Rush Limbaugh has written a series of children’s books called the “Adventures of Rush Revere” that seeks to make learning American history fun for elementary school-age students.
The books – “Rush Revere and The Brave Pilgrims;” “Rush Revere and The First Patriots;” “Rush Revere and The American Revolution;” “Rush Revere and the Star-Spangled Banner;” and “Rush Revere and The Presidency” – have become New York Times bestsellers.
Rush Revere is a history teacher whose horse, Liberty, has the ability to travel back in time, which he does to help students understand their history.
The books, according to one reviewer, are “interlaced” with “plenty of humor” and “fairly easy to read.” A Barnes and Noble review said the books were “lighthearted, fun stories that appeal to kids and make it easy to convince them that history is far from boring.”
But when a mom found out her son’s class was using the books, she became concerned and wrote to Slate’s parent advice column. On Thursday’s the questions are answered by teachers – in this case Matthew Dicks, who teaches fifth grade in Connecticut, Cassy Sarnell, who teaches eighth grade in North Carolina, and Amy Scott, who teaches preschool special education in New York.
The question: “I have an 8-year-old in third grade, and I found out yesterday that they are reading the “Adventures of Rush Revere” series in class. I know they are children’s books and don’t contain the kind of vitriol Limbaugh is known for, but I am still concerned about the subtle messages he may be receiving about Native Americans and black people and their place in American history. Am I overreacting here? Should I talk to his teacher about my concerns? I’d like to take a thoughtful approach rather than one of outrage.”
It is signed: “Trying Not to Rush Judgment.”
Dicks responds: “I don’t think you’re overreacting. If my daughter was reading the Rush Revere books in class, I would also wonder why the teacher or school district would choose such a polarizing author when so many other quality titles are available. It strikes me as a foolish decision that is likely to create problems in the future.”
He says it won’t be easy – if the class already has begun reading the books or they were chosen by the school or school district, they probably can’t be abandoned. Instead, he urges the mom to buy copies herself and read them.
“Find out for yourself if these books contain any subtle messages about minorities and their place in American history,” he says. “Begin a conversation with your son about explicit and implicit bias and the importance applying a critical eye to everything we read. Encourage your son to ask questions about authors and their possible motives when writing.”
Trolling children’s history books for subtle biases could become an opportunity to make the son into a more critical reader, he wrote.
If biases are found – and Dicks does not appear to have heard of the books, led alone read them – then the mom should spring into action, he writes.
“If you do find these subtle messages while reading the books, document your findings and only then bring your concerns to the teacher, well-armed and well informed,” he writes. “It’s entirely possible that the teacher does not know anything about Rush Limbaugh and that these books were chosen based upon a recommendation or even based on cost. Having the evidence to support your position will be important if you hope to eliminate these books from future classrooms.”