|Back to Mar. Ed Reporter|
|NUMBER 230||THE NEWSPAPER OF EDUCATION RIGHTS||MARCH 2005|
|History Texts Draw More Salvos|
|Federal Role Reasserted Despite Criticism|
The American History and Civics Education Act, introduced by Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and signed by President Bush on January 21, will support summer academies for several hundred teachers and students over four years. No specific content is mandated, but some conservative organizations such as EdWatch and Gun Owners of America have expressed concern that the academies will promote a globalist curriculum written by the Center for Civics Education. The center produced the controversial text We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution, which a previous federal law specifically designated as the standard for civics education in public schools.
Because of the conservative objections, the final compromise bill has no funding and requires the U.S. Department of Education to pay for the program using existing funds.
Critics question why the federal government should have any involvement in history education in view of the checkered experience of federal intervention over the last ten years. An uproar erupted over the National Standards for United States History financed by a $2 million grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to UCLA in the mid-1990s. The standards, intended to direct how American history should be taught in grades 5 through 12, proved to be so faulty and anti-American that the Senate denounced them by a vote of 99 to 1 and NEH chairman Lynne Cheney branded them as "politicized history."
After Lynne Cheney whose husband is now Vice President learned of the Education Department booklet, her staff communicated her displeasure to the department. The department then destroyed its inventory of 300,000 copies.
Politically correct, left-wing or inaccurate history textbooks continue to incur commentators' scorn. "The pages are carefully measured to spend equal time on the accomplishments of men and women, whites and nonwhites. They take care not to offend America's past enemies, but don't seem to worry about offending Americans," high school student Dan Gelernter complained in The Weekly Standard. (10-25-04).
The American Pageant (12th ed.), the textbook used in Gelernter's high school, never mentions President Reagan's achievement of ending the Cold War, giving credit to Mikhail Gorbachev instead. It describes the Reagan economic boom thus: "The poor got poorer and the very rich grew fabulously richer, while middle-class incomes largely stagnated" - even though the average income of all quintiles increased.
Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States is a "screed that depicts America as a continuing centuries-old conspiracy of rich white men to exploit minorities," according to Robert Holland of the Washington Times (12-15-04). As another illustration of the biases of many history educators, he quoted a paper presented by Central Missouri State University faculty members in late 2004: "The silent but deadly oppressor of the ethnic minority child's spirit is a state of injustice that is imbedded in . . . a one-sided truth espoused through the Eurocentric lens of American education."
Textbooks used in English as a Second Language programs, such as High Point and Talking Walls, seem to "destroy any patriotic thoughts these new Americans might develop toward their adopted country," writes Edgar B. Anderson in FrontPageMagazine.com (7-1-04).
Among other errors, the book stated that the southern border of California with Mexico was the Rio Grande; that Columbus started out from Portugal; that Malibu and Santa Monica are in the San Fernando Valley; that Gov. Hiram Johnson was mayor of San Francisco; that the transcontinental railroad went south of Lake Tahoe instead of north of it; and that borax was still being mined in Death Valley (the mining stopped in the 1920s).
More recently, the watchdog group Textbook Trust exposed historical inaccuracies in the textbook Earth Science despite its list of more than 40 paid academic reviewers from prestigious universities. Highlights from the group's detailing of errors include missing the date of the discovery of the Rosetta Stone by a century, stating that gold dissolves in hot water, and asserting that a 200,000-pound dinosaur lived in ancient New Mexico.
Help may be on the way. A new history book, A Patriot's History of the United States: From Columbus's Great Discovery to the War on Terror by Larry Schweikart and Michael Patrick Allen, promises to "put the spotlight back on America's role as a beacon of liberty to the rest of the world."
The authors, history professors at the University of Dayton and the University of Washington, decided to make an "end run" around textbook companies and faculty committees by using a trade publisher, Penguin/Sentinel. Their target market is college and high school teachers and homeschoolers. Schweikart was galvanized to write the book by the "seriously distorted" coverage of the Reagan administration economic policies in The American Pageant, a textbook referenced earlier in this article. (FrontPageMagazine.com, 1-31-05)
See also Education Reporter, July 2004 for earlier criticisms of U.S. history textbooks.