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