ERIC Number: ED485622
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2004
World History Textbooks: A Review
Sewall, Gilbert T.
Center for Education Studies dba American Textbook Council
This world history review examines standard textbooks used between the sixth and twelfth grades in schools across the nation. These established textbooks dominate the field and set the pitch for new and forthcoming volumes. The 2002 Texas history textbook adoption and the California list have influenced what textbooks will dominate the national market during the current decade. New world history titles introduced into Texas have yet to prove their viability and continued shelf life. Of the seven textbooks originally examined, examples are selected from the four most widely adopted world cultures and world history textbooks. This review found that in order to meet demands for scope, diversity and readability, world history textbooks abandon narrative and complexity. High school world history textbooks are superior to middle-grade world cultures textbooks. They emphasize "Western" subjects. Dire claims of the loss of European political history can be overdrawn. Western antiquity, Judaism and Christianity, and the rise of modern democratic government, reviewers complain, are lost in a procession of trivia designed to satisfy competing demands for inclusion, diversity and multiple perspectives. What should be central topics and themes are compressed to make room for new topical material, some of which is ideologically loaded. In subjects ranging from Africa to terrorism, the nation?s leading world history textbooks provide unreliable, often scanty information and provide poorly constructed activities. In doing so, these textbooks foster ignorance of geopolitics and deprive students of authentic global understanding. Publishers could and should be providing high school teachers and students with cheaper, smaller, more legible volumes, stripping trivia and superfluity from current volumes. Pressure from educators themselves is needed, but whether sufficient will exists to force publishers to change remains an open question. Rooted in a flawed production system and publience, the problems with world history textbooks go deep enough to raise questions about corporate violations of public trust. Who should pay attention to this review and take action? Textbook purchasers, including members of state boards, department of education officials, and school textbook committees. So should elected officials, editorial writers, and policy analysts. World history textbooks undermine their hopes, standards, curriculum frameworks, and official policies.
Descriptors: Textbooks, World History, Secondary Education, Middle Schools, Textbook Evaluation, Textbook Publication
American Textbook Council, 475 Riverside Drive, Room 1948, New York, NY 10115. Tel: 212-870-2760.
Publication Type: Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: Elementary Secondary Education
Authoring Institution: American Textbook Council, New York, NY.