B Minus

B Minus

AMERICA REVISED: HISTORY SCHOOLBOOKS IN THE TWENTIETH CENTURY, by Francis FitzGerald. Boston: Atlantic-Little, Brown. 240 pp. $9.95.

My minimal sense of kinship with the historical profession expands substantially whenever it is glibly attacked by journalists. America Revised provokes unprecedented solidarity with teachers of history at all levels. This lapse from detachment, frankly confessed, has advantages for a reviewer, if not for the author under review. Freed by candor from the necessity of sounding impartial, I can indulge in first-person narrative and speculate about Frances FitzGerald’s frame of mind.

FitzGerald chronicles shifting fashions in social studies and history textbooks from early efforts to inculcate patriotism and white Protestant values to current flirtations with pluralism. The “new immigration” of the late 19th century initially enlarged sales without altering the basic message; to most educators, Jews and Catholics were in greater need of exposure to Protestant values than were Protestants themselves. Nevertheless, influenced by progressive historians, books published
between 1910 and 1930 were, in FitzGerald’s view, a “good deal more diverse” than their predecessors. But World War II and the Cold War produced another batch of patriotic primers.


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