In a review of eight textbooks comparing how authors contextualize historical events differently for California and Texas readers, The New York Times gave further proof that the Lone Star State’s practices are just about as backward as we all thought, and authors are preparing the next generations of voters to be similarly misinformed. “Eager to please” publishers battling to find relevance in a digital age in which some teachers would rather find their own primary sources for instruction are catering to policymakers to determine just how much history to expose children to, according to the Times’ analysis.
The newspaper cited several examples of this tailoring from the well-known Pearson publisher distributing a Texas textbook that questions the quality of Harlem Renaissance literature to the equally notable McGraw-Hill publisher’s “critical” description of cultural movements that don’t revolve around white culture in one Texas book. In documenting (or in the case of Texas texts failing to document) pushback against black progress, the Times pointed out that while authors of California texts explained that black Americans didn’t have access to “the suburban dream” of the 1950s, authors of a Texas rendition made no such mention.
Texas textbooks erased the practice of redlining and housing discrimination from history even though they have been so detrimental to the upward mobility of black and brown citizens
The Texas textbook United States History Since 1877, simply stated: “Reasons for suburban growth varied. Some people wished to escape the crime and congestion of the city.” Authors added in a California version of the McGraw-Hill textbook entitled United States History & Geography: Continuity and Change: “Movement of some white Americans from cities to suburbs was driven by a desire to get away from more culturally diverse neighborhoods.” Similarly, Texas textbooks erased the practice of redlining and housing discrimination from history even though they have been so detrimental to the upward mobility of black and brown citizens that many of us are still feeling the effects today.
When lynching was brought up, a Texas textbook described the act of murder only as a result of missteps of “racial etiquette” following the Reconstruction era, leaving out an important driving factor. California textbook authors described that lynchings were tactics meant to prevent black communities from gaining financial and political power, the Times reported.
And heaven forbid McGraw-Hill’s Texas version of United States History & Geography: Growth & Conflict would mention lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender Native Americans who held leadership positions like the California text does. That kind of truth-telling might send the red state with a governor who sees fit to joke about lynchings into utter chaos. Gov. Greg Abbott tweeted: “Get a rope” in response to a tweet asking him on Dec. 14, 2019, what he would do about Whataburger being “OUT of Dr. Pepper.” Not that any textbook would help Abbott at this point, still, the thought of an entire state raising little Abbotts in the making with whitewashed history lessons is beyond terrifying.
Albert Broussard, a McGraw-Hill author of both Texas and California textbooks told the Times: “American history is not anymore the story of great white men.” But in many ways, it still would be if not for the work of teachers like Texas high school teacher Kerry Green, who took it upon herself to discuss redlining with her students, according to the Times. “The textbook companies are not gearing their textbooks toward teachers; they’re gearing their textbooks toward states,” she told the newspaper.