Not Necessarily the Truth of Things

Published:May 14, 2012 by Brendan Wolfe

From “Rewriting American History,” an article by Frances FitzGerald published in the New Yorker on February 26, 1979:

History textbooks for elementary and secondary schools are not like other kinds of histories. They serve a different function, and they have their own traditions, which continue independent of academic history writing. In the first place, they are essentially nationalistic histories. The first American-history text was written after the American Revolution, and because of it; and most texts are still accounts of the nation-state. In the second place, they are written not to explore but to instruct—to tell children what their elders want them to know about their country. This information is not necessarily what anyone considers the truth of things. Like time capsules, the texts contain the truths selected for posterity.

IMAGE:  George Washington Carver Crossing the Delaware: Page from an American History Textbook by Robert Colescott (1975)