I Reviewed This Problematic High School Textbook, And I'm Severely Disappointed With The USDOE
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I Reviewed This Problematic High School Textbook, And I'm Severely Disappointed With The USDOE

Step your game up @ the United States Department of Education.

I Reviewed This Problematic High School Textbook, And I'm Severely Disappointed With The USDOE

I recently reread my old high school US history textbook and was appalled at its overt erasure of intersectional history.

World War II and Its Aftermath 1931–1960

As we all know, history is written by the victors, which makes it (his)tory if you know what I mean. White men are the focus of almost every high school history textbook and it is getting painfully, incredibly boring. Sure there’s a sprinkle of diversity here and there with a chapter on the Civil Rights Movement and a picture of Rosie the Riveter, but no intersectionality. In case historians haven’t noticed yet, minority groups exist all the time, not just when we’re screaming for our basic human rights.

I think it would be nice to finally see a textbook that includes minorities as primary historical influencers, rather than special groups that are only recognized for particular historical events.

I was going to publish an article critiquing how a particular California high school textbook portrays female activists, especially noting the differences between women of color and white women. However, this textbook did not mention a single female activist, making my examination of their representation a little difficult.

Women were primarily mentioned as victims, mothers, and wives. The terminology heavily revolves around referring to us as “girls” which in itself is a microaggression and demeaning and patronizing at best.

“Gerda Weissmann was a carefree girl of 15 when, in September 1939, invading German troops shattered her world,” (545).

It is easy to pick and choose specific quotes from a large body of text to portray it in a negative light. So you might be thinking that I have done just that: chosen the worst possible line from the text to create somewhat of a straw man representation of the text. Sadly, that is not the case. There were so many other quotes that were equally as incriminating.

Black rights and women’s rights are both briefly mentioned in the text between breaths of long tangents on the amazing accomplishments of white men, but women of color are never specifically mentioned. LGBTQ rights were also never mentioned in the text despite their large presence in the Civil Rights Movement.

This might all seem fine and dandy to the regular history buff, but for me, an amateur women’s history buff, it is atrocious. When minorities are not present in our history books, it gives the illusion they haven’t done anything. When the state of California approves textbooks that promote the erasure of intersectional history, that is a direct attack on minorities and marginalized individuals.

The pen is mightier than the sword. A popular proverb that exemplifies my love of women’s history. When people become more educated on our collective history, a history that includes everyone (not just the white men), we understand each other better; we understand politics, art, theater, and literature better. Empathy and understanding of our fellow man allow for a more peaceful world.

For the marginalized individuals themselves, it is even more invaluable to learn of their own histories, giving them a better appreciation for themselves, their ancestors and their stories.

This California textbook receives a 2 out of 5 stars from me. Not the worst I’ve seen, but not even close to the best. The best high school history book I’ve seen is also not up to my personal standards of a five-star text either.

Step your game up @ the United States Department of Education. I know Betsy DeVos is not the best leader the department has ever had, but it’s a big department and there are others who work below her in delegated fields who need to start pulling their own weight and at least begin by approving textbooks that aren’t overtly discriminatory.

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