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ERIC Number: EJ936552
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2011-May
Pages: 15
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: N/A
ISSN: ISSN-0018-2745
Sacred and Profane American History: Does It Exist in Textbooks?
Henry, Michael
History Teacher, v44 n3 p405-419 May 2011
Tony Waters, a sociologist at California State University, Chico, has raised an interesting issue about the intellectual conflict some of his students experienced when they arrived on campus and enrolled in American history classes. He reported students were perplexed to find there were two kinds of American history--the version they learned in middle/high school and a differing collegiate point of view. Freshmen believed that their college instruction clashed with the history they were taught in the earlier grades. Waters attempted to analyze this dilemma by employing a paradigm from sociology and divided history teaching into the sacred and the profane. This article evaluates professor Water's bifurcation model of historical instruction. It examines a sample of American history textbooks at the middle and high school levels and compares them with college texts to determine how they treat the topic of slavery and the founding of the United States--arguably one of the most profane subjects in the country's history. Specifically, the investigation centers on the treatment of slavery and the Founding Fathers as an index of the degree to which a sacred and profane version of American history, in fact, exists in the curriculum. This review investigates the issues surrounding slavery from the end of the American Revolution to the ratification of the Constitution. The article's hypothesis is that the middle and high school books will favor a sacred view of history, while the collegiate texts will tend toward a more profane approach. Further, it suggests that this type of division exists not only with slavery in the early republic, but with other topics at various levels of history instruction as well. (Contains 59 notes.)
Society for History Education. California State University, Long Beach, 1250 Bellflower Boulevard, Long Beach, CA 90840-1601. Tel: 562-985-2573; Fax: 562-985-5431; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: Elementary Secondary Education; High Schools; Higher Education; Junior High Schools; Middle Schools; Postsecondary Education; Secondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: United States