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

  • Age of Zaycon
  • Age of Zaycon

    Spokane Valley's Zaycon Fresh found a way to make millions selling meat — and now it's trying to make a lot more
    • Aug 26, 2015
  • Hazy Days of Summer
  • Hazy Days of Summer

    Smoke blankets the region; plus, Patty Murray on the proposed Iran deal
    • Aug 26, 2015
  • Brick by Brick
  • Brick by Brick

    Development continues in downtown Spokane; here are some construction projects that could change the city's urban core
    • Aug 26, 2015
  • More »

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Today | Wed | Thu | Fri | Sat | Sun | Mon
Saving Seeds: A Seed Library Event

Saving Seeds: A Seed Library Event @ Hillyard Library

Tue., Sept. 1, 6:30 p.m.

All of today's events | Staff Picks

More by Michael Bowen

Most Commented On

  • Manufacturing Fear

    Spokane's Republican sheriff says members of his own party are dangerously dividing people
    • Aug 12, 2015
  • 'Flip of a Coin'

    A Spokane Valley deputy trained to spot stoned and drunk drivers is wrong nearly as often as he is right, blood tests from drivers show
    • Aug 19, 2015
  • More »

Top Tags in
News & Comment

Briefs


marijuana


Comment


Publisher's Note


BUSINESS


© 2015 Inlander
Website powered by Foundation