History Lessons: How Textbooks Around the World Portray American History
By Dana Lindaman and Kyle Ward
New Press, 2004, 400 pp.
Lindaman and Ward had a brilliant idea: show Americans what the rest of the world teaches its children about U.S. history by excerpting history textbooks from around the world. Unfortunately, they weren't able to carry it out. They include what French history texts teach about the French resistance in World War II, for example. Interesting stuff, perhaps, and especially for those who, like Lindaman (as we learn from the jacket notes), focus on the formation of French identity in secondary-school textbooks. But this excerpt, like far too many others in this unwieldy and poorly edited morass of a book, tells us exactly nothing about what the French learn about the United States. We can learn here what the British, Italians, Germans, and French are taught about the outbreak of World War I, or how the British describe the partition of Palestine, and we can read many other little snippets of information. Overall, the book leans too heavily on a handful of countries, and fails too signally to focus on what others are teaching and learning about the United States to serve any useful purpose.