Write or Be Written

Remember the recently degraded Texas textbook standards? The ones requiring the removal of left-leaning historical figures like Thurgood Marshall, while inserting important institutions such as the Heritage Foundation, the National Rifle Association. Or that America be referred to as a "republic" rather than a "democracy" – lest kids learn to like the word democrat?

Well, Thomas Gokey of Syracuse University wants to fight back against this top-down dismantling of education with some bottom-up restoration of the historical record. He's organizing a wikibook called A Supplement to the Texas U.S. History Textbook in the hope of developing "a textbook written from a different perspective" (like, what really happened, without blacks and Jews and lefties removed). From our email exchange:

It is meant to be used in the classroom and written by people all over the world, including Texas middle and high school students themselves. An 11th grade social studies class in Ohio is already writing their own textbook, and I think this is a great way to avoid be written out of history.

I think that our wiki textbook can be more faithful and be a better read and be a much better educational tool because it involves the students themselves in the messy task of historical research. If students can create their own textbook and in the process enter into debates in real time with historians and amateur history buffs it will demystify the process of historical research. I want to get students to really confront critically the way a history gets produced. How exactly do historical facts and cultural values entangle themselves in the production of history? Instead of writing term papers I would like to see teachers have their students research a particular historical event and write an article for inclusion in the textbook.