It's 2015 and Yet American Textbook Writers Apparently STILL Don't Get It

In what is one of the most odious items I have read about American textbooks in a long time, this one created by McGraw-Hill for world geography had this (from the Washington Post):

In a section titled “Patterns of Immigration,” a speech bubble pointing to a U.S. map read: “The Atlantic Slave Trade between the 1500s and 1800s brought millions of workers from Africa to the southern United States to work on agricultural plantations.”


Workers?  Like going to Microsoft with their visas and everything?

Hell no, there were no "workers" from Africa.  There were only human beings who were kidnapped, beaten and starved on ships and then, when they got to their destination, those human beings were sold as slaves.  Shame on you, McGraw-Hill.
 I think on the basis of that single item, that no district should buy their books.  There is ZERO excuse for this.  

A mom in Texas, who was a teacher at a public high school, got a text from her son who saw this in his textbook in class. 
“This is erasure,” Dean-Burren said in an interview with The Washington Post. “This is revisionist history — retelling the story however the winners would like it told.”
She's right; history is told by the victors.

I worked in the textbook industry and I know that every single thing in those books is triple-checked.  They don't just let things slide by.  This was not an error (and you'll see that M-H doesn't even say it was.)

McGraw-Hill Education sought to redress these implied untruths in a Facebook announcement Friday. While the geography program “meets the learning objectives of the course,” the publishing company’s statement said, a close review of the content revealed that “our language in that caption did not adequately convey that Africans were both forced into migration and to labor against their will as slaves.”

“We believe we can do better,” it continues. “To communicate these facts more clearly, we will update this caption to describe the arrival of African slaves in the U.S. as a forced migration and emphasize that their work was done as slave labor.”

The educational publisher has been criticized for its Texas materials before. McGraw-Hill was one of a handful of textbook providers that came under fire after the Texas State Board of Education adopted new standards for its social studies curriculum in 2010 — a policy that educators derided for interfering with accurate history instruction.

But Ms. Dean-Burren's son, Coby, had it right.
Shortly after the publisher’s response, Dean-Burren and her son were sitting next to each other on the couch when Coby started dialing his mother’s cell phone number.

“Why are you calling me?” she asked, confused.

He urged, “Answer your phone.” Speaking into his, Coby fulfilled a request that Dean-Burren made when her son started high school.

“Mom,” he said, “you told me to call you when I realized I could change the world.”
Keep it up, Coby.


Anonymous said…
Oh, they get it$! To balance it all, I gave "Between the World and Me" by Ta-Nehisi Coates to my teens. Of course they already beat me to it as they follow tweets by the latest and greatest make you squirm newsmakers. Such is this gen. Can't get ahead of them much.

Anonymous said…
I don't mind that the slaves in our history are finally being more highly regarded as "workers" because the truth is; they worked and suffered MUCH harder than any white man or woman in those days, with zero days off and from sunrise to sunset. It is beyond imagination the unspeakable horrors and abuses that most of the slaves suffered and it is important that all High School text books accurately and completely portray the reality.

However, when they are solely referred to as "slaves" and so little acknowledgement of how their enslavement was so very much more than just that, and that they literally were the very backbone of every plantation, it seems that history books so often diminish how important they actually were and I have seen several that referenced the slaves as the "white man's burden" that they were unable to sell nor legally get rid of the slaves that were not productive and were a "drain" to the resources of the Plantation. This is sickening that these kinds of texts that sympathize with the slave-owners have circulated in our schools for many decades.

I wish I could see the rest of the McGraw-Hill history book to get the context and all aspects of their account of African American slaves in our history. If this single page is a testimonial part of "sugar-coating" the horrors of slavery throughout the text then it falls on ALL of us to take a stand against their censorship and manipulation of the American Education System. But I cannot see that single page as anything other than the promotion in rank and title that the slaves actually deserved for the extraordinary and heroic sacrifices of every single back breaking day of their lives from birth to death.
I only hope that the rest of the Textbook actually supports this as well as being an accurate account of Slavery in the southern United States.

I am extremely interested in finding out more. Please comment or argue your views and insights.

Anonymous said…
Historian, I'm not rising to your bait.
Patrick said…
The textbook publishers do get it, but the it they get is what it takes to sell a textbook to a state that doesn't want its students to find out the the United States ever did anything wrong.

If more enlightened big states, say California and New York, got together and would not recommend books to their school districts that presented false history, the publishers would respond.
Texas was, in the past, the bellwether of the textbook industry and many textbooks were published to be acceptable to Texas school districts first. I don't know if this still stands, but if so, we should be reviewing history texts with a critical eye.
Anonymous said…
Keeping up with your teens:

The American Slave Coast: A History of the Slave-Breeding Industry (non-fiction - #1 best seller)
Chicago Review Press, October 1, 2015
by Ned Sublette, Constance Sublette

Authors Ned and Constance Sublette tell the brutal story of how the slavery industry made the reproductive labor of the people it referred to as “breeding women” essential to the young country’s expansion. Captive African Americans in the slave nation were not only laborers, but merchandise and collateral all at once. In a land without silver, gold, or trustworthy paper money, their children and their children’s children into perpetuity were used as human savings accounts that functioned as the basis of money and credit in a market premised on the continual expansion of slavery. Slaveowners collected interest in the form of newborns, who had a cash value at birth and whose mothers had no legal right to say no to forced mating.



Popular posts from this blog

Tuesday Open Thread

Seattle Public Schools and Their Principals

COVID Issues Heating up for Seattle Public Schools