Creating and Omitting History, Fundamentalist Nationalism, and the A Beka History Textbooks

I first started officially drafting this article on August 7, 2015! During the past two years, I have constantly struggled with how to approach the issues raised in this post. I am always interested in how different institutions teach History, and a while back, I discovered that the A Beka History Textbooks are very problematic. At some point in the future, I might do a much longer and more detailed article, but I’m not sure it would be worth my time and energy and worth the stress I would experience writing it!

Nonetheless, in this article, I offer a brief overview of some of my findings based on examining History of the World (aimed at 7th graders) and America Land I Love (aimed at 8th graders).

The A Beka Book company is a popular provider of textbooks for home schools and private schools. Pensacola Christian College (PCC) publishes these books. PCC has operated since 1974 and first received accreditation–from the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools–in 2013. (I am not sure how TACCS’s standards compare to regular accrediting agencies.) A few years ago PCC was in the news for victim shaming a woman who is a rape survivor, so it might sound familiar.

Overall, both of these A Beka Books do not even try to present an accurate version of the past. They add things that did not happen and delete things that happened. They also add very unusual interpretations each step of the way. Every step of the way, information is added or deleted as it specifically relates to their overall agenda of promoting Fundamentalist Christianity as the one and only correct way of living. 

Collectively, these books show very well how that History is always being contested and is always being (re)written, often without regard for evidence or bias. They are very interesting in that they very clearly show a world view that is very true to some but completely without evidence (because evidence is seen, as these books say, as a lack of faith and as too scientific!). Unfortunately, these books are written the way most people have always written history.

Regarding authorship, the best I can find is that they were written by Brian S. Ashbaugh with assistance from others. Ashbaugh does not have any formal training in History or in education, as revealed by his publicly-posted resume.

Some of my comments and some of the most surprising ways in which these books distort history include the following. 

Talking about Nazi Germany:  

Yet those who died quickly were the fortunate ones; some prisoners were used in cruel medical experiments which led to a slow painful death.

How were any Holocaust victims fortunate? “Fortunate” and “Prisoners” are very poor word choices. This book also–incorrectly–says that Hitler hated Jews and Christians equally. Moreover, the book says that fascism is basically just another name for socialism and says that the many of the troubles in Italy and Germany during WWII would have been avoided if they had not been “spiritually blind.”

On a different note:  

Ignoring the people and animals who lived there and ignoring the slave trade, the A Beka Books say that Africa (“the dark continent”) remained mysterious, unexplored, and unimportant before Europeans began colonizing it.

On yet another note. The curriculum incorrectly attributes the following quotation to George Washington, when he never said any such thing:

It is impossible to govern the world without God and the Bible.

Elsewhere: 

God used the Trail of Tears to bring many Cherokee to Christ.

And:

During the 1920s, the Ku Klux Klan movement spread throughout the South, Midwest, and Far West. by 1923, it boasted a membership of 5 million. Whenever Klansmen felt the law was slack or slow, they took the law into their own hands, denying the due process of our legal system.

This section goes on to suggest that the KKK targeted both White people and Black people equally. Instead of talking about lynching and other crimes committed, the KKK is normalized and is even shown as something of a hero in this curriculum.  

Particularly surprising is the denial (is that the right word here?) of the Great Depression (!!), while promoting Christian Nationalism (the irony of hating the government but loving and using its institutional structures–think imagined community–to boost its philosophical world view):

Some people wanted to create an imaginary crisis in order to move the country toward socialism.

[During] the Great Depression, most people had enough money for daily needs as well as for some entertainment.

But liberal politicians called for government relief and job programs. Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal program laid the foundation for a social welfare state by making more and more people dependent on the government. Government agencies and regulations slowly began to control the economic and handicap private business. World War II would force the government to turn, once again, to individual initiative and private business. Only American free enterprise system could produce the goods necessary to sustain and defend our great nation during time of war.

I’ve never seen or heard of Great Depression Denial before. Is that a common thing? (Apparently the Great Depression is “fake news”!! OR, that the “Great Depression” didn’t happen is an “alternative fact”!!)

In addition to being anti-evidence and effectively anti-History and anti-history, this curriculum is very anti-science and anti-thinking and anti-intellectual. Freud, Darwin, and Marx, this book would have its young readers belief, are allies with the devil himself.

But Satan countered the spiritual influences in America by raising up false, anti-Biblical philosophies that would eventually erode our Christian heritage. He “hatched” the ideas of Modernism (religious liberalism), evolution, Marxist-socialism (communism), progressive education, and modern psychology in the latter half of the 19th century.

People who are non-White, non-Christian, non-male, non-heterosexual have no place in the History decimated by the A Beka curriculum. The Black Civil Rights Movement is limited to a few inaccurate and/or misleading sentences. The History provided throughout is very carefully censored and very deliberately presented to create closed, fearful minds, minds that will become Fundamentalist Christians. 

The “review questions,” all of which are low-level, also have an odd way of skewing information and of emphasizing things actual historians would find uninteresting and unimportant. 

In France, Bernard Lewis was found guilty of denying genocide and was fined. France, at least in that case, values legitimate historical analysis and evidence enough to tell someone they can’t simply rewrite the past.

What would happen if something similar could happen in the United States? Why do we allow children to be subjected to such child abuse?

Regardless, I want to encourage people to selected works written by credible historians, not these A Beka Books. 

Dr. Andrew Joseph Pegoda



Categories: Thoughts and Perspectives

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23 replies

  1. This post reminds me of the book Lies My Teacher Told Me by Jack Lowen

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s a pretty good book! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    • While it is unfortunate that these children are being miseducated, I cannot totally advocate for the erasure of their curriculum. These students are in private school so I don’t think the public is entitled to change their curriculum. At the same time, i will reiterate that it is unfortunate that their future’s are being jeopardized. Although I do wish that it could be helped, all of the solutions I can think of revolve around state intervention and I don’t think that the state should intervene in such private affairs when the law isn’t being broken. If I advocate for the state to intervene in this situation, what’s to stop them from intervening in majority black home schools (which have been steadily increasing) where students are able to develop a stronger sense of camaraderie and knowledge of self without being thrust into the prongs of the public education system that seeks to label them as trouble makers. Furthermore, the state itself (at least in Texas) doesn’t have a curriculum that’s really up to par. I invite any and all criticisms.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for a great post, Andrew. While I have been concerned about the right-wing “histories,” I confess that I had no idea some of those texts were so hideous.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. There’s a lot of problems with these books, but that first quote is just outrageous! And by the way, it’s James Loewen, not Jack.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. No wonder some misled people want to homeschool their children…they want the children to believe the strange history in these textbooks/materials.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Thanks for drawing attention to this ongoing travesty. I was combination homeschooled/small church-based schooled on mostly Abeka. I particularly remember the Trail of Tears segment. I can assure you that young kids in isolated religious environments cannot distinguish the bias they are being fed. When I finally got to college (not all of us did), needless to say it took several years of remedial math and science courses to get back up to speed with a high school level, and more than a decade of continuing to realize what a load of crap I had been taught in general. I am truly disturbed by what is going on under Davis, and frightened for the vulnerable kids for whom we are paying to be miseducated.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. This article was very surprising for me to read because of how biased the quotes from the books actually are. It reminded me of our in class discussion on “The Sandlot” and I am amazed that books aimed at educating children rewrite what happened in the past like this! The KKK did not target blacks and whites equally, and the religious overtones seem to imply more than a religious, than factual, text.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Interesting article. I wholeheartedly agree with your argument! History is often re-written in an inaccurate and sometimes racially insensitive manner. The history books that are supposed to enlighten us about our past leave us confused and misinformed. The poor diction in textbooks reveal a lot about the authors and their seemingly inconsiderate attitudes towards infamous historical events. I recall the class having a brief discussion about this issue a few weeks ago. For the most part, we were able to attest to the inaccuracies and insensitivity of textbooks throughout our academic careers. Also, I’m impressed that you implemented good examples to substantiate the prevalence of this issue. Assigning those textbooks to students is a big injustice, and there needs to be far more awareness about this plaguing issue.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Thaddeus

    With few exceptions History will always be disseminated in ways that shade the past. The Publishers and Authors the like take a neutral/more often than not passive tone. Even more shameful is that not many educators seem consumed with correcting the errors.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. This really opened my eyes on what I have read throughout my years in school on various topics like coming to the new world and also where Hitler got the idea of the holocaust from. The things we have read in school have been so bias and sugar coated. This also reminds me of an article I read one day called “18 History Lessons Your Teacher Lied to You About” by Elisa Roland.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. The rhetoric you found in those books reopens old wounds from grade school. Children, being mimics of their parents and social institutions, used my skin color as the bud of many jokes yet as we got older never considered changing that behavior. Perhaps text like this subconsciously reinforced the social place of a white, Christian community. I do not think it was unintentional but I do believe those who have become accustomed to that mindset may have difficulties accepting change.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I grew up going to both public, and a religious private school. Fortunately for me the private school I went to prided itself on its education, so the courses I took were pretty rigorous. However, I do believe (especially more so after reading this) that the authors of textbooks can pick and choose what agenda they want to get across. I have a son who is school age, and he will believe anything you tell him. That’s why teaching kids these lies at such a young age is so dangerous.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Unfortunately, I was taught out of these textbooks from 7th-10th grade. I will never forget the first lesson in world history. The first chapter was practically a recap of the Book of Genesis. One quote from the text was that the study of the past is called “HIS-story” . This emphasis on God was more important than accurate historical information. I am so thankful for the education I have had after leaving the private school which utilized the Abeka program for nearly every subject. Pensacola Christian College would visit our school often to peddle their material and encourage us to go to their school. It was practically cult like.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Interesting how the past has been told differently by different people of institutions. However, it seems quite brazen to rewrite history for, what seems like, a selfish reason. As a Christian, I would never desire to tell a false history because God already knows everything and lying is a sin. Additionally, creationist say the world is 6000 yrs old and evolution can’t be real. Obversely, I saw science is God’s way of showing us how he did what he did.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. This is terrifying to think about, being exposed false information like this will be almost impossible to fix, especially if no one around the child will even care about fixing them. I’m curious to see how smartphones and the internet will affect teachings like these? I would hope that seeing so much correct information would help them learn the actual history, but I can’t help but feel that they’ll somehow manage to find something that agrees with them and cling to that.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Very interesting article. From what I remember of the public school system was the minimization of history, we were taught directly from textbooks. Reading the article opens my eyes to see how much (in this case biased history) or how little one can be exposed to by following the set curriculum or reliance on inaccurate textbooks. Recently, I went to a field observation where the world history teacher gave a lecture on the Atlantic Slave Trade. The students engaged in an informative disscusision similar to the ones we have in class rather than being told to turn to page 67 of their textbook. I’m not implying taking away textbooks, but as educators, parents, guardians choosing the correct form of education is important, because I agree teaching these kids from such textbooks is a big injustice.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Its really not that surprising to hear about things of this nature. The school system is careful about what they really “want you to know and these school teachers are not really trained to talk about discussions of racial matters. I remember being in high school, not once did we go into depth about slavery or everything that happened in the civil rights movement. The only time was when I was in the 8th grade and it was only because my history teacher was African American but even then I’m sure he was limited on what he could teach or discuss. It is important for these educators, parents and these school boards to work on some type of conclusion to properly educate kids on history so they wont be so clueless when they step out into the real world.

    Liked by 1 person

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