Friday, March 12, 2010

I Like Your Style, Schweikart...

Suppose you're a history professor and you're looking over several textbooks to determine which one to use. Where do you start? Professor Larry Schweikart of the University of Dayton (an institution so reputable it wasn't listed in the mentioned article) flips the section(s) on Reagan. How the textbook handles Reagan is a good test in his mind of how they handle other issues historically. I've found that sort of test handy when evaluating history books. From the Alamo (Check the death toll. If it's under 600, someone's drinking the land-grad Kool Aid.) to sports history (Can you really have a list of greatest defenses that doesn't include the Dallas team that didn't allow a single TD for the last 2 games of the regular season, throughout the playoffs, and through the Super Bowl?), I often find myself looking for a quick tell of the author's slant.

1 comment:

Cousin Pat from Georgia said...

Just another cog in the Education-Industrial Complex.

I doubt there is as much slant when it comes to writing textbooks as there is straight up ignorance of the actual subject being discussed.

Here's how this happens based on laziness and not bias:

Someone writing a textbook looked up "Cold War" and read the first couple paragraphs of the first paper they came across. Gorbachev was an important figure in the whole thing, so they write that down.

Next year, someone writing another textbook is looking at what other textbooks say about the Cold War, since the first textbook highlights Gorbachev, the second textbook looks up "Gorbachev" instead of "Cold War."

Since the editors are likely marketing majors whose main goal is to make money, not get the story straight they never catch the error. They know Reagan because of his tax policy, not his foreign policy accomplishments.