Heroes and villains: an analysis of the treatment of individuals in the world history textbooks
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Since textbooks are a standard feature of social studies classrooms and frequently are considered the central tools of social studies instruction, their content and manner of presentation are critical issues for the social studies. This study concentrated on identification and analysis of the individual people appearing by name in selected secondary world history textbooks. The written words and illustrations of twelve secondary world history textbooks were analyzed for their selection of, and the way in which they portray, individual men and women of world history. Content of the textbooks was analyzed to determine which people are included, which receive the greatest amount of space devoted to them, and the general characteristics of these people as attributed to them by the textbooks. Those who have the most space devoted to them, the most significant people of world history, were further analyzed to determine which people are portrayed as possessing characteristics which identify them as heroes or as villains. The selected textbooks were compared to determine the amount of agreement among them. The study found a large number of individual people identified by name in the selected textbooks. These people represent every corner of the world, area of endeavor, and time period of history. However, some places, events, and times receive greater emphasis than others in all the textbooks studied. These people of world history textbooks are predominately western European, male, and political leaders who are written of in terms of their actions. The limited number of most significant people share the general characteristics of all who are named, but the greater anl0unt of information provided the basis for analysis of the selection of information and the style of writing. This analysis provided a description of those most significant people who share common characteristics which match the characteristics of heroes and of villains. A few of the people exhibit characteristics of both heroes and villains. The textbooks studied are remarkably similar in these emphases. What is different among the textbooks is the exact people included in them and how much narrative text is used to describe and explain them.
- Doctoral Dissertations