A Textbook Case of Propaganda: What Is Your Kid Learning?
When I was about eight or nine years old, I developed an odd obsession with Father Junípero Serra. Being schooled in California, the textbooks taught me all about our state history – the missions, El Camino Real, and the noble work of this amazing man who simply wanted to help all the Native Americans see the light.
I wanted to do every report on good old Father Junípero Serra. I had my mother take me to all the missions on the royal path that meandered along the coast of California. I even went to the lesser known ones – the ones less beautiful with not so much to see. I was addicted. I was obsessed. And I was brainwashed.
Not being Catholic – or even remotely religious – I still thought that this man had an honorable mission: he believed in education. He taught people to read and write – like I was learning. He taught them to farm. He only brought enlightenment and prosperity to people who were otherwise suffering . . . in the dark. Or so I was taught.
I never learned about the punishments that were doled out – the whippings, beatings, and deprivation if you weren’t 100% on board with speaking in new words, worshipping new gods, changing your traditions – and just overall giving up your identity. I never heard the other story. Did the Native Californians want to be converted? Did they have a voice? Was Father Junípero Serra really a hero?
Since then, we’ve become a lot more inclusive of a variety of voices in our textbooks – although there’s always more work to do. But today, our children are faced with an additional plight when it comes to scholastic learning.
It’s not only political or religious propaganda that’s making its way into your child’s curriculum – although that still exists – what with bans on even great, classic American works like Huckleberry Finn in some states. But, in addition, our children have to deal with corporate influence.
Do you know if any of your school’s textbooks are sponsored by mega corporations with their own agendas? Yes, it is a thing. Big energy might have a say in what your kids learn about global warming. Fast food giants could be teaching your children all about nutrition.
I asked our third grade teacher at back to school night whether she knew who funded the textbooks used in our school to teach science and history. She looked at me in puzzlement. I don’t blame her.
It’s not a topic in the national conversation – like bullying or obesity. Perhaps the corporations want to keep it that way.
Do you know what’s in your child’s textbooks and have you taken offense with any of it?