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Steve Sheinkin is an award-winning writer of stories for kids about American history. When he started out, he was a writer of boring textbooks for kids about American history. When he started, he was young and ambitious and he wanted to bring new energy to textbook writing, to mine American history for fresh new details and anecdotes that could capture the interest of fifth graders…!
This is an interview about how he failed.
And he shares stories about the awful push and pull of priorities for teaching our origin stories to American children.
It’s also a story about Benedict Arnold’s leg.
Steve Sheinkin is an award-winning author of history books for young adults. You can visit him at http://stevesheinkin.com
Thanks to MT Anderson for introducing me to Steve, and helping me with this show.
Music and sounds for this show were found on freesound.org
How Texas Inflicts Bad Textbooks on Us, New York Review of Books, 2012
Texas Textbook Massacre, Huffington Post, 2010
Texans on Review Panel Push for Creationism in Science Textbooks, Huffington Post, 2013
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I think it was Howard Zinn that said,”History is lies agreed upon.”
Actually I think that was Napoleon
Very interesting, Erica and Steve. Thanks for posting this, and for the great conversation!
I just started listening to the episode with the intriguing title, “Benedict Arnold’s Leg”… and quickly realized you were talking with THE Steve Sheinkin!!! He literally changed my son’s life!!!
My son is 9 and is a slow learner and has really struggled with reading and lagged behind his peers. We tried ANY book to grab his interest. Dinosaurs, Minecraft, Legos, super heroes, Mythology, Star Wars …nothing stuck.
Early last summer, a friend who knew Sammy was interested in HAMILTON (his mom is a musical theatre geek) bought him KING GEORGE, WHAT WAS HIS PROBLEM?
The book was WAY above his “guided reading level” and yet he read it in 36 hours (when not swimming at the pool or sleeping) he couldn’t put it down! He then read Sheinkin’s WHICH WAY TO THE WILD WEST and TWO MISERABLE PRESIDENTS.
My son is now is fascinated by history and LOVES reading!!
Loved hearing this Rumble Strip episode! Thank you Erica…and Steve!
I’m a South African indexer of history books (among others) for children (for Awareness Publishing) and I just LOVE this! OMG, those textbooks under the apartheid system were appallingly badly written, but I’m currently indexing a series of books on freedom fighters that redresses some of the garbage that we were taught. I can SO empathise with the lack of fact and substance in the writing of history for the young :(.
I just listened to “Benedict Arnold’s Leg.” Might I suggest “The Dangerous History Podcast,” with Prof CJ. He did a long series on the revolutionary war, another long one on slavery, and he is now doing one on the “not-so-civil war.” We have made the deification of our political and military leadership a bipartisan effort, as part of what Prof CJ calls the “civil religion.” Like most, I got a public education, including undergrad at the United States Naval Academy, and post grad at the Naval Postgraduate School. Now I am busy re-learning everything I thought I knew about our history. It’s very liberating.
On a secondary note, as are all of us no doubt, your guest was biased, as evidenced in part by his allowing that no one from the right was likely listening, or words to that effect. Like we cannot care, I guess. Fortunately I can and do enjoy your work, even though I consider my self right of center, “libertarian” in the current vernacular, a “classical liberal” historically. As for the right in general, and TX in particular, being dangerous; keep in mind that the left dominates the ranks of educators, K – PhD, nationwide; for him to imply that the right is the problem in education is simply indefensible on its face.
All the best Erica, love your show, and to my knowledge I have listened to every episode. Please keep up the great work!
Interesting what you say about your political leanings. I believe I would be a classical Vermont Republican if such a thing existed anymore. In other words, pull your neighbor out of the ditch and next time he’ll pull you out. Or that speaks to at least a part of my fantasy party’s ideology.
I’m not sure that Steve was implying that public education itself is a right leaning affair. I think he was speaking only about the politics of text book publishing. But I agree about the comment about people from the right not listening. I HOPE people from the right are listening….otherwise the whole project seems a little dull.
Thank you for taking the time to comment John! –Erica
great story. I loved everything about it. Your podcast is always about so many different things at once. Why aren’t you famous?
I thought you were going to make me famous. I think Mind Windows is our ticket.