An attentive 15-year old let his mother know that a required Texas social studies book claimed that people of African descent brought forcible to the Americas to labor for Whites were identified as “workers” rather than “slaves” in a section devoted to “immigration.” Mom took to social media, Black Lives Matter picked up a video she posted, and McGraw Hill had to respond to their “mistake”:
“We conducted a close review of the content and agree that our language in that caption did not adequately convey that Africans were both forced into migration and to labor against their will as slaves.”
This latest example of Texas miseducation – despite the review process – along with McGraw-Hill’s admission of inadequacy would not have surprised the late Harvard historian Nathan Huggins. In 1991 Professor Huggins wrote that
a “master narrative of American history” is founded on “a conspiracy of myth, history, and chauvinism . . . [that] could find no place at its center for racial slavery, or racial caste which followed Emancipation.”
The power of the “master narrative” that Nathan Huggins pointed out nearly 25 years ago is defended vehemently today by Texas political dominant conservatives (and by similar forces in other states). This imposition of a Texas master narrative continues to White-wash U.S. history, as mentioned in an earlier commentary (“A Texas Educational Approach to Racial Truth & Reconciliation”).
The Texas Republican 2012 platform is quite clear about how to present history to young people:
“We believe the current teaching of a multicultural curriculum is divisive. We favor strengthening our common American identity and loyalty…”
Mentioning the inhumane treatment of slaves and the profits that were accrued for the nation’s economy apparently must be hidden from young minds in the name of a “common American identity.”
Meanwhile, the nearly 140,000 print copies of textbook that Texas did buy will continue to be used in the state’s 267 school districts – until mega-corporation McGraw-Hill gets around to it: “These changes will be…included in the program’s next print run.” This is about money and conservative ideology, not about exposure to the nation’s actual story.