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Disguising Imperialism: How Textbooks Get the Cold War Wrong and Dupe Students


“[I]n my High School, Highline, in Burien, WA. When WW-II started in 1941, any classes dealing with Germany were banned or discontinued. Language, history, social study, etc.”

Go back to a quarter century to WWI in the US, and you’d have witnessed German “Sheet music, along with books by German authors…burned in public spectacles.”


You don’t say where you’re from, but it kinda sounds like you’re from one of those former SSRs. Those were really just opportunistic continuations of Russian imperialism. But you don’t seem to have much sense of US political culture (beginning with appearing on a progressive site under an offensive name and immediately making such a dismissive and offensive post). There was never any chance that the superpowers would invade each other’s continental masses (well, maybe Alaska), and the nuclear principle known as mutually assured destruction kept remote-control attack in check.

But how is US manipulation of foreign economies and government differ from Soviet seizure of neighboring states, other than annexation and direct governance? We do it by sending businesspeople, not governors, and we don’t have to impose our culture and language, because we enjoy the arrogance of operating in the world language already.


The recent changes in the nature of publishing have drastically changed that particular $$ trail. It used to be (and I worked in this very capacity for a spelling publisher) that Texas and California could benight the textbooks for the whole country, because they each “adopted” 1 to 3 texts in each subject and level, bought enough for all the kids in their states, and warehoused them (“Texas Schoolbook Depository”?). It was economically prohibitive for publishers to put out any edition other than the one they’d designed to try to capture those states (and there were rotations by subject area, so no, they weren’t bidding for Texas and California in the same subject in the same year). Nowadays it’s much easier to have a Texas edition and, say, a New York City edition, where texts may be “adopted” but not purchased en bloc and warehoused.

There’s also a lot more use, as by Wolfe-Rocca and that Texan I mentioned, of online resources to undermine poor textbooks. As something of a 3rd route (though related to the fall of the adoption strangleholds), college texts are more and more often published as e-books, and K-12 systems are also catching on that it’s cheaper to provide their kids with tablets or e-readers and simply load them with electronic versions of textbooks. And e-books are even cheaper to customize than print books.


“It might be good to recall, however, that there has yet to be a “revelation of Russian hacking” regarding the 2016 election. It’s another of those lies that has been repeated so often that one imagines it were true.”

Really? Lie?
While the entire line of evidence has not been publicized, there is plenty of evidence that would lead a logical thinking person to a reasonable conclusion that would not be necessarily characterized as a lie.


The author “believe[s]…two wrongs make a right–the U.S. has meddled with other countries, so therefore it’s just right they meddle with us”?

Where does the author state or imply that? You can’t support that claim.


The cold war “was based on justified fear” of the S.U. “invading/destroying the U.S. If any…think that’s nonsense, ask any of the former members of the 20-plus [former S.U.] ‘republics.’”

And how could citizens of former Soviet Republics conceivably judge whether Cold War visions of Soviets “invading” the U.S. were “justified”? Surely they’d be as ignorant and ill-equipped to address such a question as…well…you.


I, too, am a victim of the Vietnam War. Just out of college and faced with 3 choices, go into the “service”, flee to Canada or go to jail, I chose the coward’s way and went into the Air Force as a pilot. That is my PTSD story. Living as a coward for going against my heart felt feelings against war. There is no such thing as freedom when it comes to those chicken hawks kidnapping young people and sending us off to kill their fellow human beings. Previously there was the draft; now they bribe the the poor.


That’s pure nonsense. The Cold War was the West’s fear of loosing power and property and spheres of influence i.e. their colonies. There wasn’t any risk of the Soviet’s invading the USA. At all. There was the risk of the Soviet’s ideology spread, which championed the independence of (western) colonized nations all over the world.


Unfortunately, too many americans do not know the real history of the US. It’s good to hear that your students are better educated.


I am well aware of the Zinn classes. I appreciate the UCLA url. Thanks.


It will not be long before what we were taught to fear from the old USSR will indeed be part of our lives in the US. At 72, I can taste the winds of change. At 72, I have been there and done that in regards to the propaganda we are being fed by the plutocratic mafia which controls our government which prostitutes us for wealth. Only it is worse this time around.


You would think that having lived that life you would do all that is possible to keep from living it again. An example; Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians is exactly what we did to, and are still doing to our native Americans. We tore down Gorbachev’s wall, and are now allowing our government to build our own to wall out our neighbors to the south. Capitalism and fascism will certainly die of its own weight. It will most likely take us all with it.


After the second paragraph, first sentence:

In the days following the original revelations of Russian hacking, some journalists sought to remind readers of the United States’ own sordid past of foreign meddling.

hard to take the rest seriously, though yes I realize it’s documenting real events.

Missing is the adjective “alleged” in front of “Russian hacking”.

CD has no business having publishing this absent that adjective. In fact this writer is herself engaging in neo-McCarthyism. She doesn’t seem to have a grasp of what anything like solid evidence of Russian [state] hacking would look like.

As of Feb. 2018, we’ve seen no evidence Russia hacked the 2016 election in any manner. No, the NSA document Ms Winner is accused of leaking to The Intercept does NOT confirm Russia/GRU hacking of a voter database software company. Right, The Intercept’s reporting on the NSA document is basically fake news. The document speculates about the source of the hack, and the document is honest enough to acknowledge it’s speculating on the source.


I did similarly, asking for a Chinese summer school course in my children’s school in Georgia. The reply was speechless shock. So I sent my daughter to a private class with Chinese immigrants. Whem we moved to Pittsburgh there were classes in Chinese.
Inside China now, and perhaps in other countries as well, the Western media is still so strong that some people may have western views of their own country.


We are not guilty for what a young heart wants to believe.

Every person would have done better with wiser teachers and leaders they might have had but didn’t.

How could we have suspected such bad people exist? There really are anti-life capitalists who amass profit by war against innocent families who don’t even know what communist dominos are.


Different countries may as tradition vary in the way they see themselves compared to other countries. China is very inwardly focused and self-critical. Most cab and bus rides I take involve a driver or passenger asking what country I’m from, then insisting that the US is a better country.


Even that was mostly excuse. After WWII, the Soviets scooped up what they could manage (nearby, small, as much in ruins as the motherland), and the US scooped up nations that had similarly been ravaged by the Pacific war (and by our own blowback), and some closer by. The US didn’t stop there, because we discovered that capitalism was a great way to make colonies without having to send troops and administrators: Let the US corporations send personnel and reap the benefits, and everyone (at home) was happy. Look at what we did to Southeast Asia, and to ourselves, in the name of preventing the “domino effect.”


The USA gives it out, but cannot take it. What a bunch of cry babies! Oh well; it’s much easier to repeat the sos day after day than go out and earn your money the old fashioned way; finding the real news.


Let us not forget that it isn’t just the US foreign policy that students have been duped about. America’s own history has been re-written

In addition to Howard Zinn, this is well worth a read


Well written article. Glad you’re a teacher, Ursula.
Obviously once the notion of “capitalistic greed” becomes the underpinning leitmotiv for US imperialism…your students are off to a much better start at being informed citizens in GovCorps, the plutocratic oligarchy we delusionally have to come to associate with " American democracy."