Pin It
Favorite

Book Review 

by Michael Bowen


The world distrusts America, and not just because of Iraq. Other countries' high school history books present varying perspectives, of course. But History Lessons: How Textbooks From Around the World Portray U.S. History demonstrates that other nations often look at different events altogether.


Nigerian textbooks enumerate the terrible costs of slavery at home (not in North America), while still noting that West Africans were enslaving one another long before the Portuguese showed up in the 1520s. Arabs aren't the only ones who resent "crusades": Mexican texts explicitly link America's "Manifest Destiny" to the crusades as well. Both Japanese and Italian history books charge Truman with dropping the bomb more to deter Russia than to defeat Japan. In North Korea, schoolkids have only the sole state-mandated textbook to go on when it comes to learning about how their "greatly adored leader" Kim Il-sung fought off the "American bastards" and "wolf-dogs" -- not exactly the Gen. MacArthur-dominated account of the Korean War that you get in U.S. history books. And don't get the Saudis started on American peacekeeping in the Middle East.


Almost comical are the number of nations that crave time in the world spotlight. Norwegian schoolteachers dwell on the 11th century a lot (one word: Vikings). Textbooks in Iran and North Korea exult in public relations victories over the United States (1979 hostage crisis, 1993 nuclear negotiations). France claims that the American Revolution was their idea.


With brief excerpts scattered among 50 chapters, this is a book to skip around in. The contrasts among U.S. and other perspectives are sometimes not as dramatic as Lindaman and Ward would like to think: Their brief introductions are often more argumentative than the contrasts among the quoted textbook passages.


Yet sometimes the excerpts themselves echo through the years. A Canadian chapter on the Vietnam War, for example, criticizes American involvement in now-familiar terms: "The war became the perfect symbol ... of everything that was wrong with mainstream American society. It was equally exportable as an emblem of American evil, representing everything that the rest of the world hated about the United States, including its arrogant assumption that it was always morally superior."


And that's one of our allies talking. Evidently the U.S. textbook selection process -- the least centralized in the world -- hasn't cornered the market on truth.





Publication date: 09/30/04

  • Pin It

Latest in News

  • Crash > Click > Cash
  • Crash > Click > Cash

    Lawyers and chiropractors already have your name, your address and the police report from your car accident — and they want you to hire them
    • Jul 21, 2016
  • Starting Small
  • Starting Small

    A village of tiny houses in Spokane Valley could serve as a model for fighting homelessness in the region
    • Jul 21, 2016
  • Drastic Action
  • Drastic Action

    Spokane among seven school districts sued by State Superintendent of Public Instruction; plus, trio of police-chief finalists are in town
    • Jul 21, 2016
  • More »

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Today | Sun | Mon | Tue | Wed | Thu | Fri
Julyamsh

Julyamsh @ Kootenai County Fairgrounds

Through July 24

All of today's events | Staff Picks

More by Michael Bowen

Most Commented On

  • Lane Ends Ahead

    Spokane wants to improve a mile-long section of Monroe — but that means taking away two lanes
    • Jul 7, 2016
  • Too Smart for School

    What happens when a 12-year-old prodigy tries to go to college in Spokane?
    • Jun 30, 2016
  • More »

Top Tags in
News & Comment

green zone


marijuana


Briefs


Election 2016


trail mix


Readers also liked…

  • Path of Least Resistance
  • Path of Least Resistance

    Spokane Public Schools looks at reworking a grading system that drives students into the easiest classes
    • Jan 14, 2015
  • 'Weak-Kneed'
  • 'Weak-Kneed'

    More fall-out for Spokane County Prosecutor Larry Haskell; plus, Washington lawmakers debate voting rights
    • Mar 4, 2015

© 2016 Inlander
Website powered by Foundation