[Marxism] What kind of history is teached in USA?

dan d.koechlin at wanadoo.fr
Fri Dec 14 15:36:07 MST 2012


History as taught in classrooms around the world is aimed at glorifying 
the current nation state and the current economic system.

What kind of history is being taught is an interesting issue. Having 
travelled to quite a few extremely different countries myself, and 
having examined various history textbooks, I have a feeling they all 
more or less conform to the same model.

A comrade mentions Brazil. I spent 2 years in Macapa, and found that 
Brazilian history textbooks were divided into : 1) The Origins : Before 
the arrival of European settlers, indigenous people and their numerous 
achievements, climatic influences. 2) The arrival of the Spanish and 
Portuguese, slavery and the arrival of Black people, the colonial 
economy - 3) the birth of a nation : the struggle for independence, 
economic and social change (urban growth), the various commodity-driven 
cycles : sugar cane, coffee, soya, etc., military dictatorship and 4) 
The Modern World : a diverse nation and the challenges of the future.

Colombian, Jamaican, Surinamese and Mexican textbooks I've browsed 
certainly follow the same pattern.

US history textbooks are quite similar : 1) Native American history, the 
difference between Plains Indians and Woodland Indians, 2) European 
immigration, the colonial system, slavery, 3) Birth of a nation : the 
struggle for independence, the Constitution, economic and social change, 
the various economic cycles, the Civil War, the Great Depression of the 
1930s, WWII, the Cold War, the Civil Rights Movement and 4) Modern Times 
: a diverse nation and the challenges of the future.

French history textbooks are thus divided : 1) Prehistoric times, 
Neolithisation, the Celts, the Romans, 2) Feudalism and the "Ancient 
Régime", the condition of the peasantry, 3) Birth of a Nation : the rise 
of the bourgeosie, the Enlightenment, the Age of Revolutions, 
Colonialism, the Industrial Age, Three Wars with Germany, The Cold War, 
Decolonisation and 4) Modern Times : European integration, a diverse 
nation and the challenges of the future.

History textbooks are an expression of a given culture's vision of 
itself. The end point being the present world, the periodisation of past 
epochs ends up glorifying the present nation state (even though it 
points out its failings in the recent past). Like Hegel's vision of 
history, what the student is left with at the end of the process is the 
current nation state and its institutions, the product of a few 
centuries of social and political turmoil.

It is the very format of the middle-school textbook that calls for such 
a presentation of history. The 7-13 year old needs a coherent vision of 
the past, with a logical dynamic that leads from brutality and strife to 
a more perfect civil compact, namely the one in which he/she lives.




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