Analyzing Power and Ideological Bias in U.S. Textbooks: a Case Study of the Bill of Rights Institute

Jessica Flacksenburg, Dr. Laura Roselle, Political Science, Elon University 100 Campus Drive 27244

This research focuses on the intersection of education and power. Specifically, it will examine the Bill of Rights Institute’s free online materials, and the potential biases in those resources. The Bill of Rights Institute was founded by David and Charles Koch. It works to “engage, educate, and empower individuals with a passion for the freedom and opportunity that exist in a free society.” Besides the Bill of Rights Institute and Koch Industries, the Koch brothers also support multiple right-wing think tanks, such as Pioneer and the Cato Institute. The Bill of Rights Institute has come under fire as being a mechanism for the Koch brothers to push a libertarian agenda in education. Current political science scholarship explores money and power in education but doesn’t specifically look at the ways in which the Koch brothers have their hands in education. According to the Bill of Rights Institute, approximately 1/3 social studies teachers in America have at one point created an account with them/used their materials. With this reach, it is important to understand the potential ideological bias present in their materials to better understand how wealthy political actors can influence education. This study will look at the “Documents of Freedom” portion of the website specifically, which has a feature that allows teachers to see the state standards each unit meets. These standards were coded for 7 perspectives on citizenship education, examines 10 states for these perspectives, and seeks to answer the question “What is the prevalence of the seven perspectives in the social studies standards represented in ‘Documents of Freedom’ and in what way do they appear?” There appears to be no regional basis for the differences in the appearance of these perspectives, but early evidence shows there might be patterns when looking at the politics of the states. 

Additional Abstract Information

Presenter: Jessica Flacksenburg

Institution: Elon University

Type: Poster

Subject: Political Science

Status: Approved

Time and Location

Session: Poster 10
Date/Time: Wed 1:30pm-2:30pm
Session Number: 6521