American Students Get Distorted Picture of Jews, Survey of Textbooks Establishes
Menu JTA Search

American Students Get Distorted Picture of Jews, Survey of Textbooks Establishes

Download PDF for this date

The results of a five-year study on prejudice in textbooks published in the United States were made public here today by the National Conference of Christians and Jews. The study was conducted by the American Council of Education, and its findings are based on an examination of 267 school texts, 49 college manuals, and 100 of the most widely read children’s books.

The findings established that unconscious prejudices are often revealed in the too simple generalizations drawn by writers of history textbooks, especially in the description of the part played by Jews in the origins of Christianity, and in the false and fragmentary treatment of the Middle Ages.

“Many stereotypes about Jews are rather generally believed by unthinking Americans,” the survey emphasizes. “From what they hear outside of classrooms, students get the impression that Jews are: 1. Unscrupulous capitalists; 2. Communists; 3. Unmoral and promiscuous; 4. Materialistic; 5. Shrewd and canny; 6. Clannish; 7. Strange and sinister; 8. Loud, crude and socially aggressive; 9. Intelligently superior and bookish; 10. Excitable, sensitive and emotional.”

The survey also established that most of the material about Jews in texts is about the ancient Jews. Three-fourths of the space devoted to them in world history texts deals with events before 79 A.D. “Students are left with the impression that the Jewish religion and Jewish culture have changed very little since that time,” the report stresses. “To make matters worse, many of the accounts of the Crucifixion provide the basis for the development of prejudice against the Jews.”

The report brings out the fact that modern Judaism is entirely neglected in American textbooks. Less than 12 percent of the toxts even mention the existence of the Jews as a modern religious group. In the few which do discuss Jewish religious developments of today, there is usually only a fleeting reference to the cooperation between Jews and non-Jews in America on some of the basic social questions of the day. “No American textbook makes a major point of the remarkably close relationship of the Jewish religious ideal to American democracy,” the study emphasizes.

Founding Funders

The digitization of the JTA Archive would not have been possible without the generous support of the following donors:
  • The Gottesman Fund
  • Righteous Persons Foundation
  • Charles H. Revson Foundation
  • Elisa Spungen Bildner and Robert Bildner, in honor of Norma Spungen
  • George S. Blumenthal
  • Grace and Scott Offen Charitable Fund