9/11, commentary, research

The Politics of 9/11 Narratives in History Textbooks


“He who controls the present, controls the past. He who controls the past, controls the future.”

Orwell 1949: 37

Think back to your high school history textbook.  How many hours did you spend bent over its pages, copying “key terms” onto flashcards the night before an exam?  How often did you complain of the weight it added to your backpack?

How often did you question what was written on its pages?

“The Politics of 9/11 Narratives in History Textbooks Worldwide” is an in-depth analysis of how political forces have shaped the narratives on 9/11 in high school textbooks worldwide.  It provides a never-before seen look into history textbooks from across the globe, illustrating how purportedly objective accounts are refashioned for political ends. While history textbooks are often seen as an authority on their subject, authored by teachers and historians, those who can be counted on to write objectively on events of the past, to distill the “important stuff,” this study reveals that it is press teams more than educators and politicians more than academics who are dictating the narratives currently found in textbooks around the world.

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9/11, research

images of 9/11 in US textbooks

In United States history textbooks, the events of September 11 are most often described as an attack – specifically a terrorist attack.  The timeline of day’s events is described in great detail, with a large emphasis in the response questions placed on memorization of the order and nature of the attacks.  For texts that are generally characterized by fairly straight forward, bland sentences throughout other chapters on other subjects, the 9/11 narrative is dominated by action verbs and passionate retellings.

For the vast amount of space devoted to discussion of the destruction and death caused by 9/11, the reader is provided surprisingly few pictures.  There are rarely pictures of the burning or fallen towers.  This is especially interesting, as such an image (see above) is often the sole or main image that accompanies the discussion of 9/11 in foreign textbooks.

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