Lovorn, M. (2017). The Politicization of U.S. History Textbooks: Reinventing Ronald Reagan. In J. Zajda, T. Tsyrlina-Spady & M. Lovorn (Eds.), Globalisation and Historiography of National Leaders: Symbolic Representations in School Textbooks from Around the World (pp. 161-178). New York, NY: Springer.
CO-EDITOR OF BOOK: I am co-editor for this international book entitled Globalisation and Historiography of National Leaders: Symbolic Representations in School Textbooks from Around the World.
ABSTRACT: Americans have embarked upon the interminable process of electing their next president, and as is common during each presidential election year, history lessons everywhere are being contextualized with current events. Generally speaking this is a good thing because such consciousness serves to heighten students' historical and political awareness and enrich their attention to making real-world connections with the past. As an example, each major Republican candidate has gone to great lengths to align himself with former president and party hero Ronald Reagan. As the bastion of conservatism and face of the "Party of Lincoln," Ronald Reagan has, for many, become an iconic representation of better times, better leadership, and a "greater America." His overlapping personifications of all-American boy, actor, cowboy, defender of faith and family, and of course, vanquisher of 20th century communism all seem to make him the quintessential American; a life worthy of our heroification. A brief investigation into Reagan's evolving legacy reveals that conservative Americans have undertaken a rather expeditious mobilization to lionize him over the past two decades. Organized campaigns to rename streets and public buildings, publication of glorious biographies, and the production of obsequious documentaries and television specials have contributed to the rapid growth of the Reagan cult of personality (Fischer, 2014). This ongoing exaltation or "reinvention" of the former president has resulted in a historical reputation of legend similar to those of George Washington or Abraham Lincoln. Interestingly, and not unlike Washington and Lincoln, it appears that at least part of our image of Ronald Reagan may be based as much in myth as it is in reality. What's more, some of the key events of his presidency receive little or no coverage in history textbooks. The purpose of this paper was to examine presentations of Ronald Regan in three recent U.S. history textbooks, to historiographically analyze the ways in which he has been memorialized, heroified, or demonized in text, and to summarize the politicization of Reagan's presidency from a historiographical standpoint.