Curricular Geopolitics

Submitted By:
Jessica Flaxman, 120 Education Consultancy, Belmont, MA

Two States. Eight Textbooks. Two American Stories. by Dana Goldstein
The New York Times, January 12, 2020

Despite suggestions or claims to the contrary, there is yet no standardized curriculum in the United States of America. Depending on where students live and attend school, they are taught different material, given different assessments, and expected to know how to do slightly or significantly different things. It is startling to see, and not just to suspect, that what students learn in school is so deeply dependent on their geo-political contexts. In her dynamic New York Times article, "Two States. Eight Textbooks. Two American Stories," Dana Goldstein brings this reality to life by laying bare some of the precise curricular differences in social studies textbooks in use today. Focusing her analysis on Texas and California, Goldstein found that the information within eight textbooks differed in hundreds of ways, "some subtle, some extensive," and all reflective of "the nation's deepest partisan divides." As an additional point of interest, Goldstein explains the process by which a textbook is customized for state and district-specific audiences. McGraw-Hill, Pearson, and other textbook publishers are apparently caught in the crosshairs as individual states make specific requests – for example, California asked for added language about the Second Amendment and gun control and Texas asked for language doubting the quality of Harlem Renaissance literature. It's a fact worthy of attention and discussion: on subjects such as race, immigration, economics, sexuality, and gender, students are exposed to revised narratives depending on where they attend school.

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