A prime example of bias in education

Patito de Hule

Ad Honorem
Jan 2009
3,333
Minneapolis, MN
The history textbook by James Woodburn and Thomas Moran, Elementary American History and Government, was published for American high schools in 1914. It was still widely used when my parents were in school--my dad had a copy of it in our library when I was growing up. Here is an interesting quote from page 393 on Reconstruction

Now that the negroes, being without land or money or homes, were no longer cared for by their former masters, it seemed only right that they should be given some help and a fair start. While the intention of this law was good, the southern people said it had a bad effect. The ignorant negroes were led to believe that the government was going to support them and that they would not have to work. They stood about idly waiting for their "forty acres and a mule," and many negroes who had been faithful, hard-working slaves were becoming good-for-nothing loafers. For this reason, the southern people felt that there was a need for vagrancy laws.
 
Dec 2011
1,495
United States
That sounds about right, from what I have seen in other books of the period. Even while reading Francis Parkman's chronicles, I come across passages like this that make my skin crawl, but it was the time. Unfamiliar students who have no guidance when reading books like this could take it as fact, which is dangerous.
 

Patito de Hule

Ad Honorem
Jan 2009
3,333
Minneapolis, MN
That sounds about right, from what I have seen in other books of the period. Even while reading Francis Parkman's chronicles, I come across passages like this that make my skin crawl, but it was the time. Unfamiliar students who have no guidance when reading books like this could take it as fact, which is dangerous.
Yeah, Parkman kind of didn't like Indians, Frenchmen, or Catholics. But at least his books were for educated readers, not for educating young readers.
 
Dec 2011
1,495
United States
Yeah, Parkman kind of didn't like Indians, Frenchmen, or Catholics. But at least his books were for educated readers, not for educating young readers.
Actually, he treated my French ancestors with respect, as well as Catholics, but his language when describing native peoples was reflective of the time- darkness, heathens, ghastly ceremonies, etc. I could so do without the "heathen people" passages...

Parkman balances out the Anglophile historians of the period quite well... even today, the pro-British view of the French and Indian War is pervasive in histories of the time. That at least he got right...
 

Rongo

Ad Honorem
Dec 2011
5,683
Ohio
The history textbook by James Woodburn and Thomas Moran, Elementary American History and Government, was published for American high schools in 1914. It was still widely used when my parents were in school--my dad had a copy of it in our library when I was growing up. Here is an interesting quote from page 393 on Reconstruction
Yeah, that's pretty bad. :sick:
 

tjadams

Ad Honoris
Mar 2009
25,362
Texas
Before I go further, all my enemies put away your daggers just for a moment before
you go on your usual attack of me. I ask this question in all puzzlement.
In reading primary sources of history, go back as far as you wish, a lot of the
information is taken as truthful and only skeptics today question it.
Why is the Woodburn-Moran book not to be believed? Perhaps it was the prevailing
atmosphere of the times and is in step with reality?
A historian has to blow away
the smoke to see realty at times instead of what he's told to see.
 

Rongo

Ad Honorem
Dec 2011
5,683
Ohio
Before I go further, all my enemies put away your daggers just for a moment before
you go on your usual attack of me. I ask this question in all puzzlement.
In reading primary sources of history, go back as far as you wish, a lot of the
information is taken as truthful and only skeptics today question it.
Why is the Woodburn-Moran book not to be believed? Perhaps it was the prevailing
atmosphere of the times and is in step with reality?
A historian has to blow away
the smoke to see realty at times instead of what he's told to see.
I imagine it reflects the attitudes of the day. But I think terms like "ignorant negroes", "faithful, hard-working slaves" and "good-for-nothing loafers" indicate a bias that would make me question the validity of the rest of it. Were the freed slaves promised 40 acres and a mule, and did they wait around for it rather than going back to work on the plantation? Maybe. I might have done that myself in the same circumstance. But I don't think I'd take the author's word for it without some more objective corroboration.
 

tjadams

Ad Honoris
Mar 2009
25,362
Texas
I can fully see the lingo and jargon used in the book as a reflection of nation as
a whole, not an isolated case. The reference to "40 acres and a mule" goes directly
to Union General Sherman's Special Field Orders, No. 15.
He issued that order to get rid of the former slaves who were following his army and
becoming a burden to him. He had no legal right to issue that order-taking away the
property of landowners-without getting the official sanction of Lincoln.
Sherman's temporary actions obviously confused former slaves who were
kicked off those lands once the owners returned. It is easy to see them waiting
for what Sherman had promised them, not knowing he had no power to do so.
I can easily see that leading to people sitting around, waiting for more government
action and leading to the images Woodburn-Moran alluded to in their book.
 
Dec 2011
1,495
United States
I can fully see the lingo and jargon used in the book as a reflection of nation as
a whole, not an isolated case. The reference to "40 acres and a mule" goes directly
to Union General Sherman's Special Field Orders, No. 15.
He issued that order to get rid of the former slaves who were following his army and
becoming a burden to him. He had no legal right to issue that order-taking away the
property of landowners-without getting the official sanction of Lincoln.
Sherman's temporary actions obviously confused former slaves who were
kicked off those lands once the owners returned. It is easy to see them waiting
for what Sherman had promised them, not knowing he had no power to do so.
I can easily see that leading to people sitting around, waiting for more government
action and leading to the images Woodburn-Moran alluded to in their book.
As I said earlier, although Parkman is one of my favorite historians, he is not without fault today because of the beliefs of the people of his time, and I accept that. To not accept it is to deny what is obvious as it is read, that the attitudes of the day were backwards and in some cases racist based on our standard today.

When I read the passage of this book, I had much the same feeling as I read Parkman, that the adjectives are horrendous even though there may be absolute truth in the statement. You can't ignore the adjectives, unfortunately- they stick out like a sore thumb. For example:

The bloodthirsty Lee could not be patient any longer, and so he forced his will upon his generals, thrusting the plans for a charge in their faces. Pickett, like a lap dog, eagerly accepted Lee's orders and foolishly led his men out to battle.

OR

Lee had grown impatient of defensive battles, and despite objections from his generals, planned a charge led by Pickett. Pickett, eager to prove himself worthy, led his men out to battle that day.

Both truth, but yet both can't be the full truth. Lee was not bloodthirsty or forceful, Pickett was not a lap dog, and was not foolish in obeying. It's all in the writing!
 

tjadams

Ad Honoris
Mar 2009
25,362
Texas
As I said earlier, although Parkman is one of my favorite historians, he is not without fault today because of the beliefs of the people of his time, and I accept that...
What passed for scholarly historical writing a hundred years ago would
not pass sensors today, that is true. The reading audience of today is
more critical and by-and-large, better educated than before. I think we're
on the same vein of thought here except I don't condemn the writers for
living in their time, and I as an amateur historian, can peal apart the
facts from their ancient writing.