Why is the Christian Right fascinated with children’s books from the 19th Century?

By Elias Villoro | 30 September 2022
Boing Boing

Cover to Thirty More Famous Stories Told, a popular Victorian-era childrens’ history book. (Credit image: Library of Congress / Public Domain)

History repeats itself, so the saying goes. It seems more accurate to consider that people repeat history and make choices similar to those others have made in the past. The continuity of choice is also the endurance of what is not chosen. People are repeating history every day. In Italy, people have re-embraced fascism in the election of Giorgia Meloni, whose party, Brothers of Italy, was formed in the neo-fascist aftermath of World War II. People repeat history every day.

Across the US, adherents to right-wing ideologies of intolerance, judgment, and punishment are censoring what young people are learning in school. Banning books, trolling adolescents, and creating conditions for intimidation and violence are now commonplace. Not only Florida, but Michigan, Texas, Pennsylvania, and Iowa are a few states where reactionary politics are putting people, their families, and communities in danger.

Though published in 2014, History Repeats Itself: The Republication of Children’s Historical Literature and the Christian Right by Gregory M. Pfitzer is profoundly relevant and worth a leaf-through at your local public library.

“Recently, publishers on the Christian Right have been reprinting nineteenth-century children’s history books and marketing them to parents as ‘anchor texts’ for homeschool instruction. Why, Gregory M. Pfitzer asks, would books written more than 150 years ago be presumed suitable for educating twenty-first-century children? The answer, he proposes, is that promoters of these recycled works believe that history as a discipline took a wrong turn in the early twentieth century, when progressive educators introduced social studies methodologies into public school history classrooms, foisting upon unsuspecting and vulnerable children ideologically distorted history books.”

For the religious right, revisionism seems more sacrosanct than tradition, even as they rail against difference. Or, put another way, perhaps revision is tradition.

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