Books: Non-Fiction

Whitewashing War: Historical Myth, Corporate Textbooks, and Possibilities for Democratic Education

Book — Non-fiction. By Christopher R. Leahey. 2010. 145 pages.
A critical analysis of how textbooks represent U.S. involvement in Vietnam.

Time Periods: All US History
Themes: Wars & Related Anti-War Movements

9780807750438Whitewashing War offers a valuable critique of how today’s corporate textbooks approach the Vietnam War. According to Leahey, just four corporations account for 80 percent of the country’s high school social studies textbooks — and these corporations have a vested interest in how students come to view history and the world today. A helpful chapter offers a critical overview of the textbook industry and its power in shaping what students learn.

The heart of the book is an evaluation of how these textbooks describe — well, lie about — U.S. involvement in Vietnam. Leahey shows how publishers avoid including information that might “mar their efforts to establish a patriotic or benevolent imperialist rationale for American involvement.” The book concludes with some ideas about teaching the war in Vietnam. [Publisher’s description.]

The pioneering work on this subject was the excellent Teaching the Vietnam War (Allenheld, Osmun, 1979) by William Griffen and John Marciano, a book that’s out of print but available as an e-book download on the Internet Archives.

ISBN: 9780807750438 | Teachers College Press