North Texas Daily

The differences in state history textbooks display the opposite of American democracy

The differences in state history textbooks display the opposite of American democracy

The differences in state history textbooks display the opposite of American democracy
February 11
09:05 2020

Among the core subjects taught in American high schools, the history of the nation seems to take different perspectives depending on the state. Though history is meant to be factual accounts of the past, states like Texas and California have instilled their political agendas in the way they present the story of America. The way of teaching United States history has been invaded by partisan politics which is a dangerous threat to the future of American politics and democracy itself.

Distinct political differences in the social studies textbooks that are being used by Texas and California public schools was found by an analysis done by the New York Times. Though the texts explain different versions of the same history, they are the products of one publisher and are registered under one title, according to an article by NPR.

Times reporter Dana Goldstein studied this matter for a few months and found that publishing companies will “customize editions of these textbooks for each state.” Goldstein disclosed that the covers will “credit the same historians” but include tailored versions of the material.

The process in which changes are made to the textbooks occur during advisory panels where each state’s board of education will select representatives to seek adjustments. The major political party of the state has dominance in regards to what ideas they will appeal to the board. In California, the Democratic Party advocates for more liberal illustrations.

In contrast, Texas appoints Republican representatives who argue to input more conservative illustrations in the way they re-tell history. Texas conservatives have pushed for their schools to highlight patriotism and the impact of Christianity on the nation, while California liberals have argued for a more progressive approach by emphasizing the experience of minorities. By doing so, the state governments are displaying the abundance of power they hold over the quality of the education of America’s future voters.

Goldstein suggests that the main differences in these textbooks are the way they speak about issues regarding the racial history of the nation, according to an interview with her at NPR. For example, in regards to the population shift from urban areas into the suburbs that occurred during the 1950s, California schools inform students about the housing discrimination that plagued minorities.

On the same subject, Texas schools neglect to teach their students that it was immensely difficult for minorities, especially African Americans, to relocate to suburban areas due to strong housing discrimination. Rather than stating the harsh truth, Texas will inform their students that individuals left cities because of overpopulation or increasing rates of crimes. The conservative state makes sure to do so without directly involving the issue of race and how it heavily impacted the suburbanization of the 1950s.

Another example includes the coverage of the widely discussed topic of the Second Amendment.

In a California student’s textbook, an annotated page of the Bill Of Rights will mention “rulings on the second amendment have allowed for some gun regulations,” as stated in an article by the New York Times. The Texas student viewing the same page of annotations to the Bill of Rights will see no text about the implementation of gun regulations in regards to the right to bear arms. In the topic of African Americans however, students of both states will read about the Harlem Renaissance and how it impacted their lives, meanwhile, a Texas student will be taught that critics of the movement “dismissed the quality of literature produced” by notable African Americans.

As the nation continues to be so politically divided, it is incredibly unhealthy for these states to manipulate the way in which history textbooks recall the founding stories of this country. The state governments of Texas and California display an unjust abundance of power in the education system by deliberately shaping the minds of impressionable students to fit their political agendas. It is blatant manipulation and should cease to continue.

The history of America is harsh but needed to be told correctly. By blanketing the true origins of the nation with nuanced versions of the same topics, the future of politics and what makes America free is at stake.

Rather than allowing their political values to condition the minds of young students through history classrooms, Texas and California should make an effort to try equally educate their students on the matters that have shaped this country. The upbringing of the United States was not at all sunshine and rainbows, but students of all states should be taught the true highs and lows of what brought their nation to where it is now. It is a vital responsibility that the nation owes its future leaders in order to allow growth and true equality to America.

Featured Illustration: Miranda Thomas

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Michelle Monari

Michelle Monari

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