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Romanowski, Michael H. 

Fleeing from Democratic Ideals: The Content of U.S. 
History Textbooks. 
Mar 94 

30p.; Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the 
Association for Supervision and Curriculum 
Development (Chicago, IL, March 19-22, 199A) . 
Speeches/Conference Papers (150) — Reports - 
Research/Technical (143) 

EDRS PRICE MF01/PC02 Plus Postage. 

DESCKIPTORS Content Analysis; Higher Education; Media Research; 

'''Textbook Bias; '''Textbook Content; Textbook 
Evaluation; Textbook Research; Textbooks ; '''United 
States History 


This paper examines how the discourse of textbooks 
leaves various impressions upon students regarding our democratic 
ideals of justice and equality. A qualitative content analysis of 
five widely sold secondary U.S. history textbooks was conducted. The 
content areas analyzed were the Japanese American internment during 
World War II and related issues dealing with the treatment of 
minorities. The paper argues that schools must develop critically 
thinking, socially conscientious students willing and capable of 
extending democratic ideals of equality and social justice to the 
economic, political, and social arenas. The study concludes that most 
secondary U.S. history textbooks not only fail to develop but also 
hinder the development of critical citizenship by presenting a 
mystified representation of American history and providing inadequate 
educational tools for the classroom. Developing strategies to 
encourage critical reflection by students must be the goal of 
schof'ls. Contains 16 references. (EH) 

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Fleeing Prom Democratic Ideals: The Content of U. S. History Textbooks. 

A Paper Presented at the Association for Supervision and Curriculum 

Development Annual Meeting ^cuium 

Chicago^ Illinois 
March, 1994 


\^ ■ 

Xt^^'S document has b«en reproouced as 

* moTl^'^'"^* °' opinions Staled in this docu 
OCR represent othca. 

OtRI posjiion Of pohcy 



Michael R Romanowski 
Ohio Northern University 
Center for Teacher Education and Certification 
Ada, Ohio 45810 



The process of schooling is entrenched in many assumptions that are 
treated as natural and accepted as common sense. Among these is an 
unquestioning faith and reliance in the traditional textbook. This faith 
regards textbooks as indispensable educational tools used to pass on to 
students what we as a culture deem "important" They govern the learning 
process and provide students with culturally significant knowledge. This 
knowledge is believed to be necessary in order to develop citizens who 
understand our heritage and have grasped the meaning of our deeply held 
democratic values. 

Although the public regards textbooks as unbiased and accurate, they 
are not irmocent educational tools that simply teach students skills and 
knowledge. Textbooks attempt to "shape" the minds of students, that is, to 
induce attitudes and ways of looking at the world. They determine what 
counts as legitimate knowledge regarding American history. Furthermore, 
textbooks serve as a system of moral regulation by defining the criteria that 
determine truth and creating the reference points for what is considered 
morality. More importantly, U.S. history textbooks define our democratic 

The problem with textbooks is not that they promote a particular 
uuiderstanding of American history but that they pretend rhetorically not to 
do this. Textbooks claim "objectivity" and as McLaren (1989) argues, 
••knowledge acquired in school-or anywhere, for that matter— is never 
neutral or objective but is ordered and structured in particular ways" (p. 
169). The history provided by textbooks is never value-free and nonmoral 

but rather creates impressions and images that later become students* 
explanations, beliefs, and understanding of the world. 

This article examines through a qualitative content analysis of 
secondary U.S. history textbooks how the discourse of textbooks leaves 
various impressions upon students regarding our democratic ideals of justice 
and equality. I suggest that the authors put forth little effort in making 
inequality, injustices, and racism problematic or open to discussion. Rather, 
textbooks evade issues that center on our democratic values of justice and 

The theoretical bases is Habermas's theory of knowledge constitutive 
interests. Emphasizing the technical interest, I discuss findings that 
demonstrate that despite textbooks claim to objectivity, there is evidence 
that this form of objectivity denies ethical values by presenting knowledge in 
an instrumental manner. In turn, this technical discourse is ideological and 
serves the pragmatic purpose of supporting particular interests by justifying 
the text* s arguments. Finally, I speculate on how teachers can utilize 
Habermas' emancipatory interest to free students from the imposed 
meanings of textbooks. 


The study used five popular secondary school U.S. history textbooks, 
determining the top five publishing companies from information supplied by 
the American Textbook Council and the American Association of Publishers. 
All five companies selected refused to release information concerning the 
usage of a particular textbook. However, the marketing departments of each 
publisher agreed to disclose the title for what was considered their "best- 
selling* secondary American history tcxtoook.* These titles are not based on 

the publisher's opinion of the quality of the textbooks, rather each title 
represents the U.S. history book that sells the most copies. Since the top 
five publishers provided the information, the books examined can be 
considered to be very popular U.S. history textbooks and serve as an 
excellent sample that is representative of the history textbooks used in most 
American public schools. 

The content areas to be analyzed were the Japanese American 
internment during World War II and related issues dealing with ttie 
treatment of minorities. Each individual passage dealing with the 
internment of the Japanese during World War II served as the starting point 
of the analysis. Four categories based on Habcrmasf s technical interest 
served as a framework used to guide the analysi&2 "The particular passage 
was read, analyased, and marked in according to each category. Although the 
study centers on the internment, other relevant issues regarding the 
treatment of minorities are examined These issues were determined by the 
individual textibook. For example, the following excerpt demonstrates how 
the various historical events were selected. 
Americans also suffered deep anxieties and fears. However, these fears did 
not lead to the widespread repressions of minority groups that occurred in 
World War L (Todd & Curti 1990, p. 807) 
This prompts an analysis of the textbook's treatment of minorities during 
World War L These various "moves" continued throughout the study until 
information became redundant and there were no "new" findings. 

Although it would have been equally appropriate to analyze the 
treatment of slavery or any other historical event that centers on the 
treatment of minorities and controversy, the internment of the Japanese 
Americans during World War II was selected partly because of my 




experience teaching the event in high school and partly because it has been 
largely ignored by those who have examined the content of secondary 
history textbooks. It is also important to realize that my own understanding 
of the ideals of justice and equality underlies the analysis, the development 
of the categories, and findings. 

Theoretical Frame^^srik: Habermas and Knowledge-Constitutive-InterestB. 

This study invokes the work of Gennan social theorist Jurgen 
Habermas who makes a distinction among various forms of knowledge. For 
Habermas (1971), knowledge is never predetermined or simply external, 
rather it is the result of human activity that is motivated by needs and 
interests. The manner in which we select, organize, and structure 
knowledge is based upon various interests, which in turn shapes our 
perception of the world. 

According to Habermas, all knowledge is "historically and socially 
rooted and interests bound" (Ewert 1991, p. 347). "Even something as basic 
as the survival of the human species is not a matter of instinct and random 
behaviors. It is grounded in knowledge and human action" (Grundy 199 1, p. 
9). A relationship exists between the orientation of humans and knowledge, 
where even our basic actions are organized and revolve around knowledge 
and interests. 

For Habermas, all knowing has a knowledge-constitutive-interest 
This concept is used to explain thf relationship that exists between 
knowledge and human interests. Habermas realizes that there are various 
fundamental human interests that influence the construction of knowledge. 
Therefore, we must reject 

ERIC i: 

the idea that knowledge is produced by some sort of 'pure' intellectual 
act in which the knowing subject is himself 'disinterested.' 
Knowledge is never the outcome of a 'mind* that is detached from 
everyday concerns. On the contrary, it is always constituted on the 
basis of interests developed out of the natural needs of the human 
species and that have been shaped by historical and social conditions. 
(Carr & Kemmis, 1986, p. 134) 
Knowledge-constitutive interests shape what we consider as knowledge and 
govern the construction of categories that organize that knowledge. 
Cherryholraes (1988) argues that "knowledge does not exist apart from the 
constitutive interests that lead to its production. There is no clear, distinct 
line of demarcation between knowledge on one side and ideology, human 
interests, and power on the other" (p. 84). Simply stated, various interests 
shape and determine what counts as legitimate forms of knowledge. 

Habermas identifies three basic interests. These arc the technical, 
the practical and the emancipatory. Acknowledging all three interests, this 
study limits discussion to the technical and the emancipatory. These serve 
as the foundation of the theory utilized in this study and the basis for 

The technical interest finds its philosophical basis in positivism, 
which claims that valid knowledge can only be established by reference to 
that which is experienced by the senses. It is assumed that there is an 
objective world where knowledge can be neutral and value free (Carr and 
Kemmis 1986). Positivism assumes "that empirical analytical research can 
identify law-like regularities in the social world, which can be identified and 
manipulated as with objects in the physical world" (Giroux 1981, p. 151). 
This way of knowing sees individual action as not the result of "subjective 

reflective consciousness" (Ewert 1991. p. 349) but rather, considers 
individual action to be understood "as something governed by invariant 
functional laws that operate beyond the individual actors* personal control" 
(Carr & Kemmis 1986, p. 59). 

The technical interest rests on the idea that the interests of human 
beings is found in acquiring knowledge that will accommodate their 
technical control over natural objects. This type ofknowledge is labeled 
instrumental or technical knowledge, and leads to what Haberraas calls 
instrumental rationality. Instrumental rationality refers to the "manipulation 
and control of the environment prediction about observable physical or 
social events, based on empirical knowledge and governed by technical 
rules; and the criterion of effective control of reality, which determine the 
appropriateness of action- (Mezirow 1981. p. 4). The end result is the 
reduction of "moral, aesthetic, educational and political issues to technical 
problems: why and what are reduced to how" (Bullough & Goldstein 1984, p. 

According to Habermas, different human interests require different 
forms ofknowledge which in turn, require different ways of knowing and 
different forms of rationality. It is important to realize that each rationality 
is a valid process for knowing within its individual domain of knowledge. 
However, problems occur when aU ways of knowing are subjected to a single 
form of rationality. In particular, Habermas criticizes the use of 
instrumental rationality as the criterion for aU forms of knowledge. He does 
not reject the empirical-analytic sciences or instrumental rationality, but he 
does reject Uieir "universal application as the only valid form ofknowledge" 
(Ewert 1991, p. 350). Lim ting knowledge to the technical interest 



prevents discussion of ethical issues and preserts knowledge as natural and ' 

This criticism can be easily directed toward the knowledge found in 
secondary U.S. history textbooks where knowledge constructed under 
instrumental reasoning fails to provide guidance in ethical-political matters. 
Although textbook knowledge claims to be neutral and objective, the 
instrumental knowledge serves particular interests and is ideological. 
Ideology is in this sense described by Young (1990) as 

the taken for granted knowledge and practices which serve the interests 
of some groups or sections of society but not the interests of alL Ideok}gy 
gets its power from the fact that this one-sided interest is disguised as 
cither being actually in the interests of all or outside the realm of human 
control all together~-as a fact of nature. The most powerM form which 
ideology can take is to be taken-for-granted— to be not only natural but 
unquestioned, even, unarticulated. (p. 28) 
Textbooks often utilize instrumental knowledge to limit the discussion of 
history to that of "objective" facts and concepts. The knowledge serves a 
pragmatic purpose of defending the textbook's arguments. Embedded in 
this technical discourse is an ideological framework which denies issues of 
justice and equality in turn limiting discussion of the appropriateness of 
governmental and individual action. The knowledge not only serves to 
support the arguments and interests of some groups but also avoids 
questioning the ethical issues regarding individual and governmental actioa 
This one-sided interest is disguised under the mask of historical objectivity 
and is granted the status of truth. 

The following discussion addresses several ways in which the 
instrumental knowledge of textbooks fails to raise Issues of justice and 

Er|c a 

equality*, ; n ttim defining these democratic vt *ues and serving particular 

Stripping History of Significant Moral Issues 

Instrumental rationality assumes objectivity which reduces knowledge 
to a realm of so-called "objective" facts. This form of objectivity denies that 
ethical values exist or tliey arc understood as unimportant It is assumed 
that questions centering on morals and values can and should be separated 
from facts or various modes of inquiry. The tendency is to accept the given 
forms of the human world by centering on questions of what is rather than 
why or what might be. 

This is often the case regarding U.S. history textbooks. The 
knowledge found in tex^ooks is isolated from its moral components and 
historical Interpretation becomes a technical task. Emphasis is placed upon 
objective facts and concepts that are stripped of our democratic ideals of 
justice and equality. Not only does this knowledge exclude significant 
moral issues but also provides supports for a particular interpretation of U.S. 
history. When instrumental thinking is considered to be the criterion for all 
forms of historical knowledge, students often fall to tmderstand the mox-al 
issues and related consequences regarding U.S. history. 

As an example, most textbooks trivialize the conditions of the 
Internment camps, downplay the personal property losses suffered by the 
victims, and fail to raise the many possible motives for the internment 
These exclusions deal with the interests of unscrupulous politicians who 
believed that they would gain support by favoring the camps, selfish 
economic reasons of farmers and business associations who thought that 
they would gain by reducing Japanese American competitors, leaders of 


racial discrimination, fascistic thinking including racism, scapegoating, and 
other interests that were served by the internment Possible reasons for 
racist policies such as the physical features of the Japanese Americans and 
their lack of political power are never possibilities in history textbooks. 
Furthermore, most textbooks fail to discuss "recent" court cases and 
government actions which made formal apologies and compensated the 
ancestors of the internment victims. ^ 

Eliminated from the discussion are issues such as racism, 
discrimination, civil rights and ethnocentrism, which are not only the 
central elements of the Japanese internment but also are crucial in the 
discussion of the treatment of minorities. This in turn, camouflages our 
democratic ideals of justice and equality. This stripping of moral Issues is 
evident in the following excerpt: 

There was no evidence that these Americans were disloyal They were 
forced to sell their homes and businesses on short notice and at sacrifice 
prices. They then were confined in camps, watched by guards, and 
treated as if they were dangerous. Not until after the presidential 
election of 1944 did the government change its policy and begin to 
release these innocent citizens. (Boorstein et aL, 1990, p. 677) 
Although the textbook acknowledges that the internment was "for no good 
reason," the Japanese Americans were "innocent citizens," and there was no 
evidence of disloyalty, the account is simply stated in mere technical terms. 
Issues of racism, prejudice, and ethnocentrism are divorced from the 
internment. Moral principles such as "justice" and "equality" are neither 
raised nor are the words justice and equality used in the textbook account of 
the relocation. Even though they were "innocent citizens," issues of civil 



rights and the government's moral and legal responsibility for the welfare of 
its citizens is eliminated from the discussion. 

The ideological framework that denies the existence of ethical issues 
is evident in the following excerpt which addresses the role of African 
Americans in the military during World War 11. The text states that 

about 371,000 black Americans served in World War L but, as in earlier 
wars, they often met prejudice and discrimination They were restricted 
to separate units, recreation centers, and living accommodations. Most 
of tlie 200,000 black troops sent to Europe served in noncombatant 
battalions, though many of them requested combat duty. All of the 
10,000 blacks who served in the navy were assigned to non-combat 
duties. As the war progressed the bravery and couiage of black units 
under fire were plain to see. (Todd and Curti, p. 678) 
This example demonstrates how instrumental rationality limits the portrayal 
of U.S. history to ir\strumental knowledge that is used cO exclude discussion 
of our democratic ideals. Discrimination and racism are discussed in a 
"matter of fact" manner and simply treated unproblematically rendering 
democratic ideals irrelevant Furthermore, the social, economic, and 
political conditions that created the situation remain unquestioned. 

Limiting Meaning-Preciscly Defined Concepts 

Based upon objectivity, instrumental rationality considers knowledge 
to exist outside of the individual and is subjected to the demands of an exact 
and precise formulation This is evident in textbooks when U.S. history "is 
reduced to those concepts and 'facts' that can be operationally defined, that 
is, they have precise meaning and defirations" (Giroux 1981, p. 151). 


Textbooks transform abstract and multifaceted meanings into technical and 

exact terms. This limits possible meanings and excludes ethical concerns. 
As an example in several textbooks, the definition of the concept of 

loyalty is restricted and reduced to simply military service and performance. 

For example, Todd and Curti (1990) define loyalty in the following manner. 
Yet there had never been any real proof that these Japanese Americans 
had been disloyal Indeed, nearly all of the Nisei remained toyal, patriotic 
American citizens despite their harsh, unfair treatment Many of those 
allowfed to serve in the armed forces distinguished themselves for 
braveiy. (p. 808) 

This excerpt serves as more than a simple example of loyalty. It defines 
the criteria used to determine the loyalty for Japanese American citizens. 
By excluding other examples of Japanese American loyalty and failing to 
raise additional aspects of what it means to be a loyal U.S. citizen, the text 
limits meaning and reduces complicated concepts to precise definitions. 

This continues when Bragdon, McCutchen and Ritchie (1992) 
define loyalty in the following manner. 

despite their unhappy experience, most Japanese Americans remained 
loyal to the United States. More than 8,000 were drafted, and more than 
9,000 others volunteered for military service. A Japanese American army 
unit recruited from detention camps fought in the Italian campaign and 
was the army's most decorated unit during the war. (p. 884) 
For Japanese Americans, loyalty is reduced to military service and 
performance. This precise meaning not only eliminates many possible 
aspects of what it means to be loyal but also camouflages issues that 
center on Justice and equality. For example, Japanese Americans were 
citizens by birth, taxpayers, members of communities, voters, parents, 



and children alike. Even though "there had never been any real proof of 
disloyalty," the Japanese had to prove their loyalty by serving in the 
military. Other citizens, some of German descent, were not required to 
substantiate their loyalty. Japanese Americans were denied their basic 
civil rights. 

Excluded from the discussion is the government's denial of basic 
civil rights and the moral and legal responsibilities for the vi^clfare of its 
citizens, discussion of racism and discrimination, and other ethical 
questions centering on justice and equality for all citizens are avoided 
Instead of addressing just and equal treatment of citizens, the 
instrumental definition centers on the usefulness of military service 
which is then considered the good and the criterion for right conduct- 
being loyaL This instrumental thinking eliminates any need for ethical 
choices, since any choice is based on purely technical knowledge rather 
than on moral values Emphasis is no longer placed on morality but 
rather morality is reduced to merely simple defined facts and laws. 

When textbooks frame knowledge in a form associated vsdth objectivity, 
a situation is created where neither students nor teachers ask how the 
definitions and meanings developed. The pedagogical danger of this 
objective "framing of educational knowledge is that it will undermine, rather 
than enhance, the student reader's capacity to criticize; that once in the 
classroomi, textual authority will become textual authoritarianism precluding 
criticism" (Luke, De Castell & Luke 1989, p. 247). Limiting meaning with 
precisely define terms encourages students to accept textbook knowledge 
rather than criticize the imposed meanings of textbooks. Consequently, 
history textbooks must begin to draw attention to the complexity of terms 
such as loyalty. For example, the textbook American Voices (Bcrkin ct aL 



1992) moves beyond this instrumental definition and begins to question the 
issue of the Japanese Americans having to prove their loyalty by presenting 
differing perspectives. The text states that 

In 1976 President Gerald Ford proclaimed: We now know what we should 
have known then — not only was the evacuation wrong but Japanese 
Americans were and are loyal Americans. On the battlefield and at home 
the names of Japanese Americans have been and continue to be written 
in American history for the sacrifices and contributions they have made 
to the well-being and the security of this, our common nation, (p. 856) 
The text continues by raising the issue of civil rights and introducing the 
voice of Arthur Morimitsu, a victim of the internment 

In 1988, Japanese Americans received a formal apology from the United 
States government for the harm it had caused in violating their civil 
rights during World War IL Congress also voted to compensate the 
survivors in the amount of $20,000 each. Arthur Morimitsu expressed 
the views of many survivors: Frankly, a lot of us {intemeesl were not 
looking for monetary (paymentsl. We wanted recognition that we were 
loyal, that interning loyal American citizens was wrong, (p. 856) 
This view presents a "complex" definition of loyalty and draws attention to 
the social construction and context dependence of meanings. The 
introduction of differing perspectives begins to raise issues centering on 
■right" and "wrong," justice, and equality. 4 This creates a space for 
students to situate U.S. history with respect to questions of social justice and 
human freedom. 


The Ends Justify the Means 

McLaren (1989) describes instrumental rationality as "a way of looking 
at the world in which 'ends' are subordinated to questions of 'means' and in 
which 'facts' are separated from questions of 'values' (186). Historical events 
are treated as simply technical matters where emphasis is place upon 
already decided ends rather than the means. Ends are affirmed in lieu of 
being explained as a social reality. This renders ethical issues as 
insignificant and discussion is limited to what is-never acknowledging the 
factors behind the facts. 

Carlson (1989) points out that textbooks depoliticize issues through 
the use of a "narrowly instrumental, means-ends way of thinking. That is, 
issues tend to t»e treated merely as technical matters, and the only df±»ate 
normally recognized is over the most effective means of achieving" a desired 
goal (p. 47). This is especially true regarding the treatment of African 
Americans and economic advancement For example, Bragdon, McCuthen, 
and Ritchie ( 1992) argue that "although discrimination against workers led 
to race riots in 26 northern cities in 1917, African Americans in the north 
made significant economic gains during the war" (p. 747). Emphasis is 
placed upon the "end results" where African Americans tolerate violence and 
racism in exchange for economic gahis. This deflects attention frtnn our 
de^nocratlc ideals and legitimizes discrimination and violence in the name 
of economic gain Issues related to justice and equality appear to be 
unimportant or secondary since blacks were rewarded with economic gain 

In addition, Jordan, Greenblatt, and Bowes (1988) describe the plight 
of African Americans in a similar manner when they argue that "despite the 
violence, however, the economic standing of blacks improved considerably 

during the war (p. 861). These descriptions create an impression thae 
economic advancement outweighs justice and equality. Economic growth is 
portrayed as the ultimate goal and well worth the suffering blacks endured. 
In a sense, economic gain is justice. In this case, the ends (economic gain) 
are affirmed and the means (violence and discrimination) are left 
unquestioned or justified. 

When emphasis is placed on the ends, the authors promote a 
particular understanding of our democratic values. By denying that these 
values are relevant to the economic status of African Americans, justice is 
defined as compensation (economic gain) and equality is discussed in 
economic terms. Economic advancement and gain are placed above justice 
and equality. Justice is reduced to receiving economic advancement-<-no 
matter how attained. 

Beyond Our Control-"NaturBl Social Lawra" 

Regarding instrumental rationaUty, Habermas argues against its law- 
like relationships. He makes a distinction between two types of cause and 
effect relationshipa First, there is an invariant cause and effect relationship 
that will always in all situations hold true. For example, this relationship can 
be found in the physical sciences concerning the law of gravity. When an 
object is dropped to the ground, the outcome will always be the same, no 
matter where or what conditions exist Individtial consciousness plays no 
role in the physical law of gravity. 

However, invariant cause and effect relationships cannot be applied to 
human behavior because they rarely occiir in social contexts where 
conscious human thinking subjects act Cause and effect relationships 
located in the social world exist because of social relations, factors, and 

conditions that are changeable. Although "human actions are constrained by 
physical, social, and subjective factors, they are not invariantly determined" 
(Ewcrt 1991, p. 360). 

Concerning cause and effect relationships, instrumental thinking 
assumes that individual actions arc governed and determined by what can be 
termed "natural social laws." These are technical explanations of human 
behavior where certain natural social laws deterministically govern human 
action and are used to justify selected human behavior. This approach to 
knowledge creates "new forms of mystification which make the social world 
seem mechanistic and predeterministic (Giroux 1981, p. 54). Human 
behavior is situated beyond the social realities and relationships of people 
rendering human action beyond the individual's control 

UJS. history textbooks arc often virritten in this deterministic manner. 
Human action is portrayed as being caused and controlled by these "natuiBl 
social laws," consisting of natural consequences that determine appropriate 
human response and behavior. As an example in several textbooks, the 
internment is described in terms of a natural social law. Todd and Curti 
( 1990) describe the internment in the following mannen 

Americans also suffered deep anxieties and fears. However, these 
fears did not lead to the widespread repressions of minority groups 
that occurred in World War I. The tragic exception to this overall 
tolerance was the forced relocation of some 100,00 Americans of 
Japanese birth or parentage, (p. 808) 
After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, many American were 
genuinely fearful of a Japanese attack on the United States. This fear was 
soon turned against the Nisei-native-born Americans whose ancestors 
came from Japan The text portrays Americans as having a natural fear of 



the Japanese.^ Since the Japanese are naturally aggressive, they were a 
threat to the security of the nation. American fear of the Japanese, which 
is often the justification for the internment, is articulated as a natural 
social law governing the actions ar«i consequences of individuals. 
Americans struggle with their anxieties and fears and overcame "major" 
oppression of minority groups similar to that of Wfjrld War I Soon this 
fear overcomes Americans, and it is turned against the NiscL Fear is 
assumed to be "out there," and its natural outconres are discrimination, 
hate, scapegoating and internment camps. 

We must realize that the relationship between fear and the internment 
exists because of social relations, factors, and conditions that are changeable. 
The fiailure of textbooks in presenting and discussing other reasons for the 
internment encourages the acceptance of this invariant cause and effect 
relationship, possibly justifying the internment based upon fear and military 
necessity. This depoliticlzes and separates the knowledge from other 
related moral and ethical issues, making it difficult for students to recognize 
and raise issues of justice and equality. More importantly, whose interests 
arc being served by these representations of UJ5. history? 

In addition, natural social laws are evident when the issue of 
segregation is addressed in a section titled "Banning Discrimination." 
Jordan, Greenblatt, and Bowes (1992) describe discrimination as follows: 
Opening up industrial employment to blacks and other minorities had 
several effects. The movement of black fieunilies from the South into 
northern and western cities continued the change in the nation's racial 
map that had started during World War I. It also led to a series of 
lynchings and race riots. The worst outtjreak took place in Detroit in 
June 1942. Twenty-five blacks and nine whites were killed, and 



countless others were injiired Despite the violence, however, the 
economic standing of blacks improved considerably during the war. (p. 

This cause and effect relationship isolates the movement of blacks into 
white cities as the cause of violence and killings instead of addressing the 
underlying causes of the violence, lynchings, and race riots-racism and 

Again we see human action articulated as a natural social law that 
reduces behavior to simplistic terms. This discussion of racial violence is 
limited to the movement of African Americans into "white" northern cities 
and the effects of this movement which is violence. The failure to link 
discrimination and racism to the violence in northern cities reinforces the 
dominance of instrumental knowledge as the only way of knowing. Natural 
social laws and a lack of discussion centering on significant moral issioes is 
the end result 

The portrayal of human action as invariant cause and effect 
relationships is evident in the various textbooks examined. Natural social 
laws continue to dominate the various portrayals of women, African 
Americans, and Japanese Americans. Most textbooks foil to link sexism, 
racism, ethnocentrism, and discrimination which are the underlying causes 
of the segregation of these groups during their military service. 
Furthermore, textbooks seldom raise the causes of segregation or question 
the institutionalized racism during World War II. These policies are 
discussed unproblematlcally and treated as "natural" behavior. 



Emancipatory ilnawlcdge and UJS. History Textbooks Possible Responses 

These findings demonstrate that the discourse of secondary American 
history textbooks encourages readers to accept a particiilar understanding of 
the world. The instrumental knowledge found in history textbooks Is 
ideological and promotes an ethical position, one which eliminates any 
discussion of the ethical choices. Therefore, teachers and students must 
move beyond the mere technical treatment of historical events and take up 
the emancipatory interest of knowledge that emphasizes critical reflection 
of both the self and the institutions and ideologies that distort our 
unvlerstanding of history. 

The emancipatory interest is found in "our interest in self-knowledge 
through self-reflection, which leads to knowledge of how our past influences 
our current state (Mczirow 1981, p. 5). This fosters a historical perspective 
which refers to an awareness that "the way things are is not the way they 
have always been or must necessarily be in the future" (Glroux 1993, p. 28). 
Emancipatory knowledge centers on critical self-reflection and the 
individual's "capacity to achieve freedom from self-imposed constraints, 
reified social forces and institutions, and conditions of distorted 
communication" (Roderick 1986, p. 56). Since the technical interest wiU 
not facilitate autonomy because of its emphasis on control, the emancipatory 
interest must take the forefront by encouraging the reader to engage in a 
critical reflection rather than accepting the way things are. 

Critical reflection should be understood as "the systematic exploration 
by the knowing and acting subject of his or her formation as a person and/ or 
of the social history within which that formation has taken place" (Young 
1990, p. 34). This is accomplished by self-reflection which ideally reveals 
distorted self-knowledge and institutional domination. This requires a 

Er|c 21 

process where individuals develop a theory about themselves, society, and 
Ideology. Yoting (1990) points out that there are two types of reflection. 
First there is a "reflection on and reconstruction of the general or universal 
features of human nature and the possibility of knowledge" (p. 37). This 
type of reflection centers on the subjective conditions that make knowledge 
possible. The second type of reflection "refers to Marxian idea of critique of 
ideology which involves reflection capable of freeing the subject from hidden 
constraints in the structure of social action and speech" (Roderick 1986. p. 

Regarding critical reflection and its relationship to history textbooks, 
students must engage in a self-reflection process that exposes how their 
identity and world view are shaped and constructed by knowledge. They 
must analyze their own lives in order to develop an imderstanding of 
injustices in society and to develop constructive responses. This requires 
students to position themselves so they can question their our own racist 
beliefs and their acceptance of economic socicil and political inequalities 
that have created these conditions. 

The importance of students becoming conscious of their own world 
view and beliefs takes on an added significance when coupled with ethical 
frameworks based on democratic ideals. This demands the development of 
a language of social criticism, one that raises questions centering on 
oppression and injustices and utilizes ethical frameworks that can be 
applied to both historical and contemporary issues. . 

In addition,, critical reflection requires that students gvasp the 
meaning of "objectivity" and comprehend what a point of view and a theory 
are. They must comprehend the idea that the textbook's interpretation of 
an event is not value-free but only one of the many possible perspectives. 

ErJc 22 

This requires students to learn the meaning of a "frame of reference" and be 
capable of uncovering the various perspectives that play a major role in 
deciding, selecting, and organizing the information that makes up their 
American history textbooks. 

Second, students must be capable of penetrating the "ideological sub- 
texts embedded in their history textbooks, and also the contradictions 
within these ideologies" (Carlson 1989, p. 53). In this case, ideology is 
viewed as a "set of assumptions of which we are barely conscious but which 
nonetheless directs our efforts to give shape and coherence to tiic world" 
(Postman, p. 123). This taken-for-granted knowledge and the interests It 
serves goes unquestioned, and it is only in the creation of classrooms where 
students can come to grips with the issues created by the destruction of 
textbooks meaning that they can begin to understand the reason why of 
thingK and the way the world work& As Glrotix (1993, p. 120) argues "at 
issue here is the need to develop pedagogical practices that do more than 
read off ideologies as they are produced within particular texts." Untii 
students are conscious of the ideologies embedded within the text, they are 
passive victims of the meanings imposed by textbooks. 

Accordingly, teachers must draw attention to the knowledge 
constructed by history tcxtbooka No longer can we assume that textbooks 
are either innocent instructional tools or can teachers assume that the 
knowledge that creeps Into their textbooks is objective and neutral Rather, 
teachers must critically respond to the meanings and knowledge presented 
in texttjooks. Cherryholmes (1985) points out that 

the way teachers respond to textbooks is a decisive moment in tcachi) g, 
a pivotal point in dealing with meaning and meanings. . . Teachers 
continually choose whether to reinforce knowledge claims presented as 

Page 31 

authoritative and structured or to expose their partiality. . . The structural 
thrust of textbooks proposes local organizations of knowledge to be 
global thereby smuggling ideological biases into the constitution of 
subjectivities, the way we view ourselves and our place in the world If 
teaching reinforces these biases, the social construction of meaning 
remains hidden, they are treated as 'natural,' and they are reified, (p. 72) 
Teachers and students must develop a "critical eye" when reading and using 
their textbooks. This means that we must provide students with the 
analytical tools that make them capable of challenging those representations 
that produce lacism, sexism, injustices, inequalities and the conditions and 
structures that allow their existence. This encourages students to uncover 
and locate the world views and ideologies present, recognize the moral 
position embedded in the text, and gain awareness as to how knowledge 
shapes their own values and understandings of the world. They must move 
beyond a simplistic historical analysis that emphasizes the technical or 
concrete events and begin to understand the larger social forces at woric 

I suggest as a prerequisite that teachers and students assess and 
critique the meanings and biases embedded in their own world view and 
belief system This is vital, since the biases in textbooks often parallel the 
biases and prejudices of teachers and students (Shaver 1967). "Educators 
need to understand and develop in their pedagogies how identities arc 
produced differently, how they take up narratives of the past through the 
stories and experiences of the present" {Giroux 1993, p. 1 18). 

However, these reflections must not be simply romanticized and 
celebrated as difference. We must uncover the moral, ethical, and 
ideological frarraworks that structure our understandings of particular 
situations. Critical reflection must be treated problematically and viewed 

within an ethical framework of social justice. This will sensitize students to 
the many contradictions that exist within their own thinking but more 
importantly the contradictions found within otir democratic ideals that often 
result in equality arxd justice for the select few and oppression and 
discrimination for others. 

Finally, the old saying goes that "nothing is inevitable except death and 
taxes." There are many educators that would add textbooks to that list 
Regardless of the improvements in technology, textbooks still determine 
the version of U.S. history that students have the opportunity to learn. 
Therefore, teachers must demand better quality textbooks that center on 
making ethical choices and raising issues regarding our democratic ideals. I 
recommend that textbooks similar to American Voices be utilized in 
secondary U.S. history classes. 

Scott Foresman and Zotrv^BXiy wanted to provide a multicultural 
emphasis that moved beyond simple "raent{oning" but rather served as the 
guiding framcworic of the development of the textbook. They were 
concerned that the text provide a plurality of views and that the "ordinary 
American" was represented. 6 The text* s emphasis upon the social aspects 
of American history rather than the traditional emphasis upon American 
political and military history, enables the authors to begin raising ethical 
issues that center upon questions of social justice, human freedom, and 
equality. The underlying feature of the textbook is its emphasis on American 
voices rather than a single American voice (which is the case with most 
tcxtbooksX This text provides students with multiple voices, raises morally 
significant issues, enhances critical reading and thinking skills, and 
attempts to spark interest and relevancy in students by centering on 
American social history. 

In closing, for a democracy to survive and flourish, schools must 
develop critically thinking, socially conscientious students willing and 
capable of extending our democratic ideals of equality and social justice to 
the economic, political, and social arenas. This requires that citizens own 
the analytical tools needed to interrogate the ethical aspects of knovsrledgc 
that appear to be an objective and universal portrayal of reality. My flndings 
suggest that most secondary U.S. history textbooks not only fail to develop 
Imt also hinder the development of critical citizenship by presenting a 
mystified representation of American history. Therefore, they should be 
viewed as inadequate educational tools. 

In spite of the reliance upon textbooks and standardized testing, 
schools must emphasis critical citizenship and democracy. This begins by 
moving beyond the instrumental knowledge of textbooks and developing 
strategies that encourage critical reflection. The goal of this type of 
education is not to "attack the life-world of studcnts-to 'make trouble'. 
Rather, it should be to assist students to make an effective job of 
reconstructing the already problematic parts of their life-world through 
communicative, problem-solving learning" (Young 1990, p. 71). This type of 
education offers students the opportunity to not only identiiy, challenge, and 
rewrite their own histories but to rethink and demystify the particular U.S. 
history endorsed by textbooks. 

Can students break into our democratic ideals by studying textbooks 
that deny the existence of justice and equality or by memori^sing historical 
events portray injustices? It is time to move beyond equating good students 
and citizens with high test scores and begin to emphasize the more serious 
and profound matters that produce inequalities in our culture. 

^ The U^. history textbooks surveyed included Berkia Carol. Alan Brinkley. Claybome 
Carsoa Robert W, Chcmy, Robert A. Divine. Eric Foncr, Jeffery B. Morris, Arthur Wheeler, and 
i*onard Wood Aiaeriean VoJces. Glenview. IIL- Scott Fore«man and Company, 199:^ 
Boorstin, Daniel J, and Brooks M KeUey. A History of the Vh/tvd States Since imi 
Engtewood dlfrs. N. Prentice HaU, 1990; Bragdon. Henry W, Samuel P. McCutchca and 
Donald A. Ritchie. HistayofainreeNation Weaterville, Ohia Glencoe Division: 
Macmillian/McGraw Hill School Publishing. 1992; Jordan. Winthrop D, Miriam Greenblatt. 
and John a Bowes. The Americana Evanstoa Illinois: McDougal, Llttel and Company. 1988; 
Todd. Uwis P, and Merle CurtL mumph oftheAmeiicaniVation Orlando^ Florida Harcourt. 
Brace and Jovanovlch. Inc. 1990. 

2 The categories used in the anslyria and related flndings are discuswd in detaU later In the 
article. The categories are as follows: Stripping U.& History of Moral Issuer Means to End 
Reasoning; Precise Definitions; and Natural Social Laws. 

3 For example; Prealdcnt Reagan's signing of pubUc law 100-383 on 8/ 1/88 which made 
apologies and restitution of $1.25 biDion to individual Japanese ancestry who were interned 
during the war is excluded, 

^ Out of the five textbooks examined, American Voices begins to move beyond instrumental 
thinking hy raising isci^fs of justice and equaUty. I would recommend the use of this textbook 
and discuss specific details later in the article. 

5 It is important to note that prior to the internment all five textbooks examined described the 
J^Mnese people and culture from a ralUtary perspective that wtumes they are aggressive; 



miliUrlotic; and kamikazes. The language portrays the Japanese in a deterministic manner, 
Le. all Japanese are aggressive^ Thia perspective is reinforc-td by most textbooks when they fsil 
to discuss the difference between Japanese militarist and the civilian population. In addition, 
excluding other vital elements of Japanese culture aids in relnfordt^ the affiresslvt image. I 
believe that this Impression of the J^anese might possibly reinforce stereotypicca images 
held by readers. This might later aflect students^ views of the internment and hdp exscourage 
their acceptance of natural social laws. 

^ Information regarding the uniqueness of the textbook and Publishing Con^>anys intentions 
and purposes for prodxaclng a bo<rik like American Voices was supplied by the executive editor. 



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