August 2017

Back to School: The Activist History Review Reviews High School History Textbooks

As part of our special issue on “education” this month, we’re excited to feature a series of reviews of high school history textbook units by professional historians.

As part of our special issue on “education” this month, we’re excited to feature a series of reviews of high school history textbook units by professional historians. In an informal discussion held between sociologist James Loewen, author of Lies My Teacher Told Me, and undergraduate and graduate students at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C., Loewen identified the decision of major academic journals not to review high school history textbooks as one of the primary factors affecting textbook quality. By not hosting textbook reviews in major journals, the academic community has significantly limited its ability to serve as a form of quality control capable of at least partially depoliticizing a demonstrably politicized process.

Such textbooks often serve as the sole authoritative source of historical knowledge for American youth. Because we at The Activist History Review believe that an accurate understanding of the past is the key to redressing modern-day inequities, we consider the task of establishing some form of academic quality control over textbooks of paramount concern. In organizing this series, we have cast a wide net for reviewers capable of taking on the sheer diversity of topics covered by the textbooks we chose. It was, at times, a challenging process, but we believe the rewards justify the task.

The challenges we faced as a small online publication perhaps hint at the reasons larger academic print journals choose not to conduct such reviews. If, however, we were ultimately capable of rising to the task under a sense of our obligation as educators, we believe that other journals are likewise capable and similarly obligated. Indeed, given their greater resources and broader audience bases, we feel sure that their capabilities and obligations are even greater than our own. We hope that this series might encourage other academic publications to follow in our footsteps. The time for inaction is long over.

For the purposes of this series, we have chosen two textbooks (one focused on US history and one focused on world history) published under McGraw-Hill’s Glencoe imprint. Both were among the top textbooks recommended by the Texas State Board of Education, which provides a template for textbook selection nationwide as the country’s largest single textbook market. The first, The American Vision, lists famed historians Joyce Appleby and James M. McPherson among its primary authors. The second, World History: Modern Times, was authored by Jackson J. Spielvogel. Below you will find a directory of links to the individual unit reviews we have solicited for each textbook. We will be publishing the reviews in sets of two during our August issue. The list below will be updated throughout the month to include links for each week’s new set of individual unit reviews.

Joyce Oldham Appleby, Alan Brinkley, Albert S. Broussard, James M. McPherson, and Donald A. Ritchie. The American Vision. New York: Glencoe McGraw-Hill, 2010.

Unit 1 – Creating a Nation, Beginnings to 1789 – reviewed by Scott Oliver

Unit 2 – The Young Republic, 1789-1850 – reviewed by Cory James Young

Unit 3 – The Crisis of Union, 1848-1877 – reviewed by Michael Johnson

Unit 4 – The Birth of Modern America, 1865-1901 – reviewed by Brian Taylor

Unit 5 – Imperialism and Progressivism, 1890-1920 – reviewed by Charles Richter

Unit 6 – Boom and Bust, 1920-1941 – reviewed by Andreas Meyris

Unit 7 – Global Struggles, 1941-1960 – reviewed by Mark Alexander

Unit 8 – A Time of Upheaval, 1954-1980 – reviewed by Christopher Culig

Unit 9 – A Changing Society, 1968-present – reviewed by Lora Burnett

Jackson J. Spielvogel. World History: Modern Times. New York: Glencoe McGraw-Hill, 2010

Unit 1 – The World Before Modern Times, Prehistory-A.D. 1500 – reviewed by Nathan Wuertenberg

Unit 2 – The Early Modern World, 1350-1815:

Chapters 5-7 – reviewed by Jennifer Tellman

Chapter 8 – reviewed by Naz Yucel

Chapter 9 – reviewed by Ruochen Chen

Chapters 10-11 – reviewed by Caio Ferreira

Unit 3 – An Era of European Imperialism, 1800-1914 – reviewed by Chelsea Davis

Unit 4 – The Twentieth-Century Crisis, 1914-1945 – reviewed by Lauren Janette

Unit 5 – Toward a Global Civilization – reviewed by Milarod Lazic

* * *

We here at The Activist History Review are always working to expand and develop our mission, vision, and goals for the future. These efforts sometimes necessitate a budget slightly larger than our own pockets. If you have enjoyed reading the content we host here on the site, please consider donating to our cause.

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