Anti-defamation League Reports on Defects in U.S. School Textbooks

American school textbooks tend to give a partial, inadequate, and distorted picture of minority groups, the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith reported in a study made public today. It noted, however, that there has been a “marked improvement” in such textbook shortcomings during the past decade.

The ten-month study was conducted by Dr. Lloyd Marcus, director of the League’s department of research and program development and an authority on instructional material. The study was started after last year’s wave of swastika desecrations, perpetrated largely by youngsters of secondary school age. The study was based on exhaustive examination of the 48 most widely used social studies textbooks, geared to junior and senior high school levels.

The study establishes that the treatment of Jews in the textbooks continues to suffer from overemphasis on their ancient past at the expense of their status today. “Much space is given both to democracy’s heritage from the ancient Hebrews and to the progress of the state of Israel. But most texts fail to present a varied, true-to-life picture of Jews in America today, ” the report said. “Only a few do an adequate job of highlighting past and present participation by Americans of Jewish faith in the many phases of our national life.

“Textbook accounts of the Crucifixion, though seldom linking Jews to this event in the harmful manner of older books, continue to be too superficial to help dispel misconceptions that may underlie some feelings of anti-Semitism, ” the ADL study emphasized.

The ADL also found that Nazi persecutions of minority groups are inadequately treated. “About one-third of the books examined omit the topic entirely, ” the report says. “In fact, more than three-quarters of them slight or minimize what the Nazis did to their victims. Several texts on world history, however, contained excellent material on some aspect of the problem: usually Hitler’s racist theories, the identity, both Jewish and non-Jewish, of his victims, or the successive stages of brutality that culminated in mass murder–seldom the number of victims, or the international reaction and consequences of the Nazi assault on innocent people. Pictorial illustration of this topic is very seldom included. Taken as a whole, only one fully satisfactory account was found.”

The study found that immigrants to the United States receive considerable attention in American history and social-problems texts. Post-1880 immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe are now treated more sympathetically than they were a decade ago. Similarly, the ADL said, “the history of legislation against unlimited entry of immigrants is now seldom couched in terms that place an onus on the immigrant.”

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