Parents of students at a Texas high school first found the inconsistencies in a textbook’s characterization of the Second Amendment.
An advanced placement (AP) U.S. history class textbook that has been used for the past 10 years by some high schools has come under fire recently for its inaccurate description of the Bill of Rights.
While the controversy over the book’s accuracy began with the Second Amendment, many have since pointed out that several other amendments in the Bill of Rights are also incorrectly described.
The 768-page textbook, “United States History: Preparing for the Advanced Placement Examination,” is reportedly used as a supplemental instruction aid, according to a spokesperson for the Denton Independent School District in Dallas.
Controversy regarding the book’s accuracy came into question when Guyer High School junior Brie Getts was reading the book’s summary of the Bill of Rights.
“It says, ‘The people have a right to keep and bear arms in a state militia,’” she said while reading the book’s description of the Second Amendment. “It seems to be worded weird,” so Getts showed the book to her father Sean.
The full textbook version of the Second Amendment reads “The people have a right to keep and bear arms in a state militia.”
Compare that to how the amendment is actually written in the Bill of Rights: “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”
“I didn’t want to jump to conclusions and say, ‘Oh, they’re trying to indoctrinate our children,’ but kind of the more I thought about it, it needs a lot more scrutiny,” Sean Getts said, adding that the book’s version of the Second Amendment is “incorrect because it implies that the Second Amendment is restricted to the state militia.”
Getts said after reading from his daughter’s textbook, he posted a picture of the book’s text on Facebook with the statement, “From my daughter’s AP United States History book. Looks like I’ll be educating the school system.” The photo went viral and within a few days the school was getting several phone calls and messages from people, demanding the book be removed.
“I didn’t know that it was going to end up the way it did,” he said. “The unintended natural consequences have been the outrage they’re indoctrinating our children. I have no evidence of that.”
Dr. Joseph Ignagni is a professor at the University of Texas’ Arlington campus and has studied and taught constitutional law for the past 25 years. He said sometimes modern textbooks misinterpret the Second Amendment, since the controversy concerning an individual’s right to bear arms has only grown stronger in the past decade, and courts more often side with individuals in gun law cases.
“Until 2008, that was not a fact,” he said. “Not in terms of the Supreme Court. Not in terms of what most people believed the Founding Fathers were intending.”
Talking to a local CBS affiliate, Ignagni referred to a landmark Supreme Court decision — District of Columbia v. Heller — made in 2008, which found that an individual has a Constitutional right to bear arms without connection to a militia.
As news of the textbook’s incomplete description of the Second Amendment went viral, a spokesperson for the Denton School District released a statement about the school’s use of the book:
The main history book utilized in the Advanced Placement U.S. History classes for juniors in Denton ISD is titled: “American Pageant.” This is a history book that has had a strong reputation for historical facts for many years. The “American Pageant,” the official textbook, gives the exact Bill of Rights.
The book in question, “U.S. History: Preparing for Advanced Placement Exams,” is a supplemental instructional aid and not the official textbook for any history classes. The teachers and staff are aware of this ‘summary statement’ and are teaching the amendments from the classroom textbook, “American Pageant.”
The only approved textbook for these classes is “American Pageant.” All other materials are ‘supplemental.’ Please be assured that Denton ISD history teachers are disseminating the correct information on the Second Amendment.
Kimberly Williams is a parent of senior at Guyer High School. She said she was initially upset about the reports that the textbook the school was using was inaccurate, until her daughter, who took the AP U.S. history class last year, explained that the inaccuracies in the book were being pointed out to students as a “lesson that people can’t believe everything they read and that they must research for themselves.”
Williams said she was concerned about all of the inaccuracies now floating around in the media and on the Internet in regard to the story. Still, some like Getts said that using incorrect materials when educating children can be dangerous.
“It’s important to me because the area about the inaccuracies. … This is the Bill of Rights. We built a nation on these principles. It’s a foundation,” Getts said. “Inaccuracies being taught in school systems can wreck a nation. On the Second Amendment specifically, this is increasingly under fire. Every massacre or shooting, gun control comes up and so that’s why it’s important. It’s frequently attacked here lately.”
The book’s publisher AMSCO School Publications has not yet responded to any media calls, and was recently acquired by Perfection Learning. However Perfection Learning says the book is currently being revised and the original language of the Bill of Rights will be included in the new edition.
As the story of the incorrect Second Amendment began to spread online, many readers noticed that other amendments were incorrectly identified as well.
In the text, the First Amendment was explained as “Congress may make no laws that infringe a citizen’s right to freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly, and petition. Congress may not favor one religion over another (separation of church and state).”
The full text of the First Amendment reads “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
The Fourth Amendment has also had a slight makeover in the textbook as well. Instead of reading, “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized,” the textbook summarizes the Fourth Amendment simply by stating, “The government may not carry out unreasonable searches or seizures of the public’s property.”