Event Title

Teaching About Rights After Social Upheaval: What U.S. and Cuban High School History Textbooks Tell Us

Location

Golden Eagles

Department

Educational Inquiry and Curriculum Studies

Abstract

History textbooks are commonly used in classrooms throughout the world. In the United States, the content of these is determined through a confluence of economic markets, political ideology, and state education standards. Tensions surrounding both textbook content and supplemental materials used in the classroom are evident in the controversy surrounding Critical Race Theory–with teachers, parents, and administrators at odds about not only what students should learn but also how what they learn influences students’ view of the world. With this in mind, this talk presents the findings of a larger research project that compares high school history textbooks from Cuba and the U.S. to examine how nations portray the rebuilding of a society after social upheaval in which rights and who has access to those rights are a subject of debate. Using discourse analysis, a total of seven textbooks were analyzed to address the following questions: What role does national social upheaval play in how textbooks conceive of citizen rights? In what ways do textbooks talk about rebuilding and redistribution, if at all? What kind of “mental labor” do textbooks invite students to engage in? Two of the major events under study were the 1959 Cuban Revolution, which resulted in new social policies whose impact are still seen today, and the Civil Rights Movement in the U.S. which similarly produced policies that allowed marginalized groups to have increased access to education, employment, healthcare, and housing. With regard to U.S. textbooks, findings suggest that textbooks center social change through individual contribution and legislation while diminishing collective contributions of activists in the fight for civil rights. They also avoid terms like reparations, thus erasing a key element of the civil rights struggle. Lastly, the mental labor U.S. textbooks invite students to engage in is minimal: student questions privilege comprehension over higher-order thinking. Therefore, the findings suggest that without a proactive teacher dedicated to enhancing the textbooks, students will remain exposed to a simplified version of the ties between these events and rights–leaving the question of how to reach teachers who are reluctant to teach beyond the textbook.

Faculty Sponsor

Ruth Dawley-Carr, Northeastern Illinois University

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May 6th, 12:20 PM

Teaching About Rights After Social Upheaval: What U.S. and Cuban High School History Textbooks Tell Us

Golden Eagles

History textbooks are commonly used in classrooms throughout the world. In the United States, the content of these is determined through a confluence of economic markets, political ideology, and state education standards. Tensions surrounding both textbook content and supplemental materials used in the classroom are evident in the controversy surrounding Critical Race Theory–with teachers, parents, and administrators at odds about not only what students should learn but also how what they learn influences students’ view of the world. With this in mind, this talk presents the findings of a larger research project that compares high school history textbooks from Cuba and the U.S. to examine how nations portray the rebuilding of a society after social upheaval in which rights and who has access to those rights are a subject of debate. Using discourse analysis, a total of seven textbooks were analyzed to address the following questions: What role does national social upheaval play in how textbooks conceive of citizen rights? In what ways do textbooks talk about rebuilding and redistribution, if at all? What kind of “mental labor” do textbooks invite students to engage in? Two of the major events under study were the 1959 Cuban Revolution, which resulted in new social policies whose impact are still seen today, and the Civil Rights Movement in the U.S. which similarly produced policies that allowed marginalized groups to have increased access to education, employment, healthcare, and housing. With regard to U.S. textbooks, findings suggest that textbooks center social change through individual contribution and legislation while diminishing collective contributions of activists in the fight for civil rights. They also avoid terms like reparations, thus erasing a key element of the civil rights struggle. Lastly, the mental labor U.S. textbooks invite students to engage in is minimal: student questions privilege comprehension over higher-order thinking. Therefore, the findings suggest that without a proactive teacher dedicated to enhancing the textbooks, students will remain exposed to a simplified version of the ties between these events and rights–leaving the question of how to reach teachers who are reluctant to teach beyond the textbook.