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Is _This Country of Ours_ racially biased?


Halcyon
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I have been on the hunt for an American History spine that's read-aloudable (is that a word?) We have The Complete Book of US History, but I wouldn't mind something that's a bit older, with more interesting descriptions and stories. This Country of Ours, from the amazon preview, looks so engaging--just the kind of writing my son enjoys. But the reviews have me wondering whether, because it was written quite a long time ago, it has racial biases that would be hard to overlook or edit out.

 

Any thoughts? Recommendations for better texts?

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Hoo, boy, you've opened a can of worms with this one. IIRC the last thread on this topic turned very ugly and resulted in at least one vocal poster getting suspended from the board.

 

My suggestion would be to read it for yourself as it's in the public domain. Here's a link to the Project Gutenberg version. Based on what I read, I personally wouldn't use it in our homeschool (major anti-Catholic bias).

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Calvin saw the title to your post as he walked by, pointed, laughed and said, 'Just a bit, yeah.' I used it as a read aloud and we talked through the racist bits (great learning opportunities) until Calvin was indoctrinated (I mean educated) enough to spot them for himself, at which point I let him read it on his own.

 

Laura

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In the samples I read, I didn't like the condescending tone and the seemingly constant reference to Native Americans as savages. Although I agree the writing is engaging, I opted for Mara Pratt's American History Stories Volumes 1-4 instead, which are lighter in my opinion on the old-fashioned bias and easier to explain.

 

In general, I don't see the phrase "good old days" apply at all if you're female, non-white, a foreigner and with a sense of individuality. I like the good morals, but gosh.. to wish to return to that time? I would be extremely miserable.

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CrimsonWife beat me to posting the link to the complete text online, but I can recommend in it's stead Christine Miller's (Nothing New Press) editions of H. A. Guerbur's The Story of the Thirteen Colonies and The Story of the Great Republic. Memoria Press has a new edition of these, condensing them into a 1-year study. Other considerations might be Peter Marshall's The Light and the Glory for Children, Sounding Forth the Trumpet for Children, and From Sea to Shining Sea for Children or, from a neutral/secular and somewhat different perspective, Betsy Maestro's many books on American history.

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As with any text, you must consider the time that it was written. We as a nation have historically looked on others with disgust and inferiority. With that said, many of the classical texts that we use are written with the same tones against other cultures. <sigh> It is a fact that anything will come with the bias of the author's own opinions and feelings towards others. A certain amount of the "superiority" will be present. I believe that many of these historical texts serve as good learning points for older children in the senior grades, but do not suggest any sort of introduction in the grammar or early logic stages. They fail to understand the predisposition to hatred and singularity present.

 

You need to stick to juvenile sources in this case. As it is suggested in the WTM, we stick to references such as these for this particular reason. As our children age, we introduce things like Uncle Tom's Cabin, The Colored Man, et cetera to balance the views of slavery for example. However, it is important to stress that history repeats itself because of our nature. So, this is quite an advanced topic.

 

If you were me, we would skip a book like this.

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CrimsonWife beat me to posting the link to the complete text online, but I can recommend in it's stead Christine Miller's (Nothing New Press) editions of H. A. Guerbur's The Story of the Thirteen Colonies and The Story of the Great Republic. Memoria Press has a new edition of these, condensing them into a 1-year study...

 

 

I went looking for the Guerbur condensed version at the Memoria press site and cannot find it. Is it currently available? Did I miss it?

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It was a bit strong. I do not like the slurs that is said about different people groups because they are different. However, I am not against my children learning about it.

 

I would rather my children learn about bias that people will have at home where it is safe and we can work it through. As minorities, they are going to encounter it. They need to know what people think of them. I think that I would be amiss in not letting them hear how American culture views things. This was the thinking at the time the book was written why would I hide it?

 

This is just my opinion based upon my personal experience.

 

Blessings to you.

Karen

http://www.homeschoolblogger.com/testimony

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I have been on the hunt for an American History spine that's read-aloudable (is that a word?) We have The Complete Book of US History, but I wouldn't mind something that's a bit older, with more interesting descriptions and stories. This Country of Ours, from the amazon preview, looks so engaging--just the kind of writing my son enjoys. But the reviews have me wondering whether, because it was written quite a long time ago, it has racial biases that would be hard to overlook or edit out.

 

Any thoughts? Recommendations for better texts?

 

I believe you can listen to this free at http://www.librivox.org It's read by Kara Shallenberg.

 

http://librivox.org/this-country-of-ours-part-1-by-he-marshall/

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I think old texts can be usable and can even be a good spring board as to the prejudices that people had back then and why we strive not to be like that. IMHO I would consider using it as long as there are many discussions about the prejudices and the time period. Spy Car did have a good recommendation for the Drama of US History set but it is hard to get the whole set. They can be found in your library. Hakim also has a set as well.

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Hoo, boy, you've opened a can of worms with this one. IIRC the last thread on this topic turned very ugly and resulted in at least one vocal poster getting suspended from the board.

 

 

Oh my! I had no idea-I seem to have a knack for that, don't I? :glare: Just logged on this morning, so I am going to read all the other posts--I hope this doesn't get ugly-REALLY not my intention!!

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Calvin saw the title to your post as he walked by, pointed, laughed and said, 'Just a bit, yeah.' I used it as a read aloud and we talked through the racist bits (great learning opportunities) until Calvin was indoctrinated (I mean educated) enough to spot them for himself, at which point I let him read it on his own.

 

Laura

 

This sounds like the approach I would use. Thanks, Laura, for chiming in.

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As with any text, you must consider the time that it was written. We as a nation have historically looked on others with disgust and inferiority. With that said, many of the classical texts that we use are written with the same tones against other cultures. <sigh> It is a fact that anything will come with the bias of the author's own opinions and feelings towards others. A certain amount of the "superiority" will be present. I believe that many of these historical texts serve as good learning points for older children in the senior grades, but do not suggest any sort of introduction in the grammar or early logic stages. They fail to understand the predisposition to hatred and singularity present.

 

I have not come near finishing TCOO yet, but I have been able to see it thus far as a unique text in its ability to show prejudice & racism--it may be easier to identify here than other places, & the condescending tone illustrates the obliviousness of the time.

 

You need to stick to juvenile sources in this case. As it is suggested in the WTM, we stick to references such as these for this particular reason. As our children age, we introduce things like Uncle Tom's Cabin, The Colored Man, et cetera to balance the views of slavery for example. However, it is important to stress that history repeats itself because of our nature. So, this is quite an advanced topic.

 

If you were me, we would skip a book like this.

 

I think this is a really good point, & to take it a little further--Uncle Tom's Cabin, Huck Finn, etc. are recognized as classic literature. They are *worth* reading for many reasons. They also, however, reflect the language & prejudice of the time in one way or another. They have heavy issues to discuss.

 

On the one hand, these issues can be discussed (perhaps) a little more easily in TCOO because the text itself is less dark, less critical of the time, & so the parent can choose how much of the "sugar-coating" to remove.

 

Otoh, that is exactly one of the issues w/ TCOO. Its acceptance of the prejudice & perpetuation of it, when visible to the reader, are chilling. I imagine other books written for children during times that racism was acceptable, & the comparison is quite dark.

 

Finally, & *very important,* is the fact that TCOO, unlike Huck Finn or Uncle Tom's Cabin, is NOT literature. It is not high-quality prose. As it is inaccurate, it is not history, either.

 

My husband is a history major, & he argued that one would not use a century-old science text to study science; likewise one should not use a century-old history text to study history. At first, I balked at this summation. How ridiculous that just because our pov as a society has changed that that means history itself has changed. We all know that history doesn't change!

 

But I've been reading a lot of ancient history lately, & I've been surprised to find that it does, actually, change. First, new discoveries are made. I knew that was theoretically possible, but I have been blown away to read about things discovered in my life time & things that still have not been excavated. Because of that alone, I'm checking the pub dates on my history texts from now on.

 

Besides that, though, I've also found that perspective does indeed change. Books written about the culture of communist countries in the 80s are not as insightful as they would be today. I'd imagine that books about Muslim countries will be better written by future generations.

 

Likewise, TCOO was not written in a time to give much credence to perspectives that were not white or male. I think that people my age & older need to be especially careful w/ books like these because so much of what is printed there is what we were taught during our own childhood that, to one extent or another, was still set in a prejudiced era. Iow, books like these look truer to us the less we know about the minority populations being misrepresented.

 

In my limited experience, I have found that the best way to study these groups & periods is through their own words. If we let people tell their own stories, the stories will begin, together, to give us a big picture, that is perhaps close to the truth.

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Have you seen this social group? I would love to join but I am suffering from a huge lack of time right now. Reading it for yourself is obviously the best way to go. I haven't read it myself but I get the impression that it might best to read with the 11+ crowd.

 

It's a slow-moving group, lol. But more importantly, we've linked individual chapters of the book in ea discussion & then quoted potential problem passages, so you can see for ea chapter what might offend someone. Obviously, the more people who participate, the more complete that will be, but if you're low on time but interested, you could just read the posts. I mean, if you want to. :001_smile:

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It's a slow-moving group, lol. But more importantly, we've linked individual chapters of the book in ea discussion & then quoted potential problem passages, so you can see for ea chapter what might offend someone. Obviously, the more people who participate, the more complete that will be, but if you're low on time but interested, you could just read the posts. I mean, if you want to. :001_smile:

 

I have been following.;) I really want to try to catch up and join in. We are taking a school break for baby so maybe I can over that time.

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Are these secular?

I would second the Guerber texts re-done by Miller. She removes all the racial slurs and corrects any major inaccuracies in history. My oldest, who is also prefers a story format, loves them.

 

For the most part I would say they are secular. They do mention religious topics when they are important to history, something like SOTW. But given it is American history there isn't as much opportunity for anything to come up. The biggest down side is they only go up through the 1900's. You have to find something else for 20th century.

 

While not being exactly a story my dd is enjoying a Child's 20th Century History Encyclopedia by DK. It is like reading a series of articles that would have been headline news in that year. Generally each year gets a two page spread, and they have sections that focus on cultural issues every 5 years or so. Though it doesn't hold back on topics, like free love in the 70's. It doesn't overly focus on it, just states it and moves on, but it is there.

 

Heather

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I would second the Guerber texts re-done by Miller. She removes all the racial slurs and corrects any major inaccuracies in history. My oldest, who is also prefers a story format, loves them.

 

For the most part I would say they are secular. They do mention religious topics when they are important to history, something like SOTW. But given it is American history there isn't as much opportunity for anything to come up. The biggest down side is they only go up through the 1900's. You have to find something else for 20th century.

 

While not being exactly a story my dd is enjoying a Child's 20th Century History Encyclopedia by DK. It is like reading a series of articles that would have been headline news in that year. Generally each year gets a two page spread, and they have sections that focus on cultural issues every 5 years or so. Though it doesn't hold back on topics, like free love in the 70's. It doesn't overly focus on it, just states it and moves on, but it is there.

 

Heather

 

Thanks Heather! Are these the ones you're talking about? The one at the top? Or are you referring to the two books, The Story of the Thirteen Colonies and The Story of the Great Republic at Nothing New Press? Or are they the same thing, but the former one is condensed? Thanks for helping.

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In my limited experience, I have found that the best way to study these groups & periods is through their own words. If we let people tell their own stories, the stories will begin, together, to give us a big picture, that is perhaps close to the truth.

 

Yes, which is why I turned to certain texts, although not classified as literature, spoke of the time and culture too.

 

I do heartedly agree with using these texts, but I do think we should be careful of the age at which we try and expose our children to complex issues.

 

Keep in mind that consequences are not fully understood and reasoned until between the ages of eight and ten (late bloomers). This being a developmental fact, I find it much easier to try and attack some of these issues through texts that are "dated" no earlier than the logic stage.

 

I do like you! I try to keep my comments relatively short. I often hit and miss with responses. I am glad I checked back today.

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here's a quite liberal text I had to read while working on my masters. A good read though, and certainly good to stir thoughtful discussion. I wouldn't want my child reading it for ps, but I kept my copy and may use it at some point in the future.

 

http://www.amazon.com/Peoples-History-United-States-P-S/product-reviews/0061965588/ref=dp_top_cm_cr_acr_txt?ie=UTF8&showViewpoints=1

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Floridamama, yes, the 1st link you asked about is the 1 year condensed Guerbur from Memoria Press. I haven't laid eyes on it, but just saw it on that site the other day. The 2 separate vols Heather linked are the ones I use that have been redone as she mentioned. I wonder if Memoria Press condensed Christine Miller's versions or if they used the originals; if so, I wonder if they, too, reworked it to remove slurs and inaccuracies.

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here's a quite liberal text I had to read while working on my masters. A good read though, and certainly good to stir thoughtful discussion. I wouldn't want my child reading it for ps, but I kept my copy and may use it at some point in the future.

 

http://www.amazon.com/Peoples-History-United-States-P-S/product-reviews/0061965588/ref=dp_top_cm_cr_acr_txt?ie=UTF8&showViewpoints=1

 

This is a wonderful book, especially for people who would like to expose their kids to a more liberal history that discusses the effects on minorities and the oppressed; I read it in high school. I think it's great for maybe 6th or 7th grade and up?

 

ETA: looking at it again, I wonder if this wouldn't be good as a read aloud to older elementary kids?

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Yes, which is why I turned to certain texts, although not classified as literature, spoke of the time and culture too.

 

I do heartedly agree with using these texts, but I do think we should be careful of the age at which we try and expose our children to complex issues.

 

Keep in mind that consequences are not fully understood and reasoned until between the ages of eight and ten (late bloomers). This being a developmental fact, I find it much easier to try and attack some of these issues through texts that are "dated" no earlier than the logic stage.

 

I do like you! I try to keep my comments relatively short. I often hit and miss with responses. I am glad I checked back today.

 

I'm trying really hard to limit my comments to the text itself, & not some of the broader issues that its use has...well...brought into previous discussions.

 

I agree w/ waiting until kids are at an age where they could reason through these issues. I see the reasons for using a text like this (as opposed to lit or hist). I'm not sure I find those reasons compelling enough to imitate them, but I am at least convinced to withold judgment until I've read the book in its entirety.

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We started it this year. We got to Ch 7 where they were discussing how the men became cannibals on the voyage home. Luckily I figured out where that was heading and ended the story bc I know my kids and they weren't ready to hear about that, lol! And honestly, some of the discussions on here have kept me from picking it back up. In the short bit that we read the only thing that I thought might be considered prejudice was calling the Native Americans 'redskins' and 'savages'. I have ALOT of American Indian ancestors and this doesn't offend me, but it might offend a full blooded Native American. (?) I think there are better options out there, though.

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I loved A People's History as well, but that speaks to my own perspective. :) Howard Zinn also wrote a two volume series for young people (or, perhaps the original was adapted by someone else), but I haven't seen it myself. You can take a look here.

 

 

OMG, I had NO idea he had a book like this out. This looks wonderful, seriously. Thank you for pointing this out. I am ordering it :)

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:lol: It's an interesting discussion...and the hive is the liveliest (and most informative) place to have that discussion, I suppose...

 

Paula (still thinking I could've worded that thread title a bit better...:auto:)

 

I kind of liked the thread title evilgrin0010.gif <---stolen from Heather

 

Bill

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This is a wonderful book, especially for people who would like to expose their kids to a more liberal history that discusses the effects on minorities and the oppressed; I read it in high school. I think it's great for maybe 6th or 7th grade and up?

 

ETA: looking at it again, I wonder if this wouldn't be good as a read aloud to older elementary kids?

 

Betsy Maestro's books, though lighter, small & concise, express this POV also. They're like meaty picture books & are no trouble for my 2nd grader, so I'll say they're great for younger elementary. Helen's school had them out for her 7th - 8th mixed grade class in their book basket, too, though.

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But I've been reading a lot of ancient history lately, & I've been surprised to find that it does, actually, change.

Yes, history does change--My husband rewrites history all the time, and he says the same thing about me! :D

 

My husband is a history major, & he argued that one would not use a century-old science text to study science; likewise one should not use a century-old history text to study history.

 

On a more serious note, when I was a child my favorite dinosaur was the Brontosaurus and we still have an old book of dinosaurs that contains a chapter about Brontosaurus.

 

Take it from me, a living dinosaur, history does change.

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Okay, so I've checked the following books out of my local library just to compare, and here are my initial thoughts (will post more on my blog about this, if anyone's interested).

 

1. Joy Hakim's History of Us. On a quick read-through of a couple of chapters, I don't love it. Something about the tone, or the writing style perhaps, is off-putting. For example, in the beginning of Ch 14 she writes "We have to get something straight-right now, before we go on with this book. It has to do with the centuries. You need to be sure you understand about them. Do you know that whe you see "12th century" it means the years that begin with 11?" For some reason, it doesn't make me want to read more, doesn't draw me in. Sounds a little..condescending?

 

2. The Drama of American History series by Christopher Collier and James Lincoln Collier. I picked up the first book in the series, Clash of Cultures Prehistory-1638. I spent only about 45 minutes looking through this book, and already I am enamored. The writing is wonderful, engaging and thoughtful. I would say the level is slightly above my kids right now--read aloud would be fine, with me explaining some things along the way, but I think ideally I would use it in 4th or 5th. But really, it's so well done I think Ii might just use it. The chapter on the Algonquins is descriptive and enlightening. It includes a comparison of Indian and European cultures, comparing their differing attitudes towards land in particular. A nice example of the writing style is as follows:

 

 

 

"This Indian attitude toward acquiring possessions-the accumulation of wealth-was part and parcel oftheir feeling that nobody should do any more work than they had to. They would-and did-work very hard when it was necessary: Indian women spent many hours tending their gardens, caring for their children, skinning animlas, and making the fur and skin into robes and shirts; hunting parties of males might spend exhausting days tracking deer through the forests. ut once they had acquired enough food to hold them for a while, they stopped to enjoy themselves...The Europeans who first made contact with the Indians tended to see them as savages living rough, even brutish, lives. The Indians had no cattle, no spacious homes, no tables, chairs, clocks, or books. But the fact is that the Indians had developed for themselves a way of life that was comfortable and ample. They ate well...their dwellings, if smoky and crowded, were warm and comfortable enough...they enjoyed a great deal of leisure time to sing, dance and play games...And they lived with a deep sense of belonging to the natural world..."

 

3. The American Story by Jennifer Armstrong: this is a popular one, and the stories are engaging and will work as a good accompaniment and evening read-aloud :)

 

Thought others might be interested :)

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Thought others might be interested :)

 

I am. Your impressions of Hakim and the Colliers brothers match mine 100%. I am completely unfamiliar with The American Story by Jennifer Armstrong, so if you get a chance to read and review more if this work I'm all :bigear:

 

Bill

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I am. Your impressions of Hakim and the Colliers brothers match mine 100%. I am completely unfamiliar with The American Story by Jennifer Armstrong, so if you get a chance to read and review more if this work I'm all :bigear:

 

Bill

 

 

Will do, Bill. I am reading it a bit more tonight and will post here or link to my blog.:001_smile:

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2. The Drama of American History series by Christopher Collier and James Lincoln Collier. I picked up the first book in the series, Clash of Cultures Prehistory-1638. I spent only about 45 minutes looking through this book, and already I am enamored. The writing is wonderful, engaging and thoughtful. I would say the level is slightly above my kids right now--read aloud would be fine, with me explaining some things along the way, but I think ideally I would use it in 4th or 5th. But really, it's so well done I think Ii might just use it. The chapter on the Algonquins is descriptive and enlightening. It includes a comparison of Indian and European cultures, comparing their differing attitudes towards land in particular.

 

My library has most of those books, and I really like them, too. But I decided against using them as a spine. They were written topically so that you can just pick up one book to get an overview of a particular topic without having read any of the preceding books. I read the first 3 of them, and there was considerable overlap. It could work as a spine, but you'd probably have to be comfortable omitting or glossing over the first couple of chapters in many of the books (and are only 6 chapters per book, right?).

 

Then there is the there's the issue of cost if your library doesn't have them all...

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By the way the Zinn adaptation for young people has a 2 vol series (hardcover) and an updated "omnibus" 1 volume version (paperback). It was adapted by someone else, Rebecca Stefoff.

 

 

is the updated omnibus the same text, I wonder? or maybe suitable for younger ears? off to look. Thank you!!

 

ETA: found the updated omnibus version, if anyone is intereste!

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