How Textbooks Can Teach Different Versions Of History

“Eleventh-grade U.S. history teacher Samantha Manchac is concerned about the new materials and is already drawing up her lesson plans for the coming year. She teaches at The High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, a public school in Houston.

“The first lesson she says she’ll give her kids is how textbooks can tell different versions of history. “We are going to utilize these textbooks to some extent, but I also want you to be critical of the textbooks and not take this as the be-all and end-all of American history,” she imagines telling her new students.”

The Problem With History Classes: Single-perspective narratives do students a gross disservice.

“Perhaps Fisher offers the nation an opportunity to divorce, once and for all, memory from history. History may be an attempt to memorialize and preserve the past, but it is not memory; memories can serve as primary sources, but they do not stand alone as history. A history is essentially a collection of memories, analyzed and reduced into meaningful conclusions—but that collection depends on the memories chosen.”

Book: History in the Making: An Absorbing Look at How American History Has Changed in the Telling over the Last 200 Years

“In this ‘thought-provoking study’ (Library Journal ), historian Kyle Ward—the widely acclaimed co-author of History Lessons—gives us another fascinating look at the biases inherent in the way we learn about our history. Juxtaposing passages from U.S. history textbooks from different eras, History in the Makingprovides us with intriguing new perspectives on familiar historical events and the ways in which they have been represented over time.”

Why Oklahoma Lawmakers Voted to Ban AP U.S. History

This is a story that pops up in the United States periodically but also around the world. Because public education is funded by various governments, elected officials have a say in what gets funded and what does not and by extension, what gets taught and what does not. History is an interpretation of past events and not simply a summary of all things that ever happened. What happens when a curriculum does not suit your interpretation of past events? What happens when you believe history serves one agenda and not your own?

Some further questions to consider:

  • How should we decide what gets taught in schools?
  • What makes one historical interpretation more “correct” than another?
  • What is the purpose of learning history? Should it be to promote patriotism?

From the article:

“The new AP U.S. History framework emphasizes ‘what is bad about America’ and doesn’t teach ‘American exceptionalism.’ It’s a complaint that’s been spreading among mostly conservative state legislatures in recent months and has some calling for a ban on all AP courses.”

Japan rejects calls to change history textbooks

China and South Korea contend that Japanese history textbooks misrepresent Japan’s wartime activities and colonization of the early 20th century and should be revised. But Japan’s new leader has stated firmly that there will be no changes. Officials within Japan’s education ministry said revisions would occur only if books contain factual errors.