By Danette Clark
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, now a Pearson Education partner in providing online educational content for schools, has created a video showcasing one of its interactive textbooks for iPad.
The book, titled The Americans, a Houghton Mifflin Harcourt iBooks Textbook, was written by Gerald Danzer. The hardback print of the book was first published in 1997 and has been re-printed by both Houghton Mifflin and McDougal Littell in recent years.
The new Houghton Mifflin video promoting the iBook version of The Americans features Marine Vietnam Veteran Tommy Lyons.
According to Hope for the Warriors, Tommy Lyons returned home from a tour in Vietnam to later organize a committee of veterans to pay tribute to the 25 sons of South Boston who died during the Vietnam War. Together, they created the South Boston Vietnam Memorial, the first of its kind in the nation. The memorial was dedicated on September 13, 1981.
Lyons later became Director of the Community Services Department at MassHousing Agency, a member of the Secretary of the VA Advisory Committee on Homeless Veterans, Chairman of the Massachusetts Veteran and War Memorial Commission, and a member of the Governor’s Veterans Advisory Council and Chairmen of the Sub –Committee on Veterans Housing.
While the Houghton Mifflin video does well to show Lyons as someone to be respected and thanked for his military service, the textbook it promotes likely paints a picture of America that Lyons would not agree with.
According to a 2010 article from Red State, the American Textbook Council found the print version of The Americans to contain both satisfactory and “grossly deficient or inaccurate” information.
Red State also notes that, according to a link they viewed at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute’s website, another reviewer gave the Houghton Mifflin textbook an “F”.
Joel Spring, author of Corporatism, Social Control, and Cultural Domination in Education, wrote that textbook reviewer and author Edward J. Renehan “charged that their was a “leftist political bias” to The Americans.”
While the Thomas Fordham link is no longer accessible and details as to why the book received poor reviews are hard to find on the web, one reviewer of the new iBook had this to say:
Revision at its finest…
Another example of how American history is rewritten to slant a particular ideology. It is a shame that students are subjected to a version of American history that only focuses on examples of racism, sexism and societal classes. Missing from this text are all of the real examples of great Americans who helped make this country unique as compared to any other that have inhabited the Earth. The text design is flashy and most of the iBook Author’s widgets are employed, however the content is much to be desired. The books authors have definitely towed the politically correct line throughout and have failed to provide students with alternative interpretations of many historical events, decisions and issues.
In 2011, Christian Action Network conducted a study of high school texts containing pro-Islam bias and distributed it to more than 500 school administrators nationwide. Included in the study was Houghton Mifflin’s The Americans, Reconstruction to the Twenty-first Century, also written by Gerald Danzer and also formerly published under the McDougal Littell imprint.
To be fair, the new iBook version of The Americans did receive two positive customer reviews on its iTunes download page. However, one of those reviewers, referring to her/himself as “a modern social educator”, states that he/she is “cynical” about other US history texts that are “too fluffy” and “nationalistic.”
In other words, this progressive, social justice educator favors The Americans over patriotic history texts.
It seems unlikely that former Vietnam Veteran Tommy Lyons would agree.
In a 2008 interview, when asked, “What on earth possessed you during a war to go into the Marine Corps?”, Lyons responded:
Me and five buddies from high school were patriotic and we wanted adventure and to see the world. We enlisted together. As it turns out, it was the second smartest decision I ever made. So much good has come out of having been a Marine. The first smartest choice was marrying my wife.
In a 1983 interview with WGBH, when asked what he thought about the anti-war movement during that time, Lyons said he didn’t pay any attention to it because, for him, joining the military was a tradition in his family and in his town.
When asked what he thought about other kids his age trying to avoid the draft, Lyons responded:
Joining the Marine Corps, to me, was no big deed.
Other kids were going to college to find out where they were at. I knew that when I went to Paris Island, I was gonna come out of there much more ahead than if I went to college.
According to dcmilitary.com, in recent years, Lyons and his Boston committee of friends have organized numerous fund-raisers for the children of Marines killed and wounded in action.
In further recognizing Lyons’ many accomplishments, dcmilitary.com continues:
When the Medal of Honor Society had an honorary cruise on the USS Constitution in Boston Harbor for them, who did they ask to arrange it?
When a wounded Marine from the Beirut Marine Barrack’s bombing needed someone local in Boston to look out for him and his family, who did they ask?
When Clint Eastwood was having the gala first opening in Boston of his movie ‘‘Flags of our Fathers” about Iwo Jima, who helped make sure the Harvard-MIT-Boston College Naval ROTC cadets got front row seats?
Lyons has worked in the state government in Massachusetts, run restaurants and bars, administered a shelter for homeless veterans and a myriad of other jobs. On the side, Lyons also runs the Semper Fidelis Society of Boston.
According to Army and Marine combat veteran Greg Kelly, who recently served both in Iraq and Afghanistan, his friend Tommy Lyons often uses this “fitting quote”:
Poor is the nation that has no heroes. Shameful is the nation that having them, forgets.