Jollification and gorging! Yuletide is fooltide! A look at textbook treatment of Thanksgiving.

I’m always fascinated about how old textbooks cover content, so I happily obliged when my friend and fellow Discovery Education blogger Michael Milton asked me to look in my collection for examples of how old textbooks covered Thanksgiving to support a lesson idea he had.

Here’s what I found.

Perhaps my favorite, American Pageant 1st edition, 1956:

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Yuletide is fooltide! Jollification and gorging!

The same edition also included this description:

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Another from my collection, from The Story of the American People, 1937.

Of course, dusting these textbooks off and laughing about silly language choices is fun, but more importantly, these passages demonstrate how social studies pedagogy has shifted over time. All of these passages are presented as indisputable narratives, with no primary source material, no contrasting points of view, no inquiry, no empathy for the plight of Native Americans. So these passages have a place in a 21st century classroom, to present students with an example of why historiography is needed. Corroborating multiple sources to construct claims supported by evidence is the important work of not only professional historians, but of students themselves.

Discovery Education has a plethora of multimedia sources students can examine to update these outdated, simplistic, sometimes false narratives. Teachers could use the “Student Sleuth” format used in Discovery Education’s Social Studies Techbook. Students can analyze a “traditional” image or story of Thanksgiving, like from an old textbook, or from a children’s story book, or an image like this one from Discovery Education, then provide students with additional resources that complicate that narrative. Students could mark-up, re-write, or critique the traditional account using Discovery Education resources, such as the ones I list below:

Discovery Education Streaming Plus is more than just an archive of digital videos. It contains many multimedia sources including podcasts and news articles. This USA Today article helps students empathize with Native Americans today:

Click on image to visit link:

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Here is a podcast titled “How the First Thanksgiving Worked,” from the series Stuff You Missed in History Class, available on Discovery Education Streaming Plus.

Discovery Education Streaming Plus also contains the video “Squanto’s Story and the First Thanksgiving,” from the America: Fact vs. Fiction series, on the American Heroes Channel which corrects the false narrative of Natives as uncivilized by providing depth and detail about Squanto, and also presents students with a primary source from the first Thanksgiving, a letter from Pilgrim Edward Winslow.

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Discovery Education publishes “Content Collections” for the most popular content teachers search for, and has a Thanksgiving Content Collection with even more Thanksgiving related resources, including lesson starters, videos, news articles, and writing prompts–all differentiated by grade level.

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The narrator in the Squanto video I link above boldly claims, “Once we fall in love with a myth, the real story hasn’t got a chance.” Let’s give the real story a chance by teaching Thanksgiving with empathy and inquiry.


















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