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Affirmative Action Debates in American Government Introductory Textbooks


Journal of Black Studies

Published online on


Affirmative action debates remain hotly contested across America. Given how the topic is presented in respective disciplines and core textbooks, students are often misinformed. Introductory textbooks may be one of the few places where students are exposed to significant discussions on affirmative action. In this study, we examine affirmative action policy in American government introductory textbooks published between 2005 and 2014. Our study is modeled on previous, similar analyses of introductory textbooks. We use content analysis to examine the extent to which affirmative action discussions challenge or reinforce affirmative action myths and meritocracy. We conclude that textbook discussions that emphasize the policy intent over policy interpretation tend to debunk affirmative action myths and meritocracy. Meaning, the policy intent focus—presented as the "equality of opportunity" view—challenges historical discrimination and racism while the policy interpretation focus—presented as the "equality of outcome" view—seems to reinforce negative views.