The world history textbook in secondary education: Religious content and the ideology of progress, 1800-1900
Chilton, David L.
Haskell, Thomas L.
Master of Arts
Recent textbook studies find the human religious heritage curiously absent from public school history textbooks, an absence perhaps explainable through the development of an ideology of progress, lying at the heart of the modern public educational establishment. This ideology achieves dominance after the Civil War. Antebellum texts, containing a fusion of classical and Judeo-Christian historical outlooks, show no consensus upon overarching historical notions of progress. These texts contain strong Biblical content, including miraculous and supernatural elements, and serve to impress upon the reader moral values of the classical/Judeo-Christian heritage, while justifying the Protestant Reformation. Progressive notions, when present, are usually derived from Christian, post-millennial outlooks. Post-bellum textbooks adopt increasingly secular notions of progress. Biblical and moral content diminish; the miraculous and supernatural virtually disappear. The theme of progress becomes the prime determinant for selecting historical content, a theme increasingly separated from religious development and increasingly linked to political and especially technological advancement.
History of education; American history; Religious history