Friday, May 21, 2010

Proposed Textbooks Debunk a Liberal Myth of American Racism

The proposed Texas school text books would be the standard textbooks in all but a handful of states across the Union. There has been a rigorous debate between conservatives and liberals in regard to the content of these books.

As a historian, I have long been concerned about the accuracy of textbooks, which are known to contain factual errors and reflect (usually a liberal) bias, which I observed both as a student and later as a School Director. In fact, I notified the school district administrators of examples in my school district’s proposed new history textbook that I took the initiative to review, which inspired other members of the School Board to also review textbooks.

The school textbooks that I was required to read as a student misled students by presenting erroneous information in regard to the internment of German and Italians by the United States during World War II. The textbooks declared that only Japanese-Americans had been interned, which, in the liberal opinion of its authors, was proof of American “racism.” However, as the federal government has acknowledged, Germans, Italians, and immigrants of other Axis Powers were also interned – mostly aliens, including many permanent residents, but even some American citizens. In addition to those who were interned or whose movements were restricted (e.g. Italian-American fishermen along the West Coast), all German and Italian-American resident aliens were required to carry I.D. cards labeling them “enemy aliens,” were made to give up their short-wave radios, and all German-Americans and Italian-Americans, along with Japanese- Americans, were discouraged from speaking “the enemy’s language.” There were other serious abuses of civil liberties.

Moreover, even Japanese-American citizens were considered Japanese subjects by the Empire of Japan, which, unlike the United States under President Ulysses Grant, had not abolished the feudal doctrine, which holds that an immigrant renounces his citizenship by being naturalized by another state. Therefore, even though the U.S. recognized Japanese-Americans as American citizens, Japan did not, whereas neither Germany nor Italy made such claims in regard to German and Italian emigrants, respectively.

I was pleasantly surprised that the school textbook I reviewed for the Reading School District in Pennsylvania had corrected the error of denying the internment of German and Italians by stating that some of them had also been interned by the U.S. during World War II, despite the textbook's other problems. The proposed influential Texas school books will also correct this error, thereby debunking a liberal myth of American racism.

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