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Thread: High School History Texbook Critique

  1. #1 High School History Texbook Critique 
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    I imagine that many of you have encountered this book: "Lies My Teacher Told Me" concerning the white ethnocentric
    history commonly taught in high schools in America. Here's a link:

    http://teachersites.schoolworld.com/...told%20me1.pdf

    Is this old news for most of you? What do you think of this book?


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  3. #2  
    Forum Radioactive Isotope sculptor's Avatar
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    Public "education" involves a lot of nationalism and cultural indoctrination.
    I hazard and hesitate to guess a percentage.


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  4. #3  
    Brassica oleracea Strange's Avatar
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    Christopher who?

    John Cabot is a bit of a local hero where I live.
    John Cabot (Venetian: Zuan Chabotto; c. 1450 – c. 1499) was an Italian navigator and explorer whose 1497 discovery of parts of North America under the commission of Henry VII of England is commonly held to have been the first European encounter with the mainland of North America since the Norse Vikings visits to Vinland in the eleventh century.
    John Cabot - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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  5. #4  
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    "White" does not equal ethnicity!

    That is as idiotic as "White anglo saxon protestant" (WASP). I used to say: "Show me a black anglo saxon, and I might stop thinking that you are a thoughtless parrot."-----how about (GASP) Green Anglo Saxon Pedestrians. or RASP (Red Anglo Saxon Plagiarists)?
    Some days, it seems that those who are incapable of independent reasoning are leading our culture with silly meaningless sound-bites.
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  6. #5  
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    Quote Originally Posted by RobinM View Post
    I imagine that many of you have encountered this book: "Lies My Teacher Told Me" concerning the white ethnocentric
    history commonly taught in high schools in America. Here's a link:

    http://teachersites.schoolworld.com/...r told me1.pdf

    Is this old news for most of you? What do you think of this book?
    I have skimmed the extract you linked to, but I fail to see any criticism in it about "white ethnocentric" history. It seems to me you are superimposing your own prejudices and clichés on what is actually said. As I read it, it is just making various uncontroversial points about the previous knowledge of the Americas in Europe (Vikings, fishermen, etc), of the inevitability of someone making the voyage if it had not been Columbus (well, er, yes but so what?), of the lack of mention of any rights of possession by the indigenous inhabitants, etc etc.

    In short, it is pointing out that history taught as a childish adventure story of heroism is always going to be tendentious and question-begging. But we all knew that, I think.
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    I don't think textbooks have fooled anyone away from thinking that any explorer from any nation at any point in history wasted their time, lives and efforts to undergo dangers and deprivations in order to suffer and die in foreign lands under the control of the less civilized, foreign people they hoped to meet and to allow such people to capitalize on the natural wealth around them that the foreigners were previously unaware of, enabling them to rise up, attack, subjugate and destroy the civilization/homeland of the explorer.

    Likewise, no one today leaves one employer to work for a less civilized employer so that they can work harder for less money under more dangerous conditions, eventually suffering such deprivation that requires them to live on the streets, bum for food and clothing, and give up their children for adoption — only to die an unknown and unloved pauper. Of course not. We switch to new jobs for advancement, and explorers explored new regions for advancement. No mystery there.

    And thus, we likewise do not currently explore outer space and other planets simply for the "academic" thrill of it, or to find other lifeforms and enable them to dominate or destroy Earth. We do it for *our* advancement. We search the universe for new worlds in which to live — not to live like Neanderthals on Neanderthal-inhabited planets, but as highly-civilized, space-age Homo sapiens on those planets, and if those Neanderthals resist in allowing us to do so, we will most certainly "educate" them and, if push comes to shove, we will not allow those who resist to impede the "progress" of our higher civilization.
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  8. #7  
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    Silly they'd destroy the planet trying to stop you
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  9. #8  
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    Quote Originally Posted by sculptor View Post
    "White" does not equal ethnicity!

    That is as idiotic as "White anglo saxon protestant" (WASP). I used to say: "Show me a black anglo saxon, and I might stop thinking that you are a thoughtless parrot."-----how about (GASP) Green Anglo Saxon Pedestrians. or RASP (Red Anglo Saxon Plagiarists)?
    Some days, it seems that those who are incapable of independent reasoning are leading our culture with silly meaningless sound-bites.


    Perhaps it would be more accurate to say "European" ethnocentric:
    Ethnicity or ethnic group is a social group of people who identify with each other based on common ancestral, cultural, social, or national experience.[1][2]
    (wikipedia)
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  10. #9  
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    Quote Originally Posted by exchemist View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by RobinM View Post
    I imagine that many of you have encountered this book: "Lies My Teacher Told Me" concerning the white ethnocentric
    history commonly taught in high schools in America. Here's a link:

    http://teachersites.schoolworld.com/...r told me1.pdf

    Is this old news for most of you? What do you think of this book?
    I have skimmed the extract you linked to, but I fail to see any criticism in it about "white ethnocentric" history. It seems to me you are superimposing your own prejudices and clichés on what is actually said. As I read it, it is just making various uncontroversial points about the previous knowledge of the Americas in Europe (Vikings, fishermen, etc), of the inevitability of someone making the voyage if it had not been Columbus (well, er, yes but so what?), of the lack of mention of any rights of possession by the indigenous inhabitants, etc etc.

    In short, it is pointing out that history taught as a childish adventure story of heroism is always going to be tendentious and question-begging. But we all knew that, I think.
    I've since read the entire book, and I can assure you it is extremely critical (justifiably so, in my opinion) of European ethnocentric history. I do try to avoid superimposing my own prejudices on my perceptions, but of course being human do not always succeed.
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  11. #10  
    Forum Radioactive Isotope Paleoichneum's Avatar
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    How neutrally does the book cover each of the topics and how old are the HS history books that are being critiqued?
    If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world. -Thorin Oakenshield

    The needs of the many outweigh the need of the few - Spock of Vulcan & Sentinel Prime of Cybertron ---proof that "the needs" are in the eye of the beholder.
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  12. #11  
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    Quote Originally Posted by RobinM View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by exchemist View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by RobinM View Post
    I imagine that many of you have encountered this book: "Lies My Teacher Told Me" concerning the white ethnocentric
    history commonly taught in high schools in America. Here's a link:

    http://teachersites.schoolworld.com/...r told me1.pdf

    Is this old news for most of you? What do you think of this book?
    I have skimmed the extract you linked to, but I fail to see any criticism in it about "white ethnocentric" history. It seems to me you are superimposing your own prejudices and clichés on what is actually said. As I read it, it is just making various uncontroversial points about the previous knowledge of the Americas in Europe (Vikings, fishermen, etc), of the inevitability of someone making the voyage if it had not been Columbus (well, er, yes but so what?), of the lack of mention of any rights of possession by the indigenous inhabitants, etc etc.

    In short, it is pointing out that history taught as a childish adventure story of heroism is always going to be tendentious and question-begging. But we all knew that, I think.
    I've since read the entire book, and I can assure you it is extremely critical (justifiably so, in my opinion) of European ethnocentric history. I do try to avoid superimposing my own prejudices on my perceptions, but of course being human do not always succeed.
    OK, I'll have to take your word for that, since I haven't read the book. I'm sure it's true that what we now call "ethnocentricity" was more or less woven into the way European history was taught in the past, in some respects. But then, ANY view of history can be criticised as assuming a standpoint that is not truly objective. Hence the need to compare and contrast different views. History is not science.

    I feel quite confident that history from any other region of the globe will be equally open to the same objections.
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  13. #12  
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    From the book referenced by the OP- "Several textbooks claim that Europe was becoming richer and that thenew wealth led to more trade. Actually, as the historian Angus Calder has
    pointed out, "Europe was smaller and poorer in the fifteenth century than it had
    been in the thirteenth," owing in part to the bubonic plague.

    It is my understanding that by the early to mid fifteenth century, Europe (especially England under Henry the VII and VIII) was becoming more prosperous. The Black Plague actually served to launch the West out of the Middle Ages and serfdom, as the price of labor kept rising due to the estimated 40% to even 60% mortality rates during the major plague years in western Europe, from about 1346 to 1355, or thereabouts. Some monarchs tried to make laws restricting wages of former serfs or peasants, and even tried to outlaw the wearing of fine clothes by the newly emergent (and increasingly wealthy) merchant classes. Although substantial merchant classes had existed in Italy, northern France, and England since the High Middle Ages in the 12th century.

    England in particular continued her economic ascendancy after Elizabeth I came to the throne around c. 1560. While many economic, religious, political and social problems surfaced in the 17th century, much of that was offset by the late English participation in the colonization and conquest of the Americas.

    In the end, it's not so much the perpetuated myth that Columbus was the first to make landfall in the Americas, than it is the magnitude of the European impact on the Western Hemisphere following Columbus' voyages and "discoveries".
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  14. #13  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zen Galacticore View Post
    The Black Plague actually served to launch
    Yeah, Europe was "pumped" by plagues. Put simply, when half the people die, the survivors find themselves twice as wealthy. Twice the farmland, twice the housing, twice the tools and so forth.

    Anyway regarding Euro-centrism in North America. I feel the portrayal of Natives is still skewed. Because it's based on a settler's view from the train, of highly-mobile survivors, not the former population of more sedentary - and I dare say more civilized - Natives. In the post-apocalyptic world Natives had to live much like characters from a Road Warrior film: families on horseback with movable camps, raiding and taking mercenary work where they could get it. Modern American Indians themselves perpetuate this skewed view, because they're just recalling the kind of people they descend from: mostly badasses of no fixed address.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pong View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Zen Galacticore View Post
    The Black Plague actually served to launch
    Yeah, Europe was "pumped" by plagues. Put simply, when half the people die, the survivors find themselves twice as wealthy. Twice the farmland, twice the housing, twice the tools and so forth.

    Anyway regarding Euro-centrism in North America. I feel the portrayal of Natives is still skewed. Because it's based on a settler's view from the train, of highly-mobile survivors, not the former population of more sedentary - and I dare say more civilized - Natives. In the post-apocalyptic world Natives had to live much like characters from a Road Warrior film: families on horseback with movable camps, raiding and taking mercenary work where they could get it. Modern American Indians themselves perpetuate this skewed view, because they're just recalling the kind of people they descend from: mostly badasses of no fixed address.

    I'm not sure exactly what you're saying here, but the idea of the "Noble Savage" has been completely discredited, and that romantic idea actually dehumanizes Native Americans. While the systematic near extermination of the buffalo by European whites in the 19 century was indeed barbaric, the extermination of the mastodon, saber-tooth tiger, and other large native American fauna by the pre-Columbian natives, while not intentional or necessarily systematic, was equally stupid, and typically human.

    Furthermore, while popular culture, especially Hollywood, has tended since the late 1960's to portray colonial Europeans and early Americans as barbaric, greedy scoundrels, during the actual conflicts over the land, atrocities occurred on both sides, both "Indian" and "White". And the Native Americans fought amongst themselves as often as they fought the Whites. The Iroquois Confederation, for example, was brutal in its oppression of weaker tribes. And their power was shattered when they sided with the British during the so-called American Revolution (what many British refer to as a civil war).

    It's easy to judge our forebears with our modern 21st century moral standards, but the conquest of the "New World" by Europeans was not, in my opinion, all that radically different from what had taken place in the Old World for millenniums, other than the fact that in North America anyway, the Native Americans were not fused and and absorbed within the new, dominant culture, i.e., the European and specifically Anglo-Saxon-Celtic culture. There are innumerable examples, from the expansion of the Roman Empire into Britain to the Mongol invasions of Europe. Differences are that the Mongols didn't stay, and the Romans mixed with and Romanized, to some extent, the Britons who lived in what is now England and Wales.

    It was the way of the world, the strong and more organized dominating the weak and less organized. When the Indian chiefs Pontiac and Tecumseh, attempting to unite all the Indian tribes in order to fight as one to stop European encroachment, tried to tell the midwestern and farther western tribes that the Whites had settled in great numbers and radically altered the landscape east of the Alleghenies and Appalachians, the western tribes at first laughed at them and did not believe such a thing, as Pontiac and Tecumseh described, was possible.
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