A-level textbook withdrawn over ‘inappropriate’ Native American question

An A-level textbook has been withdrawn after a youth worker raised the alarm about an “inappropriate” question asking whether the treatment of Native Americans had been exaggerated.

Hannah Wilkinson tweeted her horror about the extract of the AQA/Hodder textbook, USA 1865-1975: the Making of a Superpower, saying: “In what world is this an acceptable question/exercise to ask students to complete on the history of Native Americans in late 1800s US?”

The extracts asked students: “To what extent do you believe the treatment of Native Americans has been exaggerated?”

The exercise also asked students to complete scales with “criticisms of treatment of Native Americans” and “defence of the treatment of Native Americans”.

The publisher Hodder Education has withdrawn the book.

n May, the publisher was criticised by a student for asking whether slavery in the southern states before 1861 “could be justified”. The question was part of an exercise looking at the American civil war.

In response to the tweet, Hodder Education agreed the exercise was inappropriate and said it was consulting with their reviewer to have the activity reworked.

It follows the removal of a passage in a GCSE textbook, also by Hodder Education, about Caribbean families in 2018 after criticism from MPs and campaign groups. A passage in AQA GCSE (9-1) Sociology said Caribbean men were “largely absent” from family situations. After an online backlash, Hodder said it would stop supplying the book for sale.

Wilkinson told the BBC: “It was deeply shocking to see how ingrained racial injustice is … The period we’re looking at is a period of American policy where Native Americans were treated terribly. The way the textbook framed it suggests that maybe the treatment of Native Americans has been exaggerated.”

Wilkinson offers history mentoring lessons to students who require extra support at Durham sixth-form centre.

In response, Hodder Education tweeted: “Thank you for bringing this to our attention. We agree that this content is inappropriate and are going to remove this book from sale. We will conduct a thorough review of the content with subject experts.”

AQA said: “We’ve spoken with the publisher [Hodder Education] and they’ll remove this book from sale and review its content.

“We’re also working together with publishers to ensure that new and updated editions of AQA-approved textbooks meet our commitment to EDI equity, diversity and inclusion.”

Earlier this month, the US vice-president, Kamala Harris, told the National Congress of American Indians the Biden administration would not shy away from the “shameful” history of the first arrival of European explorers.

She said: “Since 1934, every October, the United States has recognised the voyage of the European explorers who first landed on the shores of the Americas. But that is not the whole story. That has never been the whole story.

“Those explorers ushered in a wave of devastation for tribal nations, perpetrating violence, stealing land and spreading disease. We must not shy away from this shameful past. We must shed light on it and do everything we can to address the impact of the past on Native communities today.”

The teaching of American history that explores racism and oppression has become a political flashpoint, with fierce attacks from conservatives at school boards, universities, the media and beyond.

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