Conservative activists in Texas have shaped the history all American children learn
Their activism reshaped the content of history textbooks, producing a heroic, skewed narrative
Oct. 19, 2020
President Trump wants more "patriotic" American history curriculums. He's not the first to try. Americans have long been anxious over what schools teach, and this has produced fierce ideological battles over what fills textbooks.
Many Americans believe students directly absorb whatever is written in their textbooks. That makes the stakes over what gets into these books on science, health or history immensely high " an entire generation of Americans stands to be indoctrinated. That perspective, at least, has been the sense of conservative activists in Texas, who for decades have campaigned for more "patriotic" books to ensure the next generation of voters receive, as they see it, the right message.
Since the late 1960s, these activists have become increasingly adept at shaping the character of school history texts. Because of the size of Texas' textbook market, their activism influenced what was taught to all American children. For publishers, it was not economically viable to write one book to appease campaigners in Texas and a different version to sell elsewhere. The result: Students across the country got books that told U.S. history from the perspective of a small group of White, God-fearing, conservative Texans. Over 20 years, textbook activists shifted the meaning of "patriotic history" from a postwar liberal consensus to a right-wing, colorblind, heteronormative, nationalist retelling of the American story--one that persists today.