Decanonizing the Field
Edited By João M. Paraskeva and Shirley R. Steinberg
Chapter 35. Exploding the Canon: Historical Contextualizing as a Means for Social Justice
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EXPLODING THE CANON
Historical Contextualizing as a Means for Social Justice
Go into the history classroom of any public high school in the United States and examine the textbook used by the students. Turn to the index and search for Thomas Sankara, Augusto Sandino, Dennis Banks, Eugene Debs, or Ernesto Guevara. Chances are those names will either be totally absent from the book, or, if they do happen to appear, they will only be mentioned in passing and in a disparaging light.
Likewise, try to find references to Oliver North, Anastasio Somoza, Joseph McCarthy, Rafid Ahmed Alwan al-Janabi, or Augusto Pinochet. Again, these figures will likely be absent or, if they do appear, will be portrayed favorably.
Ask students if they have even heard of the names mentioned above. Likely, the response will be in the negative. It’s no mistake that this is the case. K–12 history education has been canonized by large textbook companies. As has been well documented, these textbook companies create their publications to match the ideologies of the largest school boards in the country that purchase their materials—namely, Texas. These same textbooks, once printed, get distributed and purchased by other districts in regions throughout the country. Thus they serve as the basis for a national curriculum of history education for almost the entire school-age population of the nation. ← 685 | 686 → As a result...
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