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Teacher Review

Editors' note: This feature is meant to provide practical, although not unbiased, reviews of textbooks based on experience in the classroom. Readers will note that the teachers who wrote these reviews differ widely in terms of what they seek in a textbook. Moreover, these reviews are not meant to advocate or discourage the adoption of any one text. Rather, they seek to begin a dialogue about textbook use that we hope will continue long past the posting of this issue. Indeed, we would like to encourage other teachers—both at the secondary and at the university-level—to send us comparable reviews of texts for inclusion in later issues of World History Connected.  

 Howard Spodek, The World's History, 3rd edition (Prentice Hall-Pearson, 2005).  
    The Spodek text is the one I have used with my section of the 9th-grade history course required at Saint Ann's School, "19th- and 20th-Century World History." It has several important advantages for this purpose, I think, and one disadvantage.
    First, it is the only text I know of that is not written by a committee. The fact that it has been written by Howard Spodek et non al. has the effect on page after page of brightening the narrative and giving it a point of view which my best students can discern and criticize and which all my students find congenial enough to put some pleasure into reading it. 2
    Second, it comes with interpolated documents; but the documents are chosen for their vividness. They are never very long, and often they are poems, like William Blake's "London" with its brief but unforgettable vision of an industrializing England. Ninth-graders, who at 14 are usually new to adult passions and commitments, and just as new to the history of such things, are not deprived of the power of good writing when they begin what we hope will be a long career in reading and assessing the written artifacts of past lives.
    Third, Spodek's text comes with some of the best ancillae. The study website by David Trask is not a star, but then, none of the study websites for published World History textbooks are stars. They are all adequate and helpful (once you can get in past their firewalls) and not (so far as I can tell) misleading. But the readings books for Spodek: The Global Experience: Readings in World History (one volume for each of the two volumes of text), and the two Document Sets, are excellent. New teachers of World History will find that googling the web (as of this writing) still does not yield English translations of some of the most telling written artifacts of non-Western cultures. They will find the Spodek readings books particularly useful. Many of their students will also find the published book of Spodek's own History Notes useful. 4
    The single disadvantage of Spodek, from this teacher's point of view, is that when the textbook gets to the last fifty years, years which are all-important to teenagers anywhere, it discusses them continent by continent and culture by culture. This treatment has the virtue of deemphasizing what I like to call occidentalism, but the trouble with it is that the unifying themes for this period,Cold War, Decolonization, Consumerism, Globalization,are all pretty hard to focus through any cultural region other than the West. For a teacher this means deconstructing and repackaging the textbook presentation,going out on your own,which is easy and even exhilirating for a seasoned World Historian, but a little intimidating for a novice. I like to compare and contrast Algeria and India for this period, but any teacher can find a similar posthole with material in Spodek's chapters. This is a good textbook. 5

William Everdell
St. Ann's School
Brooklyn, N.Y.


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