Survey of Textbooks for Teaching Introduction to U.S. Politics: (How) Do They See Us?

Virtual Issue: Diversity, Inclusiveness, and Inequality

The APSA Presidential Task Force Report ‘Political Science in the 21st Century report’, now just over five years old, offered a number of recommendations to the discipline including several related to political science research on diversity and racial, ethnic, and gendered marginalization. After reading APSA journals articles published in the years prior to and following the taskforce report, Dianne Pinderhughes and Maryann Kwakwa, both of the University of Notre Dame, argue that, while there have been important steps toward increasing multicultural diversity in political science research and teaching, the barriers that contributed to its marginalization in the past continue to exist. The following article is included in the virtual review issue.

Survey of Textbooks for Teaching Introduction to U.S. Politics: (How) Do They See Us?

by Julie Novkov, University at Albany, State University of New York and Charles GossettCalifornia Polytechnic State University, Pomona

The Committee on the Status of Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, and the Transgendered [LGBT] in the Profession has authorized this review of 17 recent editions of top-selling textbooks marketed for use in courses providing an introduction to U.S. politics. To summarize, all of the texts we reviewed note lesbians and gay men, almost universally in discussions of civil rights and/or equality. These discussions generally frame lesbians and gay men as “another” structurally disempowered group, often grouped with the disabled and listed after longer substantive sections on race and gender. Bisexuals are almost universally invisible and the transgendered are nowhere to be found.

Substantial portions of the discussions focus on court cases. Every text discusses Bowers v. Hardwick, the 1986 case in which the Supreme Court upheld Georgia’s criminal ban on sodomy, and Romer v. Evans, the 1996 ruling applying equal protection to invalidate Colorado’s Amendment Two, which sought to bar the passage of local ordinances protecting people from discrimination based on sexual orientation. Depending on the edition, some texts do not yet incorporate a discussion of Lawrence v. Texas (2003), the Supreme Court case that overturned Bowers v. Hardwick in 2003. Many texts also use the fight over same-sex marriage to illustrate full faith and credit issues. There is virtually no discussion of AIDS in these texts. Some discuss public opinion toward lesbians and gay men and some address LGBT rights as a social movement.

PS: Political Science & PoliticsVolume 40Issue 2