History Repeating Itself
328 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
25 b&w photos
Release Date:14 Oct 2014
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History Repeating Itself

The Republication of Children's Historical Literature and the Christian Right

University of Massachusetts Press
Recently publishers on the Christian Right have been reprinting nineteenth-century children's history books and marketing them to parents as "anchor texts" for homeschool instruction. Why, Gregory M. Pfitzer asks, would books written more than 150 years ago be presumed suitable for educating twenty-first-century children? The answer, he proposes, is that promoters of these recycled works believe that history as a discipline took a wrong turn in the early twentieth century, when progressive educators introduced social studies methodologies into public school history classrooms, foisting upon unsuspecting and vulnerable children ideologically distorted history books.
In History Repeating Itself, Pfitzer tests these assertions by scrutinizing and contextualizing the original nineteenth-century texts on which these republications are based. He focuses on how the writers borrowed from one another to produce works that were similar in many ways yet differed markedly in terms of pedagogical strategy and philosophy of history. Pfitzer demonstrates that far from being non-ideological, these works were rooted in intense contemporary debates over changing conceptions of childhood.
Pfitzer argues that the repurposing of antiquated texts reveals a misplaced resistance to the idea of a contested past. He also raises essential philosophical questions about how and why curricular decisions are shaped by the "past we choose to remember" on behalf of our children.
This is a magnificent piece of historical research and writing, one that is sure to be well received by scholars and also to appeal strongly to journalists and political commentators.'—Leslie Howsam, author of Past into Print: The Publishing of History in Britain, 1850–1950
'Provides a very readable yet nuanced account of the reading habits and assignments of 19th-century American Children. Pfitzer's well-documented description of largely forgotten but extremely influential authors and textbooks, as well as shifting overarching educational theories, provides important insight into US educational history as well as the study and use of history itself. Recommended.'—Choice
'Pfitzer ably grounds his analysis in the broader secondary literature about nineteenth-century childhood, historiography, and textbook-making.'—American Historical Review
'History Repeating Itself is clear, well written, and insightful, a strong contribution to childhood studies and, in its way, to the teaching of history. . . . [It] raises some thorny questions about the interaction between political ideology and historical interpretation, both for homeschoolers and for those who study them.'—Journal of the History of Childhood and Youth
'Pfitzer consistently demonstrates that, despite their aversion to revisionism, Christian Right publishers issue revised versions of nineteenth-century histories, and also silently revise these texts themselves. . . . Pfitzer openly states his belief that using nineteenth-century popular history to teach twenty-first-century students is misleading and dangerous. Few scholars would disagree.'—American Literature to 1900
Gregory M. Pfitzer is professor of American studies at Skidmore College and author, most recently, of Popular History and the Literary Marketplace, 1840–1920 (University of Massachusetts Press, 2008).
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