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Re: Ch. 12 - Why Is History Taught Like This?
Chapter 12 Discussion Questions
1.) Loewen poses the question as to whom textbooks are trying to please and then offers a number of possible responses and their fallacies. To whom do you believe textbooks are marketed? Is it effective? Is marketing and economic demand a good metric for quality textbook publication? If not, what would be the best way to bring history textbooks to market, and if so, why?
2.) Loewen cites the believe the “power elite” are in control of textbook publication and selection. Do you believe this is true or possible? How much of the US do you reckon believes it’s true? How does this relate to the belief held by many Americans (especially those on the right) that universities are breeding grounds of the intelligentsia elite? If there is a concerted effort to control the narrative of American history and politics, to what ends does it appear it is working?
3.) Loewen discusses the increase in non-text elements of history textbooks, referred to as “flash”. Do you find it’s true? Does making a textbook 50% or more non-text hurt learning or the goals of history courses? This trend seems to be increasing across all textbooks in both high school and college; do you feel this is a worry trend? Why or why not?
4.) How do you feel about the current state of author credits, wherein content may not be edited at all, or attributed to authors without their having even seen the material? Does this amount to a miscarriage of publishing? How would you feel about research journals publishing content the authors were not in full control of or bore responsibility for?
5.) Loewen indicates one of the reasons textbooks are so bad is because publishers and purchasers want to keep children idealistic. Does this work? In an age where information, analysis, and opinion are readily available on the internet, is there even a point? How does this feed back into the question of whom textbooks are trying to please when they are written? Further, how this relates to history classes teaching compliance rather than civics? Are idealism and being informed mutually exclusive?
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