Exclusive: Multicultural History: Playing in a Classroom Near You
by TOM MCLAUGHLIN
May 9, 2008
Every week I'm reminded of my love/hate relationship with the U.S. history textbook (The American Nation, written by James West Davidson and Michael Stoff in association with American Heritage, published by Prentice Hall) used in my class. It blatantly panders to America's public school teachers who favor politically-correct interpretations of history. That's what I hate about it - and it's also what I love about it. The book's bias is easy for my students to recognize, and I can contrast it to my own conservative bias which I acknowledge very early in the school year. The book does not acknowledge its bias, purporting to be an objective account of events. It's an easy foil.
I use the text mostly for students to read and answer discussion questions as homework, which we correct in class. In its coverage of the Vietnam War, one two-part question asks: "Why did civil war break out in [neighboring] Cambodia?" and "What were the results of the war?" As I walk around the room checking homework, a student volunteer acts as "assistant teacher" using the teachers' edition to go over the questions and answers. He or she will read a question, listen to various answers from students, and then read the "correct" answer. As for what caused the Cambodian Civil War, the teachers' edition gave the answer as: "U.S./South Vietnamese forces bombed and attacked Cambodia's bases; as Cambodians took sides, civil war erupted." The clear implication is that America started it.
And the results of the war? The "correct" answer was: "Communist Khmer Rouge won; more than a million Cambodians died." They weren't worked to death or murdered by the communists. They just "died."
The first time I heard that I was appalled and I asked the student to repeat what the teachers' edition said. President Nixon was no prize, but he didn't start the Cambodian Civil War when he ordered U.S. forces into North Vietnamese and Viet Cong sanctuaries there, and he didn't cause the Khmer Rouge to murder millions of Cambodians either. Communists own that. It's part of their dismal legacy around the world in the 20th Century, but the historians who wrote my textbook seem deliberately blind about the evil effects of communism wherever it has been applied. They define it as: "an economic system is which all wealth and property is owned by the community as a whole." Sounds fine when put in those terms, no?
Contrast the text's definition with Random House's (2006) definition: "a system of social organization in which all economic and social activity is controlled by a totalitarian state dominated by a single and self-perpetuating political party." Based on about 90 years of applied communism around the world and tens of millions dead as a result, which definition is most accurate?
Communism's first application was in Russia after Bolsheviks took control of the revolution and instituted the Soviet Union. The text's harshest criticism of their depredations is a description of how Americans were shocked "when the Soviet government did away with private property and attacked religion." Then it covers the first Ukrainian famine saying: "Despite disapproval of the Soviet government, Congress voted $20 million in aid when famine threatened Russia in 1921. American aid may have saved as many as 10 million Russians from starvation."
The text doesn't speculate about why the Soviet government would "disapprove" aid to its own starving people. Neither does it mention that Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin engineered a "famine" in Ukraine ten years later to purposefully starve 7 million Ukrainians when they resisted "community ownership" of their farmland.
What about the Soviet Union's military repression of Eastern Europe after World War II? When the text begins its coverage of the Cold War, students are asked: "Why did tensions develop among the Allied Powers?" The "correct" answer is: "The U.S. and Britain distrusted the Soviet Union's communist government; the Soviets, also distrustful, feared invasion." There's no moral superiority in America's $12 billion rebuilding of western Europe under the Marshal Plan compared to the Soviet Union's virtual enslavement of eastern Europe.
Like it or not, that's the multicultural, morally equivalent theme permeating nearly every textbook used in America's public schools. No culture may be depicted as superior to any other culture, even when it is.