JF Ptak Science Books [A note on an idea for a future post.]
Like my father before me, I grew up playing Cowboys and Indians. In many respects, that game was probably not all that far removed from the history that we learned in our school textbooks. Growing up in a myth and reading about other myths, its hard to disassociate yourself from the power of those words.
I was thinking about this earlier, finishing a post on 19th century American occupational alphabets, and thinking of the ways in which certain classes and types of people are represented–stereotypes, radical misstatement of the truth, and outright lies were sometimes included, and as they were being used to help a young child learn the alpha-beta, they also formed the core, a foundation, of a belief system simply through association and repetition–a twisted mess that very well might have taken decades to unravel.
In that light, I’d really like to see a history of propagandistic history as taught in American schools–that’s where early battles are fought, that’s where the power of words gain strength, and that’s where the basis of all future histories that threaten those introductory lessons come to a point of contention, if not conflict. The power of language finds its way into the young vocabulary, and has a hard time being removed.
Someone wrote a book about everything that they ever needed to learn was learned by kindergarten. That sort of education cuts both ways.
Whether it is an assault on the integrity of the biological sciences and general logic for textbooks to include “alternative” in the teaching of the formation of species and the world, or representing geological time that began in impossibly late stages in the development of the Earth and the Solar System, or glorifying the presidency of Ronald Reagan, it is the control of language that leads to the control of thought, and it is on textbooks that many of these battles are currently being fought. And have been fought.
If I had access, I would love to look at the following books, their titles suggesting a frontal assault on remedial and basic ideas of communication re-fitted to the place and time and people--language and definitions reconsidered to serve the purposes of a new user group. I've chosen these titles simply because of their titles, and also because I'm in the South. (And partially too because my wife's great-great grandfather and three associated relatives fought in the Cause, against the Union, and that is part of their history.)
And so the books that I'd like to see:
Richard McAllister Smith unleashed quite a torrent over a few years: The
Confederate First Reader: Containing Selections in Prose and Poetry, as
Reading Exercises for the Younger Children in the Schools and Families
of the Confederate States (Richmond 1864) followed by The Confederate Primer (1863) and The Confederate Rhyming Primer [Or, First Lessons Made Easy. Designed as an Introduction to the Confederate Spelling Book] (Richmond:
1863) and The Confederate Spelling Book, with Reading Lessons for the Young, Adapted to the Use of Schools or for Private Instruction. (Richmond 1863).
Leverett, Charles Edward. The Southern Confederacy Arithmetic. By S. Lander, A. M.. Augusta: J. T. Paterson and Co., 1864.
There was also the very concerted effort by Mrs. Marinda Branson Moore, including The Dixie Speller. To Follow the First Dixie Reader, ( Raleigh: Branson and Farrar, 1864), The First Dixie Reader; Designed to Follow the Dixie Prime (Raleigh: Branson, Farrar and Co., 1863), followed by her The Geographical Reader, for the Dixie Children.(Raleigh: Branson, Farrar and Co., 1863), and her Primary Geography, Arranged as a Reading Book for Common Schools, with Questions and Answers Attached (Raleigh: Branson and Farrar, 1864).
Robert Fleming managed to really mix it up, and also to get all of it into the title of his book The Elementary Spelling Book, Revised and Adapted to the Youth of the Southern Confederacy, Interspersed with Bible Readings on Domestic Slavery. (Atlanta: Franklin Steam Printing House, 1863.)
Lemuel Johnson’s. An Elementary Arithmetic, Designed for Beginners: Embracing the First Principles of the Science. By L. Johnson. A. M., Professor of Mathematics at Trinity College (Raleigh: Branson and Farrar) published 1864