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Textbook Bias/History Books Usa

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Textbooks are written supposedly with the purpose of addressing facts and topics defined by the educational systems to be the most crucial and valued for a factual and well-rounded educational experience. Not mass-marketed as editorials on how the rich white men remember things, this is too commonly how they some to be. Capitalism is defined as “an economic and political system in which a country's trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit, rather than by the state”. As universally acknowledged as the concept of “the American Dream” is the idea that the USA is a nation firmly rooted in Capitalism. However, some things about the state of publicly funded education are in conflict with one of Capitalism’s most commonly held tenets of “financial gain at any cost”. Publicly funded education is widely represented and regarded as an institution that exists for the betterment of everyone in the country and around the world. However, it can be seen when looking from another direction that the United States’ educational system is an example of an Ideological State Apparatus (Althusser, 12) and Hegemony at its finest.

Regardless of the level at which the decisions are being made, the purpose of a system of public education is purported to be to create an improved, more literate and socially responsible populace. Perhaps the clearest illustration of the inconsistency of such a perspective is the actual, publicly funded and widely accepted process of textbook adoption (and use) in the United States today. More educational opportunities supposedly give way to a more active and involved citizenry, and allow for a more diversely productive community. Increased efficient education reduces crime and improves quality of life, less people turn to drugs and violent criminal activity when they have the luxury of the experience associated with an unbiased, fact-based intellectual challenge such as should be provided by an education system funded by tax dollars and other public monies (Bull-Davie, 8). The picture of purpose seems pretty in theory, but in practice the reality is much less pleasing.

For the purpose of this project, we will only examine the impacts of History texts in public (not private or religious-based) educational systems. Perhaps the most ominous question that looms over the evaluation of such a topic is, “where are the black people in these books?” No matter the minority, the question remains the same. How can a system created under the guise of spreading equality through information and claiming to have the ultimate desire to have “No Child Left Behind” be so blatant in its disregard, many times even incorrect elimination of entire groups? Where would a public school student in America learn of the positive contributions of non-white people to the building of this nation, when such facts are left out, or at best glossed over in the most widely accepted US History textbooks used in this country? When the most recent census (2006) completed shows that around 16% of reporting households (which is likely to be a low estimate due to commonly high rates of underreporting within many low income communities) being black or of mixed race heritage, how can it be that students can faithfully attend publically funded schools from the time they were a toddler through graduation from High School learn so little about the actual history of black people? Unfortunately, the answer lies within the definition of and policies associated with Capitalism and Hegemony. American Aphorist Mason Cooley said, “Money [is] power at its most liquid”. In the same regard, “he who holds the money, holds the power” is a well-known, oft cited quote that is not attributed to any one person, because it is so fundamentally true. Note the adverb of choice, “HE”. This is not a coincidence or a default part of the quote, it is instead more of a fair assessment of the nature of power, wealth, and consequently, education in the US.

According to the Census of 2005, the percentage of single race black people living in poverty was almost 25%, that of white people under 11%. In any socioeconomic structure, capital=money. If particular races of citizens lack money, then in turn they lack power. It seems safe to assume that those with the power would like to keep it that way. The richest 1 percent of adults alone owned 40 percent of global assets in the year 2000; and the richest 10 percent of adults accounted for 85% of the world total (Hirschhorn, 8). One with a logical mind and most likely NOT one who falls into the above categories of owning large percentages of the world’s wealth may say that despite these figures, education and history are independent of such influences and that in a purportedly democratic society such as the United States surely history textbooks would be factual and inclusive in nature, as having educated citizens is in everyone’s interest. Not true, show the facts. Hegemony and silent silencing of poor and minority (often times one in the same) citizens begins with systematic suppression of facts, data, stories of empowerment and growth that may “stir up” the 90% of the world NOT holding 87% of the wealth. And so, the organized, systematic and exclusive nature of bias and discrimination built into our system of public education began.

Children have a tendency to believe what adults tell them to be true, especially if those adults are authority figures, parents, and teachers. If something is put in writing, most kids of schooling age assume it to be a fact, especially if its something they have seen printed in a textbook distributed by their school, taught by their teachers, and pointed at by their parents as they remind them to study or complete their homework. However, the most influential forces involved in the content of United States History textbooks are not these people who have the most at stake in the qualified and quality educating of American youth. The stinging reality is that the number one influential factor in the content and decisions as to what has been left out of and included in most textbooks adopted in the majority of US Public School districts in recent past is money. The politics of who buys the largest market share of the annual $4.5 billion textbook expenditures, to be exact. California is the largest purchaser of textbooks, followed closely by Texas. It can be argued, though, that Texas’ influence on the slant and selection of what is included and excluded in public school textbooks is even greater than California, as the procedures in Texas involve more hands-on community input and active citizenry to eliminate



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