Lesson for the day: “Two States. Eight textbooks. Two American stories. ‘


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Featured Article: “Two states. Eight textbooks. Two American stories.By Dana Goldstein

The New York Times analyzed some of the most popular social studies textbooks used in California and Texas. They found hundreds of differences, some of which reflect the country’s deepest partisan divisions on issues such as race, gender and immigration.

In this lesson, you will examine how these differences can shape students’ understanding of American history and influence their political views. Then you will explore what this means for your own learning.

Consider the following statement: “History is never neutral.

What do you think this means? Do you agree with its principle? Why or why not? Can you think of any examples that support or contradict this statement?

Where, if anywhere, could you find the “neutral” story? For example, are history textbooks impartial?

(Note to teachers: If you are in a classroom, you can configure this as a Graffiti painting Where Large paper activity so that students can read and build on each other’s ideas.)

Read it item, then answer the following questions:

1. Ms. Goldstein writes that textbooks are “shadowed by politics.” What does she mean by that? Give an example of the article and explain how it helps illustrate this point.

2. What ideas about American history have the Conservatives pushed schools to teach? What ideas has the left pushed? How could these ideas help to “shape a generation of future voters ”?

3. In your own words, summarize how the manuals are produced. How does knowing this process influence your view of textbooks?

4. How do Californian and Texan textbooks treat white resistance to black progress differently? How do each of these teachings affect students’ understanding of the roles of race and racism in American history?

5. California textbooks include the history of gender and sexuality that the Texas editions do not. In what ways can the inclusion or omission of women and LGBTQ people and issues shape student beliefs about gender and sexuality?

6. How do Californian and Texan textbooks describe immigration differently? What message does each program send about immigrants to the United States? How can these messages be influenced by politics?

7. The California and Texas textbooks both emphasize the role of big business in American history, but they see it very differently. What information do each state’s books include or exclude to support their views? How might this information shape students’ ideas about the American economy?

8. Did anything you read in this article surprise you? If so, what? What’s a key idea about the textbooks you will take with you?

Choose one or both of the following activities to do.

Option 1: Discuss the idea of ​​a “neutral story”.

Go back to the warm-up statement: “History is never neutral.”

How, if anything, do you view this statement differently based on what you learned from the article? Can history be neutral? Why or why not?

In a related article, The Times gathered reader responses to the article. Richard N. Haass, Chairman of the Council on Foreign Relations, wrote on Twitter:

Nicole Hannah-Jones, editor at New York Times Magazine and creator of The 1619 Project, responded to Mr. Haass’ comments:

Who are you most likely to agree with? Should there be a single national narrative of American history that all students learn, as Mr. Haass suggests? Or, as Ms. Hannah-Jones argues, is it impossible? Why do you think like you do?

Are there any unifying themes or ideas about American history that are worth teaching? If so, what are they and why? If not, why not?

Option 2: Analyze your own history program.

How did you learn about the history of the United States? With a manual? Primary sources? Online resources? Or some of the three?

Compare your American history curriculum – whether it’s a textbook or a curriculum created by your teacher – to that of California and Texas. You can focus on any of the areas covered in the article – race, gender and sexuality, immigration, economics – or choose a topic of your choice.

As you analyze your program, you may ask yourself the following questions:

  • What information, texts and points of view were included or excluded in your class?

  • What ideals, values, and beliefs – whether implicit or explicit – does your history curriculum communicate about the United States? What story does this program tell about our country?

  • How could it be influenced by the politics of your state? In what ways might this work to shape your own political views?

Then think about how this information can empower you as a student: in the future, how could you think differently about what you learn in school?

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