Friday, January 24, 2020

Who Is History Written For? The SAME Social Studies Textbooks in California and Texas Are Vastly Different

This investigative piece by Dana Goldstein in the Jan 12, 2020 edition of the New York Times is fascinating reading: TWO STATES. EIGHT TEXTBOOKS. TWO AMERICAN STORIES. American history textbooks can differ across the country, in ways that are shaded by partisan politics.

There are so many ways that textbooks shape the knowledge and prejudices of students - skewing perception and understanding to align with political agendas. In many cases it's silence in the Texas versions - not including the paragraph about post-WWII discrimination against African Americans in the housing market, not including language about gun control related to the Second Amendment, not including the information about Two-Spirit indigenous people that California students finally get to see.

Just think how powerful it is for a female-identified student to come across this:

"These policies only recognized male heads of families, disrupting some traditional societies in which females held leading roles."

And for a gender non-conforming student to come across this:

"The policies also refused to recognize the authority of "two-spirit", what today we might consider lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender Native Americans, who held special roles in some groups.

And consider how loud the silence is for those same students reading the Texas edition, where this language doesn't exists. Where this history is erased.

California and Texas have the same number of female students. The same percentage of gender-nonconforming young people. What's different is the history they're being taught (and how they're being shown whether they have a place at the table, or not.)

There's much more in the analysis, like the Texas version adding a critique of the quality of works produced in the Harlem Renaissance, and it all brings up the same issue: Nonfiction is not unbiased. History is shaped by those who record it, by what's included, and what's left out.

And when textbooks fail to include the stories of women, the stories of people of color, the stories of disabled people, and the stories of women who loved women, men who loved men, people who loved without regard to gender, and people who lived outside gender boundaries, we need to supplement that education as best we can, until all our communities' stories, all of our history, is included, too.

Because only then will everyone know that they have a place in history. A place at the table today. And that will let them know that they, too, can dream of a tomorrow without limits.

And not incidentally, that's what I hope to do with my writing.

The light in me recognizes and acknowledges the light in you,

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Gay men are men and gay women are women. Gay people are not "two spirit" and the term referred to androgyny, not sexual orientation. Thus, the California text book is actually less accurate and more homophobic than the Texas textbook. Better to not discuss a subject at all rather than discuss it inaccurately.