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UlrikeSchuhFricke

Nationalism and Politics Textbooks

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I would like to start a new topic whose focus is more the classroom than a general exchange of opinion.

In the history section we debated the problem in how far the way we teach history and the contents of our schoolbooks are tainted by nationalism.

Looking at politics textbooks I found that they even more than history books mainly deal with national politics especially when topics like government, parties, the legal system etc. are concerned.

For example German pupils learn all they need to know about the German political system, the legal system, our welfare state etc. British and American textbooks inform their students about their respective political and social systems and structures. Of course our students have to know, understand and analyse their own political systems but I think that it is also necessary that they learn about the political systems, culture, philosphy and theory of our neighbouring countries.

German Grammar school students get some information about the British and American system in their English lessons but of course language lessons are different from politics lessons and the students do not necessarily acquire a political understanding and do not always learn to assess the information they get politically.

I personally think that it is vital to create and enhace intercultural understanding among the young people and one way to do this might be e.g. comparing the different forms of democracy that have evolved and examining their historic roots, their implications and shortcomings (see debate "Do we still live in a democracy").

I think a good example of textbooks offering a global perspective of political and social phenomena are most of the books written for the citizenship lessons and textbooks concentrating on e.g. human rights.

Schoolbook authors for textbooks on classical "national" topics could learn from them.

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Excellent Topic

Here in the States I have noticed and some of my colleagues agree

that the critical, unsparing historical approach is limited to a tiny readership and

Ivy League/private university discourse, while those that have an impact in the public mind, marketplace and popular trade history books (including school textbooks) have a nationalist gloss.

The ability to criticize the U.S. experience is structurally and culturally coded

and this is a big part of the Culture Wars and Political Gulf we see today in the US.

Textbooks, and most history professors/top teachers, have internalized the

race dimension. Prejudice, Jim Crow, an entirely unsatisfactory Reconstruction, Red-Lining (against bank investment in "black" neighborhoods), are all taught in

US undergraduate settings, and gender issues are fairly well expressed today.

But real critical, structural analysis of class issues are delivered only to graduates in the most rarefied environment. Although there is a strong dissenting voice in the counterculture and underground, it is often confounded by extremism,

ignorance and poorly grounded conspiracy theory.

Joseph Ellis, David McCullough, Gordon Wood and other top-tier historians drift steadily to the right as they mature, writing what amount to apologia for the Pantheon (Adams, Franklin, Washington) and these senior scholars often take an anti-republican pro Federalist View of the 1800 period. Such reactionary and less than critical work then reaps institutional, critical and market commercial rewards.

At the other end of the spectrum, radicals with critical ideas are swept up in

political identity studies, post-modern textual inanities and otherwise find refuge in highly academic work with little external or universal validity.

The bureacratese, the academicese language, the emphasis on tropes, synedoche, and all the trappings of the crit-lit cultural historian may gain

approval from IVY chairs and University publishers but have no impact

except to drive a reaction from the Christian Right Wing.

In Georgia we have disclaimers glued into science texts warning parents that the theory of evolution is only theory and other approaches to the rock record are legitimate.

No conclusions, just some observations...

I find myself when confronted by race/reaction or post modern verbalism

to re-iterate enlightened universal humanism and critical thought as a

paradigm broad enough to encompass such trends......

Shanet Clark, Suffering through Graduate School in Atlanta

I would like to start a new topic whose focus is more the classroom than a general exchange of opinion.

In the history section we debated the problem in how far the way we teach history and the contents of our schoolbooks are tainted by nationalism.

Looking at politics textbooks I found that they even more than history books mainly deal with national politics especially when topics like government, parties, the legal system etc. are concerned.

For example German pupils learn all they need to know about the German political system, the legal system, our welfare state etc. British and American textbooks inform their students about their respective political and social systems and structures. Of course our students have to know, understand and analyse their own political systems but I think that it is also necessary that they learn about the political systems, culture, philosphy and theory of our neighbouring countries.

German Grammar school students get some information about the British and American system in their English lessons but of course language lessons are different from politics lessons and the students do not necessarily acquire a political understanding and do not always learn to assess the information they get politically.

I personally think that it is vital to create and enhace intercultural understanding among the young people  and one way to do this might be e.g. comparing the different forms of democracy that have evolved and examining their historic roots, their implications and shortcomings (see debate "Do we still live in a democracy").

I think a good example of textbooks offering a global perspective of political and social phenomena are most of the books written for the citizenship lessons and textbooks concentrating on e.g. human rights.

Schoolbook authors for textbooks on classical "national" topics could learn from them.

Edited by Shanet Clark

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