Jul 2017 10:24 a.m. PST

Concur on the overstatement by using "lies". Lying is not omitting one person's pet topic. This usage is typical of the criticisms of Wikipedia … "You only had a one paragraph overview of the part of the topic that I wrote my dissertation on. There should have been fifty pages on that part and you should have referenced the book I wrote."

This is not to say there aren't significant omissions, errors, and in rare cases manipulating the presented context of the truth. This type of approach, IMHO, tends to hide the real things that need fixed.

Pan Marek Supporting Member of TMP27 Jul 2017 1:12 p.m. PST

Well. I always thought that wargamers would have a more serious view on history than the average person. Most of the comments here seem to disprove this. Much of what the posted article says is 100% true. Did not the rest of you read it?
Are we really taking a stand in favor of the myths constructed around Revere and Pitcher?
does the notion that more blacks served with the Brits than the Americans so heinous it must be denounced?

Zephyr127 Jul 2017 2:26 p.m. PST

I think you mean "Hindsight is 20/20"… ;-)

Dynaman878927 Jul 2017 4:31 p.m. PST

Follow up question, are the writers still beating their spouses?

Personal logo flooglestreet Supporting Member of TMP Inactive Member27 Jul 2017 5:00 p.m. PST

I remember reading two accounts of life under slavery. In one, the slave had a kindly and generous master who cared deeply about his slaves. In the other, the slave had a brutal master who behaved abominably. Both accounts were from the same woman. She knew enough to tell the white folks just what they wanted to hear. Be aware of the primary sources and their attitudes. An impossible task when you are referring to written accounts of primary sources. You have to know who is recording those sources.

Personal logo Patrick R Supporting Member of TMP27 Jul 2017 11:37 p.m. PST

Shall we start with the simple fact that many school textbooks are written by underpaid, uninterested, hired hands who often have to transcribe a curriculum that was distilled by a somebody higher up in the hierarchy from a variety of sources and any number of experts they care to consult and who probably hit on very different topics if left to their own devices and all this without even mentioning any form of personal interpretation or bias ?

42flanker28 Jul 2017 3:00 a.m. PST

The article is not discussing questions of opinion, interpretation or prejudice, it discusses the knowing or erroneous perpetuation of untruths, because- arguably- they perpetuate a certain nationalist mythology.

It is, perhaps, a matter of opinion, interpretation or prejudice as to whether that is deemed to be a subect worthy of discussion.

Personal logo Cacique Caribe Supporting Member of TMP28 Jul 2017 5:01 a.m. PST

Zephyr1: "I think you mean "Hindsight is 20/20"… ;-)"

LOL. Not in the context I described above, when the reliability of accounts of an event drops from hit or miss (50/50) to mostly misses.


Brechtel19828 Jul 2017 6:09 a.m. PST

If anyone is interested in the history textbook adoption 'process' that is currently used in the United States for middle and high schools, you might want to read The Language Police by Diane Ravitch. She is absolutely correct in what she writes about and it is indeed a very sad, and somewhat nefarious, and injurious process to history education.

I have never seen a competent or accurate middle or high school history text. When I taught history, I never used the issued text.

I was also responsible one year for adopting a new history text for our school, and it was a county-wide adoption, with each school free to adopt from the 'recommended' texts.

There were five chosen from the available texts by the county. They were the 'best' of a bad lot, and I picked the least injurious of the group, which infuriated one of the vendors whose fury was somewhat moderated when I pointed out the numerous historical errors in two sections-The American Revolution and the Civil War.

One school representative picked the text that was from a publisher for whom he was on the payroll. Typical.

The bottom line is that the texts are poor, too much useful information is left out, and there is too much of a political agenda, either from the left or the right, put into the texts which make them less than useless.

Needless to say, I didn't use any of them. I used my personal library for source material and the students would use the notes and handouts in class to construct their own texts.

Brechtel19828 Jul 2017 6:41 a.m. PST

I wonder how many errors and continuation of myths that Mr Raphael indulges in?

Legion 428 Jul 2017 6:58 a.m. PST

As we see with all types of media today, "bias", etc., rarely is not a factor, at least somewhat ..

Apache 628 Jul 2017 9:38 a.m. PST

The answer is yes, textbooks are still full of half-truths. They are a different set of half-truths, then from when we went to school.

Bill N28 Jul 2017 11:29 a.m. PST

I own and have read Lies My Teacher Told Me referenced in the link. It was billed as an attempt to correct the myths found in school textbooks, but IMO it was more an attempt to advance a competing set of myths. So if Mr Raphael is speaking favorably of Lies, should I assume his works do the same thing?

History is frequently messy and complex, but until you reach a certain level of knowledge it would be difficult to teach it that way. For example the African-Americans role in the AWI that Armand referenced could easily be a college course unto itself. You cannot reduce the issue to something that might be covered in 30 minutes in an elementary or middle school history class without leaving much of it out. So you pick the information that illustrates the point you are trying to make.

Rallynow Supporting Member of TMP28 Jul 2017 9:30 p.m. PST

It just depends on the textbook. Usually California and Texas decides what textbooks the rest of the country will use. Kind of scary if you think about it.

Of interest:


42flanker28 Jul 2017 11:21 p.m. PST

>q>I own and have read Lies My Teacher Told Me referenced in the link. It was billed as an attempt to correct the myths found in school textbooks, but IMO it was more an attempt to advance a competing set of myths.

Not having access to LMTTM, it would be interesting to learn what some of those compteing myths might be.

Brechtel19829 Jul 2017 5:57 a.m. PST

McCullough is absolutely correct.

The overwhelming majority of middle and high school history teachers do not have a degree. I know of at least two (one middle and one high school) who didn't teach at all and merely had the students watch videos with no explanations, no questions, and no discussion.

Teaching history, and teaching it properly, is important and is largely neglected. It's a shame because it is a lot of fun to teach history and get the students involved in it.

Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP29 Jul 2017 10:49 a.m. PST

In USA… the history program (and books) are the same for all the Union?… or each state teach each one vertion?…


Brechtel19829 Jul 2017 11:38 a.m. PST

Curriculum is done and set by the individual states. Text book adoption can be done as far down as the county and sometimes the individual schools.

Rawdon29 Jul 2017 2:25 p.m. PST

Well, every generation re-writes the history books. In my opinion, on the one hand it appears that the last 40 years have seen an extraordinary "dumbing down" of the teaching of the liberal arts in the U.S. On the other hand, I have been re-reading Herodotus and it is a bit daunting to see that he makes the same complaint 2,500 years ago …

42flanker30 Jul 2017 4:49 p.m. PST

On the other hand, I have been re-reading Herodotus and it is a bit daunting to see that he makes the same complaint 2,500 years ago

Nice touch

Bill N31 Jul 2017 1:02 p.m. PST

I am not ignoring your July 28 comment 42. I just haven't had the opportunity to dig LMTTM out of storage to review it before responding.

Rawdon31 Jul 2017 3:10 p.m. PST

Thank you, 42flanker.

Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP01 Aug 2017 10:53 a.m. PST

Many thanks Kevin!.


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