Albuquerque public schools in battle over U.S. history textbook





While the nation debates whether President Bush and his administration deliberately misled the nation into war in Iraq, local parents, Albuquerque Public Schools and its high school educators are facing off over the accuracy of a history textbook used in advanced placement (college preparatory) history classes.

The APS debate, which finds itself now before a district committee of parents and educators reviewing the complaints, is timely and worthy of broader public attention.

It raises serious questions about the purpose and aims of teaching history (national pride and civic duty are often cited) and whether Albuquerque and other Americans are being adequately equipped to engage in public policy debates that have historical roots - including a decision to wage war.

In one corner of the APS fight, illustrated by the jabs of parent Tony Watkins, critics contend a high school textbook used in APS classes is insensitive to minorities, yet portrays Europeans in "glowing terms."

Another critic, Darva Chino, an Acoma-Navajo woman, school administrator and parent, said the book is a typical example of history textbooks that are not just "to people of color."

Watkins cited criticism of the "American Pageant" textbook by history professor James Loewen. Loewen's book, "Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong," challenges the high ground of teaching American history to the country's high school students.

Loewen discovered, during a survey of American history textbooks while at the Smithsonian Institution, that American high school textbooks were less focused on historical fact than they were on blind patriotism and optimism.

He found them full of misinformation, inaccuracies and sins of omission. For example, if you are wondering why you may know so little about the Vietnam War, it might be because Loewen found that about nine out of 10 American high school history classes never even mention Vietnam, while those that do tend to provide a very limited and misleading story.

It should be noted that Loewen, in turn, has been criticized for presenting an"unabashed left-wing perspective," or what some might describe as a"politically correct" approach.

Some APS history teachers defend the use of"American Pageant" as being comprehensive (1,044 pages), authored by Stanford and Harvard University professors, and recommended nationally for use in the rigorous advanced history classes.


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Sharon Eileen Crane - 11/16/2005

As a former AP U.S. History teacher of over 36 years, I also used American Pageant. I would agree that there are definite biases, but as any teacher will tell your, it is "A" textbook, not "THE" textbook. What I did was bring in other books, both secondary and primary sources, to supplement the text. In addition you use a myriad of other sources via videos, audio tapes, on-line research, etc. to provide students with many other perspectives. My advice, don't think of any textbook as the bible of history but merely the author(s)' perspective at the point of time in which it was written. It is always important to remember that history is a highly interpretive discipline. What may be considered as fact today may turn out to be a fabrication tomorrow. Developing a critical thinking students is what is paramount for a well-rounded individual.


Steven R Alvarado - 11/16/2005

Good point, the bias of the reporter was striking.


Tony Luke - 11/16/2005

Shouldn't the lead sentence to this article be more appropriately:

"While President Bush continues to chastise certain Members of Congress for their recent attempts to rewrite the history of the run-up to the Iraq war, Albuquerque Public Schools and its high school educators... "

And they say there's no liberal bias in the press!

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