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from The Textbook Letter, September-October 1997

Reviewing a middle-school book in American history

America's Past and Promise
1997. 801 pages + appendix. ISBN of the student's edition: 0-395-81254-2.
McDougal Littell Inc., P.O. Box 1667, Evanston, Illinois 60204.
(McDougal Littell is owned by Houghton Mifflin.)

A Dumbed-Down Book, Ruled by Leftist Ideology

Angelo M. Codevilla

America's Past and Promise tries to teach geography, vocabulary, current events and social-science methodology while imparting knowledge of American history from well before 1492 until our own time. It succeeds only in teaching geography.

Like nearly all the other schoolbooks that are being produced now, regardless of subject, America's Past and Promise has a plethora of sidebars and assorted illustrations that impede the narrative. This book is unusual, though, because nearly 100 of the illustrations are valuable maps. The reader is edified by maps of European trade routes in the 1400s, of American cattle trails in the late 1800s, and of the Dust Bowl migrations of the 1930s. There are broad maps of America's wars, focused maps of battles, and even maps of fortifications. There are maps that illustrate the evolution of canal systems, of railroads, of mining, and of agriculture. There are demographic maps, and there are maps to show how Americans have voted in some of their crucial elections. Because the people who produced America's Past and Promise included somebody who really cared about geography, students would get more benefit from studying the maps than from reading the book's text.

It seems that there also was somebody who wanted to nurture the students' capacity for thinking. At the start of each section of text, a little box presents two or three questions that students should keep in mind as they read, and the section ends with a box that presents a few questions for students to discuss. Some of the questions are silly (e.g., "Do you think it is a safer world now that the Cold War has ended?"), but many of them are good: "What was America's attitude toward [World War II], and how did it change over time?" or "Would the United States have entered World War II if Japan had not attacked Pearl Harbor? Explain your answer." The trouble is that students cannot answer a good question by using material from this book's dumbed-down text. There is a serious mismatch here, suggesting that the questions and the text were written by different people.

How dumbed-down is this book? And why? To suggest answers to both of those questions, let me show you how the writers pervert the concept of a primary source.

The table of contents in America's Past and Promise has a list of "Primary Sources in This Book" and proudly announces that "Through primary sources you can hear the voices of those who made history." But the very first "primary source" to which the list directs us is a fake. It appears on page 21 of the text, where the writers falsely depict a 16th-century Iroquois society as a prefiguration of a modern egalitarian democracy, complete with an exalted status for women. To endorse this fiction, the writers bring out a "primary source" in the person of George Horse Capture (one of today's Amerindian activists), who intones: "No longer is our history locked away in isolation. Today we are familiar with our past, and it fills us with pride and stabilizes our journey into the future."

A primary source? No! Horse Capture did not see or experience Iroquois life in the 16th century, so he is not a primary source at all; and his quoted statement is just an allegation about his own state of mind. Yet the writers of America's Past and Promise have given space to Horse Capture's drivel instead of quoting from any of the countless primary reports by persons who directly observed the Iroquois and other Indians in centuries past.

The writers' choice is easy to explain. One cannot read primary sources without learning how Indian women were used as beasts of burden -- Thomas Jefferson observed that they functioned as "drudges" and as "mules" -- or how they took the lead in the torturing of captives, or how they were themselves enslaved or tortured or murdered when they fell into the hands of enemy tribes. In America's Past and Promise, however, all that history has been subordinated to a false-but-trendy message that complies with today's leftist ideology and with feminist fantasies.

The subordination of history to leftist doctrines is also clear in the series of sidebars called "Connecting with the Present." These pieces are supposed to point out how some events, popular practices, or controversies of the past were similar to ones that we see in our own time. But alas, the writers can't resist the temptation to engage in presentism -- the practice of construing the past in terms of the present. Here we see highly distorted history used for promoting politically correct views about blacks and women, for gratuitously suggesting that the United States is responsible for Haiti's troubles, and so on. Some of these efforts are so thin that bright students will be able to see through them. Some others are more significant.

Among the worst of the "Connecting" episodes is the one entitled "Obeying the Court," on page 340. After telling us that Andrew Jackson's defiance of the Supreme Court was unusual, the writers convey the idea that obedience to this oracle is the very essence of being an American. They don't tell that the Framers of the Constitution strove to limit the Court's role in our national life and render it "the least dangerous branch" of government (as Alexander Hamilton said). Neither do they tell that when the Supreme Court first took a major issue out of the hands of the people -- i.e., when the Court decided the Dred Scott case -- it sparked the Civil War. The writers mention the Dred Scott affair, but they don't explain that the Court's decision emboldened Southerners, by awarding them an unearned victory, and embittered Northerners by handing them a total, undeserved defeat from which they never could recover within the constitutional system. The writers also fail to disclose that when Lincoln ran for the Senate and then for the presidency, he based his campaigns on a pledge to disregard and vitiate the Dred Scott decision. (Lincoln didn't dispute the Court's specific affirmation that Dred Scott remained a slave, but Lincoln completely rejected the idea that the Court's decision should be a precedent, much less a rule governing the nation's political life.)

Why do these writers stress obedience to the Court? Most probably because many of the recent changes in American life -- social changes that are heartily endorsed and lauded in the book's concluding unit -- have been driven by the judiciary. The writers evidently have a stake in suppressing the idea that we can disagree with judicial prescriptions and that we, like Lincoln, can refuse to take such prescriptions as immutable rules of life.

The Usual Travesty

What kind of "America" is depicted in America's Past and Promise? Well, it is the America that appears today in every history book which has been designed to nurture leftist social and political views.

For starters, the writers promote the nonsense that the United States originated through a blending of Amerindians, Africans and Europeans, with the Amerindians supplying the concepts of "liberty" and "the right of people to create and control their government." We read about these noble, politically enlightened Indians (including the exalted Indian women, of course) in chapter 1. The majestic and inventive Africans are conjured in chapter 2. Then, in chapter 3, we see the Europeans: narrow-minded, greedy bastards who cobbled together some technology that enabled them to inflict themselves on the rest of the world. Some of these Europeans, after becoming Americans, grew too big for their britches and decided that they didn't want to pay for services that their British motherland was providing to them; they also resented the British government's efforts to restrain them from taking more land from the Indians. So they rebelled. The leader of the rebellion was one Crispus Attucks, the son of a black father and an Indian mother. British soldiers shot Attucks and four other men; the other men didn't have names or fathers or mothers. The Declaration of Independence said something about all men being created equal and possessing inalienable rights, though nobody really believed anything like that. George Washington was a good general because he enlisted blacks and because his army relied on the efforts of patriotic women. When all the fighting was finished, he ran a tight constitutional convention. As president, he had a capitalist domestic policy and an isolationist foreign policy. Then Americans despoiled the Indians and the Mexicans while growing rich on the backs of slaves. After the Civil War they needed new people to exploit, so millions of immigrants came here to lead miserable lives in sweatshops and slums. (Why the immigrants volunteered to suffer such harm and degradation isn't explained.) Then labor unions and the government gradually made life more tolerable -- especially after the Great Depression had discredited capitalism. Then World War 2 and the Cold War discredited isolationism. And then, with the help of John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, the Supreme Court and Martin Luther King, Americans finally learned proper attitudes toward blacks, Indians and women, and the nation moved toward membership in a world community that deals with problems such as global warming.

The continual striving for political correctness is complemented by the consistent dumbing down of the narrative. Consider how these writers treat the Lincoln-Douglas debates. Their text merely tells that Douglas championed popular sovereignty and that Lincoln cleverly induced him to admit that the voters in a territory could reject slavery. Nothing else. There is no explanation that majority rule is meaningful only when citizens recognize each other as equals, and that democracy becomes nonsense when citizens deliberate about whether some group of people (in this instance, blacks) should be excluded from humanity. Nor is there any text to explain that democracy without the principle of equality can become the very thing that the Founders sought to avoid: rule by an immoral people bent on taking advantage of one another.

Now consider how these writers treat 20th-century dictators and dictatorships. On page 698 a "Section Review" item asks, "What connection is there between hard economic times and the rise of dictators?" That is a meaningful question -- but the book's text does not equip students to deal with it, because the text simply notes that economic stress figured in the rise of Mussolini and Hitler. If students infer a general rule here, they will be wrong. Lenin, to cite a counterexample, came to power during war. As it happens, Lenin makes a brief appearance in this textbook, and Stalin is mentioned three times, but there is nothing about communist ideology, communist political organization, or the doctrines that underlay the Stalinist system of government-by-terror. There is no clue to why anyone might have found communism (or fascism or, for that matter, American democracy) worth living for, dying for, or killing for.

One job of American-history textbooks is to help students understand why and how some people have done such noble things as creating the United States of America -- while others have lived as the Iroquois did, or have descended to the levels of evil exemplified by our century's totalitarians. To produce such books, however, writers have to understand and appreciate the difference between the good and the wicked, between the worthy and the unworthy. The writers of America's Past and Promise are too busy with other things.

McDougal Littell's Baadassss Song

William J. Bennetta

As soon as I looked through chapter 1 of America's Past and Promise, I knew the book to be a fake. I didn't find this remarkable, though, because fake American-history textbooks are common nowadays. These books don't offer much that can be called history, but they are rich in disinformation, distortions, leftist political sing-song, racist delusions, and lies. America's Past and Promise is no exception.

But as I continued to read, I began to sense something unusual. The book's preoccupation with blacks seemed uncommonly gross. The narratives about blacks in slavery struck me as uncommonly strident and overdone. And the attempts to glorify black historical figures seemed uncommonly frequent and fatuous, even by the standards of today's hoax-books. I didn't grasp the significance of all this, however, until I reached page 290 and saw a photograph of a smiling black woman who was identified as "Sharon Pratt Dixon, Mayor of Washington, D.C."

Sharon Pratt Dixon? No, the mayor of Washington is Marion Barry -- one of the best-known black politicians in the United States, with a national reputation for demagogy and corruption. Barry is now enjoying his third term as mayor. His tenure was interrupted when he was imprisoned for possessing crack cocaine, and Sharon Pratt Dixon replaced him for one term, but Washington's voters elected him again in 1994. It was Barry, not Dixon, who was the mayor of Washington when America's Past and Promise was written -- and I am sure of this because the book mentions events that occurred as recently as the autumn of 1995. Yet the book claims that Dixon is still in office, and it entirely ignores Barry, even though Barry is a far more important figure.

As I mulled these stunts and the other things that I had noticed, I saw that they all made sense if I viewed America's Past and Promise as a blacksploitation book. And this is what I now believe it to be. Though it is conventional in its overall structure and in its sociopolitical preaching, its treatment of blacks has convinced me that America's Past and Promise is a blacksploitation product, evidently intended for sale to schools that draw their students from the black ghettos.

I recognize that "blacksploitation" is an unfamiliar term to some of my readers, so I will devote a few paragraphs to explaining it. Please bear with me. I think that this is important and that it will elucidate various observations that I shall offer later.

In the entertainment business, the word exploitation can serve as an adjective, as in the phrase exploitation films. Many exploitation products -- whether films, books, magazines, videos, music recordings or television shows -- are items that have been created rapidly to take advantage of vulgar fads or to capitalize on events that have aroused the interest of the mob. Typical examples include the biographical "instant books" that appear immediately in supermarkets when famous entertainers die, or the quick-and-cheesy movies that are tied to dance crazes or other short-lived fancies.

In the 1970s, entertainment companies in the United States introduced specialized exploitation products that were directed at black audiences and that gave rise to a new term which could be spelled in two ways -- blacksploitation or blaxploitation. Blacksploitation items attempted to capitalize on the "black pride" ideology that was popular at the time, and they tried to do this by portraying blacks as heroes. In the realm of film, the seminal blacksploitation production was Sweet Sweetback's Baadassss Song, which appeared in 1971. It was followed by such successful creations as Shaft, Superfly, Cleopatra Jones and Blacula (which was an adaptation of Dracula, but with a black vampire).

The parade of blacksploitation movies continued until 1975 or so, when the market for such stuff faded -- but the mightiest blacksploitation production of all was yet to come. It would be a television show, not a film, and it would be promoted so effectively that it would capture a huge audience comprising blacks and whites alike. Its name would be Roots.

Roots started out as a blacksploitation novel, written by Alex Haley, that told about an African named Kunta Kinte and his descendants. It began with scenes of Kinte's life in Africa; then it told how Kinte was captured and shipped to America, it described Kinte's adventures as a plantation slave, and it told about the fortunes of Kinte's progeny in this country.

Roots was a viable commercial novel, but Haley and his publisher weren't content to sell it as such. They decided to promote it as history, and they brought it to market, in 1976, amid a spray of promotional claims that were intended to imbue it with an aura of historical truth. In particular, they claimed that Kunta Kinte had actually existed, that Haley had established this by going to Africa and finding a Gambian who remembered old tribal lore about Kinte -- and that Haley was one of Kinte's descendants!

There was no evidence to support those claims, and knowledgeable observers dismissed them as rubbish, but so what? The novel became a best-seller, and Haley himself became a popular figure as he granted interviews and presented lectures in which he told about Africa, about his alleged adventures in Africa, and about the spiritual lift that he had gained by discovering and commemorating his ancestor Kinte.

Those, however, were just the preliminaries. The main event came in 1977, after an outfit called Wolper Pictures turned Roots into an eight-part television "miniseries" for the American Broadcasting Company. ABC pulled out all the stops in preparing the public to be dazzled, and for weeks the company spewed a stream of advertisements and press releases that played on "black pride" sentiments, told again of Haley's alleged "research" in Africa, and said that the TV Roots would be a benchmark in the history of blacks in America.

And in a way, that is what it turned out to be. When the TV Roots finally took to the air, it drew so large an audience (and drew so much attention in the popular press) that it became one of the most famous blacksploitation products ever devised.

Less than a year later, in 1978, a writer named Harold Courlander sued Haley for infringement of copyright, charging that Haley had stolen material from Courlander's 1967 novel The African. When the case went to trial, Courlander's lawyer showed that lines from The African were duplicated in Roots, word-for-word. Despite this, Haley denied that he had committed any plagiarism; he suggested that the blame lay with "volunteers" who had helped him to sift through a mass of "amorphous material" that had been provided to him by unidentified persons. (See The New York Times for 28 November 1978.) The case ended when Haley agreed to pay damages to Courlander.

Haley died in 1992. Today, no informed person credits Haley's claims about African "research," about Kunta Kinte, or about the genesis of Roots -- but Roots itself is still remembered as a classic among blacksploitation ventures.

And now, with that background sketch in place, we can return to the pages of America's Past and Promise, where we shall meet Roots again.

Here and there, in America's Past and Promise, I see some things that seem new. On page 369, for instance, there is a polemical passage in which the writers, seeking to denigrate Andrew Jackson, deliberately fuse and conflate two different meanings of the word civilized. I haven't seen that before. Nor have I encountered, until now, the bogus "statistical" chart on page 779: Here the writers pretend that the entire continent of Africa is a single nation-state and thus is comparable to Germany, Mexico or France.

Another unusual item shows up when the writers tack a bogus caption onto a well known photograph of the General Sherman sequoia, which grows in Sequoia National Park and is the most massive tree on Earth. The photo shows seven men posing at the base of the great tree, with their arms outstretched and their hands linked, to convey an idea of the tree's stupendous girth -- but in America's Past and Promise the photo has been reproduced with this description: "Conservationists (left) link hands around a tree to stop loggers from cutting it down."

Such innovative bits are rare, however, and much of America's Past and Promise is a conventional recitation of the same junk that I recently have encountered in other American-history books. This includes a lot of stuff that apparently has been drawn from handouts distributed by racial, ethnic or political pressure groups, such as the National Center for History in the Schools. (The National Center has concocted "history" that pivots around leftist politics and multi-culti racism. This outfit gained much attention in 1994, when it issued loopy "standards" for teaching history and promoted the false impression that the "standards" had been certified under the federal Goals 2000 Act. For an account of the National Center's "standards" scam, see TTL, November-December 1994, page 1.)

America's Past and Promise is also conventional in its incoherence. It has scores of sidebars, evidently contrived as sales gimmicks, that rarely achieve anything beyond interrupting the narrative and creating confusion (though a few of them serve to dispense some particularly noxious falsehoods or distortions). The 30 sidebars that carry the rubric "Cultural Mosaic" are especially queer because only seven or eight, at best, have anything to do with cultures. Most are phony little articles about individuals, without any descriptions of cultural matters. I infer that McDougal Littell's editors coined the heading "Cultural Mosaic" because "cultural" is a trendy term.

A Present for Everyone!

As is the fashion these days, America's Past and Promise starts out with a chapter of multi-culti baloney about Amerindians -- "The First Americans."

The Indians, it seems, were clever and noble folk who glowed with virtue, practiced ingenious arts and crafts, and did nice things for each other. One of the nice things that they did was to distribute presents, as we learn in a passage about the Indians of the Northwest:

Status -- one's standing in society -- depended on how much wealth one had and how much wealth one could give away. At the great feasts called "potlatches," the host was expected to give presents to all the invited guests. The higher the status of the guest, the more valuable was the present.

Baloney! There was much, much more to potlatching than the mere giving of gifts. The focus of a potlatch was the claiming or transferring or affirming of hereditary rights to property and power, and the host expended his material wealth not only by giving it away but also by destroying it outright in an orgy of conspicuous depletion. To demonstrate his greatness, he ordered that his slaves be killed or freed, that his valuable copper plaques be cut to pieces, and that his hoards of blankets, furs, fish oil and other goods be burned, and he enlivened the spectacle by chanting his megalomaniacal songs of self-glorification. Here is a description from the new edition of Collier's Encyclopedia:

[He sang that he] was the great inviter, the only great tree, the great chief who made people ashamed; his guests and rivals were puny ones without names, they never returned feasts, they were old dogs who spread their legs and trembled before him, they were the cause of his laughter.

His guests and rivals suffered public humiliation until they gave potlatches of their own and outdid him in the possessions which they distributed or destroyed. Those who were able to give a certain number of potlatches and impress others with their wealth were classed as chiefs or nobles, while the rest of the people were commoners.

The killing of slaves during potlatches merits further attention and explication.

Slavery was widespread among North American Indians and was especially prominent among Indians of the Northwest, e.g., the Chinooks, the Tlingits, the Tsimshians, the Nootkas, the Makahs, the Quilleutes and the Kwakiutls. The Chinooks, in particular, ran an extensive commercial slave trade, acquiring most of their merchandise by conducting slave raids. They also kept and used slaves within their own communities, and it was not unusual for a Chinook community (or a Tlingit community or a Nootka community, for that matter) to have more slaves than noblemen.

Though customs varied from group to group, slavery was often hereditary. Among the Tsimshians, for example, a child of any slavewoman was a slave from birth, and he remained a slave unless a freeman adopted him. Among the Chinooks, a freeman could marry a slave -- but if he did, he himself became a slave, and all the offspring originating from the marriage were slaves.

These Indians killed slaves not only during potlatches but also during other rituals. Among the Tsimshians, a slave might be killed so that his corpse could be used for consecrating a new house or a totem pole. Among various tribes, it was customary to mark the death of a noble by dispatching one or more of his slaves. And among the Chinooks at least, slaves were killed so that their shades could serve dead nobles in the spirit world.

There is no lack of information about Indian slavery. I have read useful, short accounts (with citations of primary sources) in Carolyn Niethammer's book Daughters of the Earth, for example. [See "Crucify Her!" on page 8 of this issue.] I have found reports that deal specifically with the Northwestern Indians by consulting the Web site of the Tacoma Public Library. But I have not seen a word about Indian slavery in America's Past and Promise -- nor have I found this surprising. The chapter on Indians in America's Past and Promise consists of sanitized rubbish, apparently concocted by Indian pressure groups or copied out of earlier schoolbooks which have promoted multi-culti fancies as "history." According to multi-culti dogma, there was no slavery in the New World until it was introduced by Europeans.

The chapter grows worse as it goes on, and the last three pages are comical. On page 21, the writers say that America today shares an "Indian heritage" which includes "living in harmony with the environment." Yes, they really say that; and of course, they honor a multi-culti tradition by refusing to explain what their sanctimonious cliché is supposed to mean. Then they claim that another thing which we have inherited from the Indians is the idea of liberty. No wonder these writers didn't let us know about Indian slavery and Indian slave-traders!

The chapter ends with a spread about the "Daily Life" of Indians today. (I do not know why the spread has been stuck into a chapter about the Indians of old, but never mind that. It is just one of many anachronistic jolts administered in America's Past and Promise.) Here we find a load of public-relations pabulum, including stuff about modern Indians who study old Indian languages, run schools and paint pottery. That's pleasant -- but what about the Indians who have launched big, news-making ventures in the gambling industry? What about all the casino projects that have dramatically altered the lives of various Indian groups throughout the country? Of those things, not a word. The writers don't even explain how the building of big casinos represents "living in harmony with the environment."

Apart from the appeasement of pressure groups, what is gained by such skulduggery? Is there some reason why students shouldn't learn that all peoples, everywhere, have had their vices along with their virtues, have displayed ignorance and wisdom together, and have institutionalized their cruelty too, as well as their cleverness? The saintly-savant stereotypes that pass for Indians in today's schoolbooks are just as phony as the dirty-redskin stereotypes that used to pass for Indians in the old Western movies, and they certainly are just as worthless in any educational context.

Fashion and Custom

With those Indians out of the way, the writers get down to business: Chapter 2 is titled "Peoples of West Africa." Here again, the writers are following fashion: It is fashionable to pretend that, because a multitude of West African slaves were shipped to North America, an American-history book should tell about Africans who lived long ago, at irrelevant times and in irrelevant places, and who did not have anything to do with any of that.

In their portrayal of "Peoples of West Africa," the writers start with an utterly nonsensical passage about "The Birth of Humanity," and then they jump to the ancient Nubians and ancient Egyptians of the Nile Valley. The Nile Valley isn't in West Africa, of course, but never mind that. Then the writers make their way westward toward Ghana and Mali, pausing in Ghana to parrot a sanitized and misleading passage about Islam.

Can you guess what comes next? That's right -- Mansa Musa and his pilgrimage to Mecca! Musa, a 14th-century ruler of Mali, is a favorite of textbook-company plagiarists, and he appears in all of the fake American-history texts -- but as far as I know, none of the books has shown any substantive link between Musa (or his pilgrimage) and any aspect of American history. America's Past and Promise adheres to this custom.

Moving along, the writers give a whole page to Kwanzaa, which they describe as a sort of festival by which American blacks "honor their African heritage." They do not explain this or show any connection between Kwanzaa and any of those old West Africans, but never mind that. Next, they tell that Portuguese adventurers arrived in Africa in the 15th century and set up a slave trade, and then they jolt the reader with an anachronistic "Cultural Mosaic" sidebar about -- of all people -- Alex Haley! Their material seems to have come directly from a press release:

ALEX HALEY
(1921-1992)

Alex Haley wrote a book that made history -- and changed it. From stories passed through generations of slaves, he traced his family to a village in West Africa and wrote Roots: The Saga of an American Family. The book came out in 1976, broke sales records, and won many awards. Millions watched the Roots television series. Like Haley, people wanted to know more about African American history. Many were curious about their own ethnic backgrounds. Haley opened the way for new voices to be heard in American history.

The next page is devoted to a florid article titled "Looking Back on Slavery," which allegedly was written by "an African college student, a descendant of a slave"; but the "college student" is not identified, and we have no way of determining where the piece really came from. A lot more black-slavery stuff shows up as the book unfolds, and it is absurd: Having said exactly nothing about all the slavery practiced by "The First Americans," the McDougal Littell writers proceed to wallow in accounts of the Atlantic slave trade and of slavery in European jurisdictions. Their antics may appeal to such eminent black charlatans as Leonard Jeffries, Louis Farrakhan or Mary A.T. Anigbo, but history it isn't.

Equally absurd is the junk that appears when the writers synthesize black heroes. On page 178, for instance, they introduce "Crispus Attucks, the son of an African father and a Natick Indian mother," and on page 180 they tell that Attucks was killed in the Boston Massacre:

Tensions [between Bostonians and redcoats] finally exploded. A gang of youths and dockworkers started throwing snowballs in front of the Boston Customhouse. A squad of soldiers showed up. As the crowd grew, the soldiers became nervous. They started firing. When the smoke cleared, Crispus Attucks and four other men lay dead or mortally wounded.

"Four other men"? Which "four other men"? You may find out by reading a history book, but there's no room for them in a blacksploitation book.

Similar racial shenanigans occur again and again in America's Past and Promise, as blacks are yanked out of nowhere to be set up as heroes. Some of them are nobodies, but others surely are not -- and these could have been presented in legitimate contexts and in legitimate narratives. Benjamin Banneker? George Washington Carver? These are interesting figures in the history of technology. But in America's Past and Promise, they appear only as tinny black figurines; we do not even learn what they actually achieved, let alone learning anything about the technological contexts in which they operated.

All this black boosterism reaches its nadir in the book's last chapter, "Patterns in Our Recent History." Here the better part of a page is allocated to a vapid and gushy account of the Million Man March, which brought a multitude of black men to Washington, D.C., in October 1995. The writers report that the March "was organized by Nation of Islam leader Minister Louis Farrakhan," but they do not tell anything about this individual. They do not even tell that he claims to have received a revelation during a visit to a flying saucer.

The accompanying picture, showing men at the March, carries a caption that evidently was copied directly from a Nation of Islam handout: "During the day of speeches at the Million Man March, participants had moments of intense pride and joy as well as of quiet reflection." Speeches? Speeches about what? Given by whom? You will not find out from this book. This book doesn't even describe the unforgettable speech in which Louis Farrakhan, who likes to exploit numerological superstitions, told about the magical properties of the number 19.

The book's glorifying and sanitizing of blacks has a reverse side, too. This is the systematic ignoring of important whites. As an example: Having read the passage about George Washington Carver, I checked the book's index for the names of fourteen other chemists -- fourteen white chemists who have won Nobel Prizes for their work. Not one name was there.

Now, it may be argued that this just reflects a convention that shapes all of the phony, multi-culti history books: The books say very little about science, technology or medicine, since the devotees of multi-culti nourish a special distaste for those things. But the writers of America's Past and Promise have repeatedly excluded noteworthy whites, even in cases that have nothing to do with science. Indeed, they have gone so far in this endeavor that they even have removed Sydney Schanberg from The Killing Fields, for no evident reason but to exercise their own racism. [See "The Erasing Fields" on page 9 of this issue.]

I end my review of McDougal Littell's blacksploitation book by naming the four "authors" shown on the title page. I don't know whether they really had anything to do with writing the book, but I think that we should remember their names anyway: Lorna C. Mason, identified as "a professional writer and editor"; Jesus Garcia, "Professor of Social Studies Education at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign"; Frances J. Powell, "Professor of History [!] and Political Science at Montgomery College, Takoma, Maryland"; and C. Frederick Risinger, "Associate Director of the Social Studies Development Center at Indiana University."

In analyzing America's Past and Promise I have made use of information supplied to me by Sydney Schanberg, by Earl Hautala (who is The Textbook League's manager of research), and by the Visitor Information bureau at Sequoia National Park. I thank all of them for assisting me.


Angelo M. Codevilla is a professor of international relations at Boston University. His research and writing focus on how nations generate and employ international power. He has served as a naval officer, an officer in the United States Foreign Service, and a member of the senior staff of the Senate's Select Committee on Intelligence. His books include War, Ends and Means (issued in 1989 by Basic Books), Informing Statecraft (1992; The Free Press), The Character of Nations (1997; Basic Books) and a translation of Machiavelli's The Prince (1997; Yale University Press).

William J. Bennetta is a professional editor, a fellow of the California Academy of Sciences, the president of The Textbook League, and the editor of The Textbook Letter. He writes frequently about the propagation of quackery, false "science" and false "history" in schoolbooks.

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