The Children Left Behind: Orientalism, Patriotism, and Xenophobia in U.S. Textbooks




Cammerzell, Helen


McLarney, Ellen
Meyerhoff, Eli Loren

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How has education changed since September 11, 2001? Due to the Bush presidency and the administrations that followed, the 9/11 terrorist attacks have become a pivotal component of nationalist and patriotic identity in the U.S. public sphere. K-12 textbooks have adopted this narrative whole-heartedly and their authors encourage students to support any and all national responses to the terrorist attacks, especially those that support the War on Terror. In doing so, educational material has revamped the orientalist tropes about the Middle East that intensified during the Cold War across America. In a post-9/11 world, the Middle East and the identities associated with the terrorist attacks, specifically Arabs and Muslims, became increasingly flattened into the enemy of the United States, to whom young nationals are told to exert their patriotism against. Across numerous textbooks from the Cold War to today I examine the racist and xenophobic outpourings of material, specifically pertaining to the Middle East, Arabs, and Muslims. I then compare this discourse to the post-9/11 era, and evaluate the changes and increased conflation of the region and its peoples with terrorism and anti-Western sentiments. American education and textbooks are controlled by white elitist and conservative voices who hold a primary interest in continued domination of the region. While there are forms of resistance across schools in the United States against this politically constructed narrative, specifically in Islamic institutions, there is still so much work to be done to reify American identity within education, without othering those blamed for the terrorist attacks of 9/11.





Cammerzell, Helen (2017). The Children Left Behind: Orientalism, Patriotism, and Xenophobia in U.S. Textbooks. Honors thesis, Duke University. Retrieved from

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