Read Two States. Eight Textbooks. Two American Stories. (
We analyzed some of the most popular social studies textbooks used in California and Texas. Here’s how political divides shape what students learn about the nation’s history.

📑 Highlights and Annotations

Conservatives have fought for schools to promote patriotism, highlight the influence of Christianity and celebrate the founding fathers. In a September speech, President Trump warned against a “radical left” that wants to “erase American history, crush religious liberty, indoctrinate our students with left-wing ideology.”

I can’t help but think here about a recent “On The Media” episode A Civilization As Great As Ours which highlighted changes in how history is taught in India. This issue obviously isn’t just relegated to populist India.
Annotated on January 12, 2020 at 11:22AM

Pearson, the publisher whose Texas textbook raises questions about the quality of Harlem Renaissance literature, said such language “adds more depth and nuance.”

If they wanted to add more “depth and nuance” wouldn’t they actually go into greater depth on the topic by adding pages instead of subtly painting it such a discouraging light?

But Texas students will read that some critics “dismissed the quality of literature produced.”

Annotated on January 12, 2020 at 11:27AM

Publishers are eager to please state policymakers of both parties, during a challenging time for the business. Schools are transitioning to digital materials. And with the ease of internet research, many teachers say they prefer to curate their own primary-source materials online.

Here’s where OER textbooks might help to make some change. If free materials with less input from politicians and more input from educators were available. But then this pushes the onus down to a different level with different political aspirations. I have to think that taking the politicization of these decisions at a state level would have to help.
Annotated on January 12, 2020 at 11:30AM

How Textbooks are Produced

  1. Authors, often academics, write a national version of each text.
  2. Publishers customize the books for states and large districts to meet local standards, often without input from the original authors.
  3. State or district textbook reviewers go over each book and ask publishers for further changes.
  4. Publishers revise their books and sell them to districts and schools.

This is an abominable process for history textbooks to be produced, particularly at mass scale. I get the need for broad standards, but for textbook companies to revise their books without the original authors is atrocious. Here again, individual teachers and schools should be able to pick their own texts if they’re not going to–ideally–allow their students to pick their own books.
Annotated on January 12, 2020 at 11:33AM

“The textbook companies are not gearing their textbooks toward teachers; they’re gearing their textbooks toward states,” she said.

And even at this they should be gearing them honestly and truthfully toward the students.
Annotated on January 12, 2020 at 11:39AM

Listened to We Need To Talk About Poland from On the Media | WNYC Studios

A special hour with lessons on truth, conspiracy, history & the battle over the future.

With the US deep in questions of impeachment, what lessons can we learn from divided societies abroad? This week, On the Media travels to Poland, where conspiracy, xenophobia and the rise of illiberalism have the country in an existential fight for its future. On the Media producer Leah Feder reports.

1. Anne Applebaum [@anneapplebaum] on the conspiracy theories around a 2010 plane crash that redrew lines in Polish politics. Listen.

2. Pawel Machcewicz on the Law & Justice party's takeover of the Museum of the Second World War in Gdansk. Also featuring Anne Applebaum [@anneapplebaum], Janine Holc and Angieszka Syroka. Listen.

3. An exploration of left and right strategies in contemporary Poland, with Igor Stokfiszewski of [@krytyka], Anne Applebaum [@anneapplebaum] and Jaroslaw Kuisz of [@kultliberalna]. Listen.

🎧 Political demonization is #Solvable | The Rockefeller Foundation

Listened to Political demonization is #Solvable from The Rockefeller Foundation

Anne Applebaum talks to Flavia Kleiner about how patriotic liberalism can beat xenophobic populists.

Flavia Kleiner is a Swiss political activist and co-president of a political movement called Operation Libero. Operation Libero makes a case for fundamental principles of Swiss democracy and the rule of law as vital to an enlightened understanding of what democracy needs to be effective.

👓 Nationalism, Populism and the EU | Brad Enslen

Read Nationalism, Populism and the EU by Brad Brad (Brad Enslen)
I have maintained for years that the European elites are way to far ahead of the common people in trying to form a centralized European government, “the EU”, at the expense of national sovereignty and identity.  This is especially true in the former Warsaw Pact countries which only regained the...

👓 Why is populism booming? Today’s tech is partly to blame | Jamie Bartlett | Opinion | The Guardian

Read Why is populism booming? Today’s tech is partly to blame by Jamie Bartlett (the Guardian)
Social media platforms are the perfect places to deny nuance in favour of extreme opinions – and we are hooked on them.

👓 Populism and Today’s Social Tech vs. Blogging | Brad Enslen

Read Populism and Today’s Social Tech vs. Blogging by Brad EnslenBrad Enslen (Brad Enslen)
The Problem: Populism and Toxic Social Networks   Social media platforms are the perfect places to deny nuance in favour of extreme opinions – and we are hooked on them, says author Jamie Bartlett Source: Why is populism booming? Today’s tech is partly to blame | Jamie Bartlett | Opinion | The ...

Chris Aldrich is reading “Trump and American Populism: Old Whine, New Bottles”

Read Trump and American Populism (Foreign Affairs)
Two strands of populism have long thrived in American politics, both purporting to champion the interests of ordinary people. One shoots upward, at nefarious elites; the other—Trump’s tradition—shoots both up and down, targeting outsiders at the bottom of the ladder as well.
The title was a little link-baitish, but overall, this is an excellent history of the populism movement in America. Recommend.

🔖 I’ll have to get a copy of Gest’s work to read now that I’ve seen two references to it in two different articles.

My Highlights, Quotes, & Marginalia

Two different, often competing populist traditions have long thrived in the United States. Pundits often speak of “left-wing” and “right-wing” populists. But those labels don’t capture the most meaningful distinction. The first type of American populist directs his or her ire exclusively upward: at corporate elites and their enablers in government who have allegedly betrayed the interests of the men and women who do the nation’s essential work. These populists embrace a conception of “the people” based on class and avoid identifying themselves as supporters or opponents of any particular ethnic group or religion. They belong to a broadly liberal current in American political life; they advance a version of “civic nationalism,” which the historian Gary Gerstle defines as the “belief in the fundamental equality of all human beings, in every individual’s inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and in a democratic government that derives its legitimacy from the people’s consent.”

Although Trump’s rise has demonstrated the enduring appeal of the racial-nationalist strain of American populism, his campaign is missing one crucial element. It lacks a relatively coherent, emotionally rousing description of “the people” whom Trump claims to represent.

By invoking identities that voters embraced—“producers,” “white laborers,” “Christian Americans,” or President Richard Nixon’s “silent majority”—populists roused them to vote for their party and not merely against the alternatives on offer.

For much of his campaign, his slogan might as well have been “Make America Hate Again.”

According to a recent study by the political scientist Justin Gest, 65 percent of white Americans—about two-fifths of the population—would be open to voting for a party that stood for “stopping mass immigration, providing American jobs to American workers, preserving America’s Christian heritage, and stopping the threat of Islam.”

This is the second article in the same issue of Foreign Affairs that’s quoting this same statistic from the same paper. [1] [2]



J. Gest, “Why Trumpism Will Outlast Donald Trump,” POLITICO Magazine, 16-Aug-2016. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 12-Dec-2016]
J. Gest, The New Minority: White Working Class Politics in an Age of Immigration and Inequality. Oxford University Press, 2016.

👓 Chris Aldrich is reading “Populism on the March”

Read Populism on the March (Foreign Affairs)
Donald Trump’s candidacy is part of a broad populist upsurge throughout the Western world. Economic stasis and rapid cultural change have provoked a backlash across Europe and North America, and enlightened leadership will be needed to respond to legitimate grievances without pandering to the public’s worst instincts.
This is one of the most sane analyses I’ve seen in a while about what is happening in the world. I recommend it highly.

My Highlights, Quotes, & Marginalia

Trump’s political genius was to realize that many Republican voters were unmoved by the standard party gospel of free trade, low taxes, deregulation, and entitlement reform but would respond well to a different appeal based on cultural fears and nationalist sentiment.

The number of immigrants entering many European countries is historically high. In the United States, the proportion of Americans who were foreign-born increased from less than five percent in 1970 to almost 14 percent today. And the problem of illegal immigration to the United States remains real, even though it has slowed recently. In many countries, the systems designed to manage immigration and provide services for integrating immigrants have broken down. And yet all too often, governments have refused to fix them, whether because powerful economic interests benefit from cheap labor or because officials fear appearing uncaring or xenophobic.

For the vast majority of human history, people lived, traveled, worked, and died within a few miles of their birthplace. In recent decades, however, Western societies have seen large influxes of people from different lands and alien cultures.

There is a reality behind the rhetoric, for we are indeed living in an age of mass migration. The world has been transformed by the globalization of goods, services, and information, all of which have produced their share of pain and rejection. But we are now witnessing the globalization of people, and public reaction to that is stronger, more visceral, and more emotional.

Voting patterns traditionally reinforced this ideological divide, with the working class opting for the left and middle and upper classes for the right. Income was usually the best predictor of a person’s political choices.

The most striking findings of the paper are about the decline of economics as the pivot of politics.

The shift began, as Inglehart and Norris note, in the 1970s, when young people embraced a postmaterialist politics centered on self-expression and issues related to gender, race, and the environment. They challenged authority and established institutions and norms, and they were largely successful in introducing new ideas and recasting politics and society. But they also produced a counterreaction. The older generation, particularly men, was traumatized by what it saw as an assault on the civilization and values it cherished and had grown up with. These people began to vote for parties and candidates that they believed would, above all, hold at bay these forces of cultural and social change.

This convergence in economic policy has contributed to a situation in which the crucial difference between the left and the right today is cultural.

The most widely held job for an American male today is driving a car, bus, or truck, as The Atlantic’s Derek Thompson has noted.

That slower growth is coupled with challenges that relate to the new global economy. Globalization is now pervasive and entrenched, and the markets of the West are (broadly speaking) the most open in the world. Goods can easily be manufactured in lower-wage economies and shipped to advanced industrial ones. While the effect of increased global trade is positive for economies as a whole, specific sectors get battered, and large swaths of unskilled and semiskilled workers find themselves unemployed or underemployed.

Today, an American’s economic status is a bad predictor of his or her voting preferences. His or her views on social issues—say, same-sex marriage—are a much more accurate guide to whether he or she will support Republicans or Democrats.

📺 Charlie Rose episode from 12-06-16 featuring Fareed Zakaria and Viet Thanh Nguyen

Watched Charlie Rose faturing Fareed Zakaria and Viet Thanh Nguyen by Charlie Rose from Charlie Rose
Fareed Zakaria shares some excellent insight on world affairs, particularly as it relates to the growth of populism in the West. His arguments are underlined by Viet Thanh Nguyen who talks about his experiences as a Vietnamese-American while discussing his 2016 Pulitzer Prize winning novel The Sympathizer on Charlie Rose.
Fareed Zakaria may be one of my favorite guests on Charlie Rose. Their discussions are fantastic.

In this particular installment, Zakaria has some razor sharp analysis on world events. In particular he takes a look at the growing trend of populism and anti-immigration which is occurring in the world. He briefly dissects it and posits that while there are many variables potentially at play, the countries that are most effected have only one in common: migration and immigration.

While many politicians, pundits, and others indicate that the problem is economics (Sweden, Finland, and Denmark have excellent economies yet face growing populism), loss of manufacturing (Germany has a robust manufacturing sector), or even governments abandoning their workers (France goes to great length to protect its workers), none of these variables is common to all of the Western countries. Yet Japan has many of these same issues (and in particular a very poor economy for almost 20 years), but it isn’t suffering a populist movement because it isn’t dealing with the one issue that confronts all of the others: migration and immigration.

Charlie Rose indicates that there’s more detail in Zakaria’s recent Foreign Affairs article Populism on the March: Why the West Is in Trouble, [1] which I can’t wait to read.

Zakaria’s argument is underlined by Rose’s final guest Viet Thanh Nguyen, who discusses his debut novel, The Sympathizer, [2] which won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for fiction. At the end of the interview, Rose asks (almost as a complete afterthought) Nguyen about his experiences with immigration with respect to the Vietnamese in America. Nguyen indicates that the United States had similar painful immigration issues and distaste for the Vietnamese moving into America in the 1970s and early 1980s, yet 40 years on, no one seems to be as up-in-arms and these immigrants have not only assimilated well, but are generally doing very well in American society and culture.


F. Zakaria, “Populism on the March,” Foreign Affairs, 28-Oct-2016. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 07-Dec-2016]
V. Nguyen Thanh, The Sympathizer. Grove Press, 2015.