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Who Wrote Your History Textbook?

I recently wrote about the US history that is not taught about some famous American market entrepreneurs. That really is just the tip of the iceberg. In every period of our history there are statist biases being taught to students in classes. Larry Schweikart has written a book that includes a list of lies that can lead to a bitter attitude about this country being formed by the students. It is important to know who wrote your history textbook, and what kinds of bias are evident.
The American Textbook Council is an independent national research organization established in 1989 to review the history and social studies textbooks used in the nation’s schools. Since its foundation, the Council has achieved a prominent place in national discussions and exchanges about history textbooks and the social studies curriculum through its many bulletins, studies, and reports. The Council’s many projects, evaluations of history textbooks and social studies curricula, and efforts to educate the nation about the civic implications of multiculturalism have earned it a reputation for integrity and fairness.
The Council endorses textbooks that embody vivid narrative style, stress significant people and events, and promote better understanding of all cultures, including our own, on the principle that improved textbooks will advance the curriculum, stimulate student learning, and encourage educational achievement for children of all backgrounds.

To give some guidance to educators who need quick assistance and a place to begin, the history textbooks listed below that have been adjudged in content and design satisfactory or superior to their competition in previous Council bulletins and studies are marked with a plus (+). Textbooks that have been adjudged grossly deficient or inaccurate in reviews are marked with a minus (-). Unmarked textbooks are of mixed quality. Each of the following textbooks is identified alphabetically by publisher, first designated author, and abridged title. BL denotes a book that has been backlisted, i.e., it is no longer actively sold as “new” yet is for sale as inventory. Such books are gradually being retired or may be niche sellers with enduring popularity.


Publisher Author Title Rating
McGraw-Hill/Glencoe Joyce Appleby American Journey
McGraw-Hill/Glencoe Gary B. Nash American Odyssey -
Houghton Mifflin/McDougal Jesus Garcia Creating America
Houghton Mifflin/McDougal Gerald Danzer The Americans
Pearson/Prentice Hall James West Davidson The American Nation -
Pearson/Prentice Hall Daniel J. Boorstin A History of the United States +
Pearson/Prentice Hall Andrew Cayton America: Pathways to the Present +
Harcourt/Holt Edward L. Ayers American Anthem
BL Harcourt/Holt Sterling Stuckey Call to Freedom
BL Harcourt/Holt Paul Boyer Boyer’s The American Nation -

The Thomas B. Fordham Institute has on its web site a link to reviewers’ findings of some of the textbooks listed. Instead of ranking the textbooks with a (+)or(-) these reviewers assigned a letter grade ranging from C+ to F for the textbooks. The table below shows their results.

Publisher Author Title Rating
McGraw-Hill/Glencoe Joyce Appleby American Journey C+
BL Harcourt/Holt Paul Boyer Boyer’s The American Nation C-
Pearson/Prentice Hall Andrew Cayton America: Pathways to the Present C-
McGraw-Hill/Glencoe Gary B. Nash American Odyssey D
Houghton Mifflin/McDougal Gerald Danzer The Americans F

The meager research I have done on this subject leads me to thinking that the choices for schools in choosing history textbooks are between barely acceptable and completely unsatisfactory. The direction in education in the US is to move toward more uniformity and standardization, and less control by each state. I think that this is a very bad idea, and I applaud Alaska and Texas for refusing to take federal dollars in exchange for losing control of education standards.
There are progressives in both the Republican and Democratic Party who want to attack anyone opposed to the national takeover in education as being someone who doesn’t care about all the children getting an excellent education. This line of attack should be answered by informing them that the more local the government the more caring exists. There are so many programs and plans that are talked about in Washington, DC that have absolutely nothing to do with duties and enumerated powers that are listed in the US Constitution for the federal government. They will attack anyone who opposes their programs as someone who just does not care about things that are very important to people. They miss the point of the opposition. Opposition is not because something is not important or because we don’t care about people. The opposition is because the local government has the authority to run programs not listed by the US Constitution. The tenth amendment does spell this out fairly well.
The bottom line for me is that I would want my history lessons to come from American Journey.

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