Texan textbook battle

March 16, 2010
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A Letter to the Editor from ALBA Executive Committee member Dan Czitrom on the battle over American history textbooks in Texas appeared in today’s New York Times (click here for a CNN interview with Dan):

Re “Conservatives on Texas Panel Carry the Day on Curriculum Change” (news article, March 13):

As a co-author of an American history textbook that was effectively banned in Texas eight years ago, I had a strong feeling of déjà vu all over again while reading about the state’s latest curricular wars.

Back in 2002 the school board, egged on by well-organized conservative groups with deep pockets, excluded “Out of Many: A History of the American People” (Pearson Prentice Hall), allegedly for an offensive passage discussing prostitution on the Western frontier. But the real reason became clear as that controversy played out, and I think that it helps explain what’s happening today.

Many conservatives are simply unwilling to accept how much the writing and teaching of American history have changed over the last 40 years. They want an American history that ignores or marginalizes African-Americans, women, Latinos, immigrants and popular culture. They prefer a pseudo-patriotic history that denies the fundamental conflicts that have shaped our past.

Rather than acknowledge that genuine disagreements over interpretation and emphasis are the lifeblood of history, they reduce it all to a cartoonish process of balancing “bias.” This sort of right-wing political correctness impoverishes our students and teachers.

Daniel Czitrom
South Hadley, Mass., March 14, 2010

The writer is a professor of history at Mount Holyoke College.

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One Response to “ Texan textbook battle ”

  1. Daniel Czitrom on March 24, 2010 at 7:08 am

    For my longer op-ed piece, posted on CNN’s website, see:

    http://www.cnn.com/2010/OPINION/03/18/czitrom.texas.textbooks/index.html

    Thanks! DC

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