Books: Non-Fiction

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

Book - Non-fiction. By Christopher R. Leahey. 2010. 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 | Published by Teachers College Press.