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Race by the Book: Depiction of Human Difference in U.S. High School Curricula

Working Paper #25, Spring 2003

Ann Morning

This study explores and describes the messages that high-school textbooks convey about race. The paper finds that race and racial labels continue to be discussed and used in biology and social science high-school texts. Social science texts take a more “constructivist” approach to race than do the biology texts, introducing the notions of perception and social construction as relevant to understanding race; whereas biology texts tend to reinforce essentialist conceptualizations of race both through their definitions of race as genetically-grounded and their linkage of race to hominid evolution and to contemporary disease proclivity. However, the social science texts also make biological characteristics a requirement of race in their definitions, taking for granted that “real” physical traits are merely translated into racial groupings.

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