These Textbooks In Thousands Of K-12 Schools Echo Trump’s Talking PointsHistorians in the News
tags: culture war, teaching history, 1776 commission
Christian textbooks used in thousands of schools around the country teach that President Barack Obama helped spur destructive Black Lives Matter protests, that the Democrats’ choice of 2016 nominee Hillary Clinton reflected their focus on identity politics, and that President Donald Trump is the “fighter” Republicans want, a HuffPost analysis has found.
The analysis, which focused on three popular textbooks from two major publishers of Christian educational materials ― Abeka and BJU Press ― looked at how the books teach the Trump era of politics. We found that all three are characterized by a skewed version of history and a sense that the country is experiencing an urgent moral decline that can only be fixed by conservative Christian policies. Language used in the books overlaps with the rhetoric of Christian nationalism, often with overtones of nativism, militarism and racism as well.
Scholars say textbooks like these, with their alternate versions of history and emphasis on Christian national identity, represent one small part of the conditions that lead to events like last week’s riot at the U.S. Capitol, an episode that was permeated with the symbols of Christian nationalism. Before storming the Capitol, some groups prayed in the name of Jesus and asked for divine protection. They flew Christian and “Jesus 2020” flags and pointed to Trump’s presidency as the will of God. The linkage between Christian beliefs and the violent attack on Congress has since pushed evangelical leaders to confront their own relationship with Trump and their support for the rioters.
“These textbooks made this brand of nationalism more mainstream,” said Kathleen Wellman, a Southern Methodist University history professor who is working on a book about the two Christian publishers. “I’m struck by how coherent of a worldview [the textbooks] promote and how thoroughly it resonates in current culture.”
Representatives from BJU Press and Abeka did not respond to inquiries about how many schools use their products. However, a 2017 HuffPost investigation found that about one-third of Christian schools participating in private school choice programs used a curriculum created by these two publishers or a similar company called Accelerated Christian Education, amounting to around 2,400 schools. The number of schools using these company’s products that do not participate in a voucher program likely amounts to thousands more. (Voucher programs allow students to use taxpayer funds to attend private schools.)
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