Labor History Teaching Blog

Socialism in current K-12 textbooks: invisible & dismissed

For years now I’ve been showing students and friends the polls that show an increasingly favorable view of socialism especially among low income, young African-American and Hispanic youth. I often commented that if the past is prologue, future historians would be wondering why they missed the “Rise of the Left” in their obsession with the “Rise of the Right.”  An openly socialist working class politics is no longer a pipe dream. But the tools we have to give context to this are often woefully inadequate.

This offers a great opportunity for teachers to give context to the label not only in this election season but to open dialogue in the future. We’ve already featured Jim Gregory’s fabulous mapping website. We’d like to invite more commentaries about this on Labor Online. How are you dealing with the issue in your classes? What are some tools that we could offer K-12 teachers?

We start today by posting a great analysis of textbook coverage of socialism in current textbooks  by Robert Shaffer of Shippensburg University. It is an essay “Socialism in the United States: Hidden in Plain Sight” for Social Education 80 (1) earlier this year.  Shaffer shows the invisibility of Socialism in most-used U.S. textbooks and asks teachers to consider the bias of their textbooks as a window to helping students understand the connection between past and present. But he also gives some good examples of how teachers can use the opportunity of the gaps or bias to enhance their teaching.

 Shaffer SE Socialism 2016