Textbook Reviews

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.