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