Political Correctness Pervades History Textbooks

By Fournier, Richard | VFW Magazine, February 2005 | Go to article overview

Political Correctness Pervades History Textbooks


Fournier, Richard, VFW Magazine


Using the Cold War as a test case, it is clear that the version of U.S. history taught in high schools today is far from complimentary to veterans. By Richard Fournier

"It is vitally important that high school textbooks portray the turbulent Cold War period fairly and intelligibly," wrote Ernest W. Lefever, 1970s director of the Ethics and Public Policy Center (EPPC), "with due regard to America's role in the international arena, and with full recognition of the challenges presented by our chief adversary, the Soviet Union."

So what grade do textbook publishers rate for their treatment of this critical war? Based on past and present analysis, most textbooks flunk. This should be of importance to veterans because their legacy to posterity is at stake. Moreover, taxpayers spend $3.24 billion annually on social studies textbooks and have a right to expect students to be taught accurate information.

In 1978, the EPPC published a landmark study of how the Cold War was presented. Martin F. Herz, the author of How the Cold War is Taught, judged 16 striking foreign policy events in six U.S. history textbooks.

To see if things had changed, I compared treatment of the same events in The American Nation: A History of the United States (10th edition) by John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes. Published by Pearson Longman in 2000 (new editions of textbooks are released about every four years), it is one of the more commonly used texts.

One thing is evident up front: Americans in uniform played virtually no role in the Cold War, at least in the textbook version of history. Since GIs are absent, we can look only at what importance is attached to key events and how the enemy is portrayed.

These key overseas events include creation of the containment policy/Truman Doctrine, crises in Berlin (airlift, erection and fall of the Wall) and the Cuban Missile Crisis. All of the above were included in a popular history book, What Every American Should Know About American History: 200 Events That Shaped the Nation by Alan Axelrod and Charles Phillips.

Apologizing for Communism

Of the six textbooks examined while the Cold War was under way, Discovering American History by Alien O. Kownslar and Donald B. Frizzle was the worst. Published by Holt, Rinehart & Winston in 1974, its relevant chapter was called "The Cold War: Interpreting an Era." Of the chapter's 28 pages, fully 43% were devoted to "McCarthyism," the Left's allencompassing criticism of U.S. actions during the Cold War.

Not merely whitewashing communism, this book actually lauds it. In attempting to indoctrinate the reader, it contains the "greatest amount of systematic bias," Herz found. "One can only marvel at the benefit of the doubt accorded the Soviet system," he wrote. According to Discovering American History, "Under Stalin's rule, the Soviet Union took great strides forward."

At every opportunity, it exculpates the Kremlin's actions while ignoring the Soviet conquest of East Europe. Excluding the policy of containment, it literally rewrites history claiming Truman's doctrine called for intervention against "democratic revolutions ... anywhere." The Berlin Blockade and Wall are virtually ignored.

The textbook turns a blind eye to the lack of liberties and human rights under communism. Ideological cover is provided to Communist dictators. Cuba's Fidel Castro, for example, is called a "nationalist." In December 1961, Castro had publicly declared: "I am a Marxist-Leninist and will be one until the day I die."

Herz, then a professor of history and diplomacy, concluded that Discovering American History "in effect offers an apologia of communism."

Détente vs. Triumph Over Moscow

Fast-forward 26 years to 2000-almost a decade after the Soviet Union collapsed-when The American Nation was published. This textbook is riddled with statements critical of U.S. policies, while exonerating Communist actions. …

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