Conservatives Claim Schools Are Trying to Defeat the Second Amendment With Liberal Textbooks


A high school supplemental textbook is raising controversy among gun rights advocates for its summary of the Second Amendment. Their version reads: "The people have the right to keep and bear arms in a state militia." This flies in the face of a hotly-debated interpretation of the amendment favored by gun rights advocates that guarantees the right to a personal firearm. However, there is no ideological malice behind this summary, and its inaccuracies are a reflection of most quick prep guides.

The book, United States History: Preparing for the Advanced Placement Examination, is used as supplement to the more rigorous and acclaimed American Pageant in AP U.S. History classes. In the other textbook, the Bill of Rights is clearly defined in full, and the Second Amendment reads: "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." In its full version, the text is more likely to support an individual's right to bear arms, which was further affirmed by the Supreme Court case District of Columbia v. Heller in 2008.

Students are taught the complete version in classes, and the supplemental textbook is only used as a quick guide to prepare before the AP exam. As someone who once took these classes, I can attest to the inaccuracy of many of these supplemental textbooks, which are only meant to be review guides.

Although the Second Amendment summary is receiving a lot of criticism, the authors also erroneously summarized the Third Amendment by stating: "The people cannot be required to quarter (house) soldiers during peacetime." This skims over the clause that explicitly forbids quartering during times of war. In fact, the history of the Third Amendment is explicitly rooted in protesting the British quartering of soldiers in wartime. It would be silly to assume there is some ideological bias behind this summary of quartering.

The huge irony in this controversy is that conservatives are the ones responsible for skewing textbooks. In Texas, several review panels have criticized biology textbooks for not elaborating on the pseudoscience of creationism. The Texas Board of Education also added standards to its curriculum that discuss conservative organizations like the Heritage Foundation and the National Rifle Association.

Yes, the book in question does overlook the complexities of the Bill of Rights. However, it should not be attributed to malice or ideological bias. The authors wanted to provide a quick summary for students before they take the AP exam. If students avoid reading the American Pageant and only read the supplemental book, then they are likely to fare poorly on the exam regardless. Gun rights advocates need to relax and stop assuming the world is out to get them.