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When does history become propaganda?

I originally posted this article in April of 2018, but the issue, and text I exposed back then, is once again in the news.  Paul MIrengoff of Powerline, for example, has, by way of Stanley Kurtz, exposed Prof. James Fraser, the author of the text, as a dedicated Communist:

The content of Eastern European textbooks was every bit as authoritarian as communist pedagogy. Those textbooks, for example, included poems inspiring children to report even their best friends to the authorities for violations of party dictates.

Those textbooks taught that no one is allowed to have “purely personal cares and difficulties in a socialist collective,” and denounced Germans who tried to escape over the Berlin Wall. East German textbooks instilled hatred for the “capitalist and imperialist” United States, which was painted in nightmare colors. Or is this the content Fraser considers “liberating”?

By all means, take the link, and also the link therein to Kurtz’s article.  Regular readers know I am no fan of Pearson, a British education publishing company.  I have no quarrel with anyone selling a legal product, but Pearson has cashed in on one of the most destructive education fads of all time: mandatory, high-stakes testing.  I’ve also had personal contact with some of their representatives, and found them to be less than honest in their defense of their testing products. The damage to which Pearson—and to be fair, other companies—has contributed is enormous.  We are now dealing with the tested generation, kids who have known little but testing their entire time in school, and as a result, are seriously handicapped.  The damage done our nation is only beginning to be understood and will plague us for at least a generation.

It now appears Pearson is working hard to damage us in another way: by a progressively biased AP history text, as Fox News reports:

A new Advanced Placement honors American history textbook has not been distributed to students yet but it’s already stirring controversy for being anti-Trump and suggesting his supporters are angry xenophobes.

Tarra Snyder, a student at Rosemount High School in Minnesota, who saw a copy of the book sent to her school, told Fox News she was ‘appalled’ after seeing how ‘blatantly biased’ the newest edition of ‘By the People: A History of the United States’ was toward Trump and his voters. She said it also glossed over all issues then-Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton faced during her campaign.

‘There are specific parts where it goes off the rails from a historical textbook toward an op-ed,’ Snyder told Fox News.

I happened to see Miss Snyder this morning (04-17-18) on Fox and Friends. Unlike the manipulated Parkland “survivors,” coached in progressive, anti-liberty/gun talking points, Snyder is truly literate, eloquent and thoughtful, which is not uncommon with AP (Advanced Placement) kids.  Here are a few passages from the text, written by NYU Prof. James Fraser:

Trump tapped into the sense of alienation and ‘being left behind’ that many voters—most of all white, poor and working-class voters—felt.  But quite unlike Sanders, Trump was extremely anti-immigrant, especially attacking Muslim immigrants.

One might think Fraser is merely providing a leftist point of view, which teachers will use to conduct a complete and fair exposition of the issues. Anyone that knows education understands that’s not commonly the way things work, particularly if the teacher involved, like Fraser, is clearly a leftist.  A more honest author would have noted Trump appealed to voters that felt Barack Obama ignored the Constitution and damaged the rule of law and the economy. Trump, likewise, was not anti-Muslim immigrant, but wanted immigration law to be enforced–which is any president’s duty–and better vetting of people from Muslim countries with terrorist problems.

Most thought that Trump was too extreme a candidate to win the nomination, but his extremism, his anti-establishment rhetoric, and, some said, his not-very-hidden racism connected with a significant number of primary voters—more voters than any other single Republican candidate.

It would be fair to say Trump was an unconventional candidate, but the racism charge, which directly suggests everyone that voted for Trump was a racist, is entirely out of line in a textbook.  There is, in fact, no evidence of Trump’s racism, but a great deal of evidence to prove otherwise, including decades of his hiring and promotion of many minority employees, and his current appointment of many minority officials.

Trump’s supporters saw the vote as a victory for the people who, like themselves, had been forgotten in a fast-changing America—a mostly older, often rural or suburban, and overwhelmingly white group.  Clinton’s supporters feared that the election had been determined by people who were afraid of a rapidly developing ethnic diversity of the country, discomfort with their candidate’s gender, and nostalgia for an earlier time in the nation’s history.  They also worried about the mental stability of the president-elect and the anger that he and supporters brought to the nation.

This passage is little more than unwarranted slander against half of America. Few, if any Americans voted against Hillary Clinton because she is female.  They voted against her because she is a life-long Marxist who was swearing to be even more of a leftist than Barack Obama.  When Clinton promised to work against the Second Amendment every day, and to destroy coal miner’s jobs, she did not endear herself to Americans. Calling half the electorate “deplorable” didn’t help either.  Fraser also seems to be biased against people that do not live in major—Democrat-controlled—cities. Fraser’s editorializing against Mr. Trump’s supporters is the purest projection.  It is leftists that have rioted and committed a great deal of violence—and advocated it—before and after Mr. Trump’s election. Their expressions of unrestrained rage and hatred have been constant and disturbing.  Trump voters are merely glad to see respect for the Constitution and adherence to the rule of law again.  Clearly, Fraser is a doctrinaire leftist.

The school Snyder attends does not yet use the text.  Pearson is trying to sell it there, and elsewhere.

Pearson spokesman, Scott Overland, told Fox News the textbook was ‘developed by an expert author and underwent rigorous peer review to ensure academic integrity.’ He added that it was ‘designed to convey college-level information to high school students’ and ‘aims to promote debate and critical thinking by presenting multiple sides’ of the 2016 election.

Multiple sides eh? There seems to be little evidence of that.  If we take Overland at his word that the text was peer reviewed, “peer review” is of little use if every peer holds progressive ideology, which, considering such unprofessional editorializing, would seem to be the case. It’s a near certainty no known conservative would be asked to review such texts.

Overland added that they welcome feedback for their texts and are willing to meet with concerned parents and teachers ‘as a part of our longstanding commitment and track record of providing unbiased and accurate materials.

Forgive me, please, gentle readers, for being skeptical.  I was once invited to a week-long session of reviewing prospective test questions, moderated by a few Texas state educrats and a Pearson representative.  We talked, they pretended to listen, and were eventually forced to admit they weren’t going to take our advice or change a damned thing.  So much for their “longstanding commitment and track record.”

You knew this was coming, didn’t you, gentle readers?

The book also bashes police for its handling of the Ferguson riots.

In a section titled ‘Black Lives Matter,’ Fraser wrote that after the shooting of Michael Brown, Brown’s ‘parents were kept away at gunpoint.’ He paints a negative view of police while glossing over violent tactics carried out by some rioters, critics say.

This is an extraordinary lie. After Brown was shot, in legitimate self-defense, his body lay on a street, covered, for several hours, which is normal, necessary police procedure as they processed the crime scene. They were often surrounded by angry blacks who had no part in the case, who screamed obscenities and threats at the police and actively tried to obstruct them.  There is no record of the police holding anyone, let alone Brown’s parents, at gunpoint.  If it occurred, there surely would have been cell phone video, and likely TV news footage. Had the officers disturbed the scene and not followed proper procedure, they would surely have been accused of trying to sweep the matter under the rug.

The nearly all-white police force was seen as an occupying army in the mostly African American town…the police increased the tensions, defacing memorials set up for Brown and using rubber bullets on demonstrators,’ he wrote.

The small Ferguson police force—only 22 patrolmen–which had three black officers–14%–could hardly be considered an occupying army, nor was this term being bandied about. Whatever racial tensions might have existed in Ferguson were turned white hot by the media and the racial grievance industry who tried to canonize Michael Brown, a pot-smoking, drug addled thug who committed his first known strong-armed robbery just before being stopped by Officer Darren Wilson.  He was shot after attacking and viciously beating Wilson and trying to snatch his handgun.  Fraser neglects to mention the riots—caused by local and outside black agitators–that burned many businesses, inflicting tens of millions in economic damage on Ferguson, which has, to this day, not remotely been made whole. Ferguson property values remain terribly depressed.  It was in response to those riots that local police, police from other nearby agencies and the National Guard, used standard riot control tools, including rubber bullets. As to “defacing memorials,” that was a matter of the police and city sanitation personnel cleaning up items left at the roadside, which eventually deteriorated into piles of trash.  In fact, the police worked with protestors to establish a specific memorial site, and did nothing to dismantle it.  The SMM Michael Brown case archive is here.)

According to his bio, Fraser wrote the book to ‘help make U.S. History courses more lively, with a focus on the agency of everyday Americans or many different communities, times, and places.

Fraser’s view is certainly “more lively,” if one considers lies to be lively. His focus on “agency” is standard leftist ideology, the idea that “everyday Americans” or “communities” should not only determine what history is, but the ideology and actions of groups like Black Lives Matter must be memorialized and lauded, rather than actual, historical accomplishments, particularly if made by white men.

I have not so much as held this book in my hands, so I rely on the information I’ve seen in the media, which is always a dangerous proposition.  I trust you’ll consider this matter in that context, gentle readers.  Any history text is subject to the whims and biases of its authors, but there is a mainstream, a common thread, if you will, running through all competent American histories, a thread based on fact and evidence, which recognizes truly significant people and events rather than temporarily trendy individuals and “communities.”  Fraser, like so many other leftist scholars, purposely ignores fact and evidence that does not comport with his progressive ideology.

Tarra Snyder (left)

It’s a foregone conclusion that many school districts will gladly adopt Fraser’s text.  In these excerpts, the text perfectly matches their ideology.  Pearson, of course, is entirely aware of this and almost certainly hired Fraser for the purpose of producing a product the leftist education market would embrace.  Miss Snyder has done a great public service, and school districts interested in accurate history rather than leftist revisionism, now know, at the very least, not to adopt Fraser’s tract without carefully and completely reading it.  Such propaganda has no place in any classroom.

For those who might appreciate a brilliant parody of history texts, I recommend Dave Barry Slept Here.  

Am I, finally, saying a Communist can’t produce an honest, non-ideological history text?  Why yes, yes I am.