Many Educational Pasts: Conservative Visions and Revisions of American Educational History
by Adam Laats — 2012
Background/Context: Recent attention to Texas’s revision of its state social-studies curricula has focused on the Texas School Board’s conservative vision of America’s history. Texas is not alone. Conservative educational activists have achieved a great deal of success in recent years in revising the historical narrative prescribed for America’s schoolchildren.
Purpose/Objective/Research Question/Focus of Study: This article argues that in the past six decades conservative activists have offered not one but many visions of America’s history. Educational history in particular has been the subject of energetic and conflicting attempts at revision. This article surveys the themes common among conservative educational histories from the 1950s until the first decade of the twenty-first century.
Research Design: The article first examines the broad historical outline used by most conservative educational activists. To flesh out that outline and move beyond overly simplistic generalizations, the article then looks at four specific conservative activists—Milton Friedman, Max Rafferty, Sam Blumenfeld, and Henry Morris—to examine their significant differences in close detail.
Conclusions/Recommendations: Conservatives have used these different visions of America’s educational past to promote specific reform programs in their own times. This article suggests that anyone interested in understanding the contest for contemporary educational policy must understand the variety of contending conservative visions of the educational past.
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