The Texas Textbook Massacre

The missing part of the news report about the Texas textbook fiasco is that this is not new news. History textbooks used in most US schools have been suspect for decades. Enlightened teachers have been quietly using alternative texts for years. Many use A People’s History of the United States authored by Howard Zinn. Those enlightened teachers who sometimes put their jobs on the line are to be applauded — and protected from misinformed citizens on some School Boards.

The biased view expressed in many textbooks has been an issue as way back as the 1950s — but in the 50s too few questioned what was being taught. The US never was the way it was portrayed in textbooks. Standard US Social Studies textbooks are based on mythology. Propaganda sells books. 

Remember those good old days in the 50s? The school day began with the reading of the Bible, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Pledge to the flag. Those were the days of pretty girls in poodle skirts and cute boys with buzz cuts. The really cool ones always carried their pack of Camels rolled up in the sleeve of their sparkling white T-shirts.

Everyone was happy back then — well, not exactly everyone. Lynching continued in the south but things like that were never discussed. Talk about lynching was never heard. Lynching continued through the 60s and still was not acknowledged by many.

Facts about lynching were not the only gaps in education in the old days. Most high school students were taught that the US never did anything wrong. Meanwhile, the CIA was in Guatemala killing the people there. Many who went to school during the 50s were so brainwashed that by the time graduation came, they were anxious to enlist in the military. Korea needed to be defeated in order to preserve our national honor. Symbols of patriotism were everywhere.

Are things any better in schools now? Are students taught about covert CIA actions, about how the US got its base at Diego Garcia, about the atrocities at No Gun Ri? When history textbooks are evaluated, one of the first words that should be checked in the index is No Gun Ri. Usually there is no mention of that US war crime.

Recently, it has been interesting watching and listening to the hate talk that has been directed toward people from other countries. If we label people “illegal”, it is socially acceptable to hate them. The term “illegal alien” is loaded with prejudice. No human being is illegal. Sometimes the law can be wrong. Remember, slavery was legal — that did not make it right. Why should the geographic location of a person’s mother at the time of his birth give any special privileges or penalties?

Are all men created equal? If that is to be a cherished national value, then the color of a person’s skin, his religion, and the location of his mother at the time of his birth are all irrelevant. Prejudice based on geography is no more acceptable than prejudice based on race, creed, ethnicity, or economic status.

In the 40s and 50s WW2 was a big topic. Most students were taught the official version of that war. They learned those lessons well, not only in the classroom. The Saturday matinee was the big event of the week. Any kid with 12 cents got in. Kids without the 12 cents usually were smart enough to figure out alternative methods of entry. The movies were often war films. Hating the Japanese was a patriotic duty. Facts about the hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians in Nagasaki and Hiroshima who were needlessly slaughtered by the atomic bombs were usually omitted in any classroom discussion. About the fire bombing of Dresden — well, that didn’t matter either. After all they were Germans.

Playing cowboys and Indians was a favorite pastime.  Kids were taught to hate Indians. No thought was ever given to the fact that Columbus could not have discovered a country that already had a native population. Logic would indicate that maybe the native people who were here first were the real discoverers. The European explorers, who were heroes in the textbooks, had blood on their hands. Students never learned about their criminal acts.

In the ’50s kids grew up hating Indians, the Japanese, Germans, and black people. Kids now grow up hating Muslims, and an assortment of other groups.  

The solution to the Texas textbook dilemma is easy. Just don’t buy the books.  This would save taxpayer money at a time when school budgets are in trouble.

There are plenty of historically accurate books that should be in classrooms. Rogue State and also Killing Hope are two superior reference books authored by William Blum. William Blum is a world-renowned historian, a former member of the US State Department, and recipient of Project Censored’s award for Exemplary Journalism.

Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States is considered to be the gold standard of US history books. No classroom is complete without it.

Rosemarie Jackowski is an advocacy journalist living in Vermont. Read other articles by Rosemarie.

9 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. lichen said on May 24th, 2010 at 6:26pm #

    It is a shame that students are given no time, encouragement, or space to seek out those perspectives they would like to explore, learn about–instead they are yanked out of bed at 6am, and sent to prison-schools where they are forced to follow the set curriculum that most often excludes authors like Zinn and told if they don’t agree with it, they fail; until the day they are kicked out of the classroom and forced to get a minimum wage job; no room for real knowledge. The attacks that students are suffering from in Texas and Arizona (also of course we know children are still beaten in Texas public schools) are really sick. What a miserable, racist, exclusionary, delusional curriculum.

    It is definitely true that no one is illegal–but I wish people would focus on perhaps labelling the real criminals with such a name–such as the bush’s, clinton’s, kissinger, rice, albright, obama etc. who cut social services and destroyed the local quality of life while murdering millions of people. Thanks for mentioning No Gun Ri–it disgusts me that the US has not only not been prosecuted for this, but continues to interfere in Korean politics.

  2. beverly said on May 24th, 2010 at 6:56pm #

    Well said Rosemarie.

    Most textbooks need to be tossed. They keep students misinformed, uniformed, unquestioning, and just plain stupid. Why is the School Board in charge of selecting what goes in books and what gets taught? Shouldn’t that decision come from a panel of teachers, professors, historians, and scientists?

  3. John Andrews said on May 24th, 2010 at 11:03pm #

    Thanks Rosemarie.

    I’d never heard about No Gun Ri either – hardly surprising when not even Zinn’s book mentions it. It just makes you wonder how many other No Gun Ris do we not know about.

  4. Hue Longer said on May 24th, 2010 at 11:20pm #

    Good Article

    There’s a great book I recommend called “Lies My Teacher Told Me”

  5. rosemarie jackowski said on May 25th, 2010 at 10:42am #

    Nice comments. Hue I like the book you mention.

    John – you are right. There are many NoGunRIs we do not know about. The rest of the world does know about them which explains why the USA will continue to get “Blowback”.

    Beverly…I agree, but allowing the decision to be made by elected officials might be better. The root of the problem is like I keep saying “ITS THE VOTERS”. Voters in every school district across the USA can demand that Zinn, Blum, and the real historian’s books are used. Parents should do what I did every day – tell your kids not to believe everything they are taught in school.

    LICHEN…Looks like we now have more CIA covert activity planned for Korea. Why did the US military bomb Korea in the first place – just because it seemed like the patriotic thing to do at the time.

  6. beverly said on May 25th, 2010 at 8:28pm #


    Sadly, most people – parents or otherwise – have not heard of Zinn, Blum, etc. Ignorance abounds (even among the educated) so there will be few school districts with parents savvy enough to demand – and tougher still – to convince others to vote for anything other that the pablum and lies which the parents learned in school.

  7. mary said on May 26th, 2010 at 5:38am #

    Whatever can I say to this friend of mine Rosemarie? She has shown humanity and kindness to this man who has obviously endured many years in prison when he should have been receiving medical treatment. I know nothing of the history but if what she says is correct, this planned execution is barbaric.

    She has just written this. We had been discussing the Freedom Flotilla going to Gaza and the threats being made against it.

    Dear all
    This is nothing to do with Palestine. I hope you don’t mind. It’s a human rights issue too. It is a short letter to our local paper. and several Alabama papers (when I used an Atmore zipcode)

    My penfriend in Alabama will be executed tomorrow by lethal injection, midnight our time, after 34 years on the row, since Alabama reintroduced the death penalty in 1976. I got involved writing to him through Lifelines, which was started in Cambridge by Jan Arriens, a quaker friend. I know the execution is going ahead and Thomas is in the deathcell since yesterday. I wanted to go over but have to admit I couldn’t face it. His letter this morning told me not to worry, he is not afraid…… I just wanted to email this because we share and care when human rights are being violated. Please hold him in your thoughts and all the brave people who are on their way to Gaza. May they be successful and get in.

    Dear Editor

    Governor Riley of Alabama is going ahead with the execution of Thomas Whisenhant this Thursday 27 May, midnight our time.

    The death penalty is a grave violation of two fundamental human rights as laid down in Article 3 and 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: The right to life, and The right not to be tortured or be subject to any cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment.

    I have been writing to Thomas Whisenhant for 22 years and visited twice. He has been on death row since the reintroduction of the death penalty in 1976. Doctors will carry out the execution by lethal injection, a gross violation of medical ethics. A doctor is sworn to protect life, not destroy it.

    At his trial Thomas’s serious psychiatric issues have never been litigated due to lack of funds. Executing people with a mental illness or “the insane” is clearly prohibited by international law and virtually in every country in the world.

    Despite this, the USA continues to execute people with clinically labelled mental illnesses.

    Thank fully we no longer have the death penalty in our country. Our last executioner, Albert Pierrepoint, who resigned in 1956, came to the conclusion that executions had solved nothing and were an antiquated relic of a primitive desire for revenge. He did not believe that any of the hundreds of executions he had carried out, had in any way acted as a deterrent against future murder. Capital punishment in his view achieved nothing except revenge.

    Alabama continues executing people who kill people to show that killing people is wrong. After 34 years on Death Row, where is the sense? Alabama executed six people in 2009 and was second in the nation for the number of executions, what an indictment!

    Please contact the governor at the eleventh hour

    Phone 1-334-242-7100 or fax 1-334-353-0004 or email


  8. Mulga Mumblebrain said on May 26th, 2010 at 10:52am #

    mary, the fate of your condemned pen-pal and that of the Gazans are two faces of the same coin-the visceral hatred that the Right feels for all other than itself. The timid response of the Rudd Government in Australia to Israel stealing Australian passports as part of its cowardly gang murder of the Hamas resistance leader in Dubai, has launched a real tsunami of hissing and spitting from our local Zionazis and their Sabbat Goy stooges. Rupert Moloch’s media sewer have gone ape-shit, with every available member of our local Zionist cabal lying with gusto and screeching their fury. Unfortunately the blogs, even in the Moloch swamp, show that opinion is stoutly against Israel’s contemptuous behaviour towards a loyal stooge like Australia. When one considers that these blogs are ruthlessly policed by the Zionist thought police who run the opinion pages in ‘The Australian’ in particular, this is,on the face of it, somewhat puzzling. However, casting one’s mind back a few years ago,when the Zionist attack on the Sydney Peace Institute and Sydney University for granting the Sydney Peace Prize to Hanan Ashrawi reached such levels of vicious hysteria and slanderous lying and attempted intimidation that it aroused real controversy at the Zionists’ viciousness, that scandal was cynically utilised by the Zionists, who argued that the public outrage was beneficial because it ‘flushed out the anti-semites’.For a tribal group whose worldview is based on contempt for outsiders and the belief that non-Jews are a lesser and eternally hostile form of life, such controversies as these are eminently useful for consolidating group think and paranoia.At the time of the Ashrawi scandal, several principled Australian Jews criticised the local Zionist grandees for their invidious behaviour.They,of course, became and remain, hate figures, ‘self-loathing Jews’ like the unfortunate Goldstone,or perennial daemons like Chomsky, Finkelstein or Richard Falk. Thus does Zionism police itself, and by purging all those who act decently and humanely, impel Jewry into a more and more bellicose, aggressive,arrogant and dangerous state. Already perhaps the most dangerous and disruptive force in the world today, with its relentless hatemongering against Islam and manic determination to inflict a religious war on the world, every day brings evidence that Zionism grows ever more deranged and vicious.

  9. mary said on May 26th, 2010 at 12:03pm #

    Thanks for replying Mulga. Just one thing – the condemned man is the pen-pal of a friend. She wrote to our little group of Palestine supporters in her anguish and I didn’t know what to say to comfort her. I wrote to the Alabama Governor today but have received no reply. When I looked at the Lifelines site, I discovered that there are over 3,500 such prisoners on ‘death row’ in the US. However barbarian I think our British governments have been, at least the death penalty was abolished. (Excluding those that we are killing at the moment in Afghanistan of course.)

    Didn’t John Pilger get the same treatment that was handed out to Hanan Ashwari when he was awarded the Sydney Peace Prize?

    Someone who should have been awarded a Peace Prize was hauled off from Paliament Square yesterday by police wearing blue rubber gloves under orders from the new fascists on the block, the ConDems. Did these police thugs think they might contract some disease from this brave humanitarian?

    This is the account in the giveaway rag newly acquired by Lebedev ex KGB. Perhaps he might rival your Moloch’s empire one day! And Brian Haw did not jeer at the Queen. Although he has arthritic joints, he had been held down, handcuffed behind his back and taken off long before Her Madge came along in her ridiculous carriage for the state opening tomfoolery. I wonder if our establishment lot know how much contempt we feel for them and if the event was ticketed, it would have been a flop.

    PS Did you know that Moloch is starting payment for viewing the Times online? £1 per day or £2 a week I heard. The website is being split into two. One for the daily and another for the Sunday version. He will not get a penny piece from me.