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Paperback Lies My Teacher Told Me : Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong Book

ISBN: 0684818868

ISBN13: 9780684818863

Lies My Teacher Told Me : Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong

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Needed by parents everywhere

This was an excellent book and I recommend it to anybody and everybody. I was a history minor in college, a business major, having decided not to teach history somewhere around my second year, I relegated my knowledge of history to something useful on trivia night. That is until the kids came around. I first realized there might be a problem with my son's education when he told me that Adolf Hitler had been a Genius, and that he had simply suffered from bad luck, later I heard that the Civil War wasn't about slavery, and even that Puritan settlers taught the Indians to farm and saved them from starvation...I had trouble believing that a teacher ever told my son such lies, and that he must be mistaken somehow; either way I began taking the education of my children much more seriously than our public schools do. In his book James Loewen takes on some of these myths, explains why they have persisted, and gives reasonable solutions for teachers and parents. He manages to present some new information (at least for me), and writes an extremely important critique of the textbook writing process and the approval process still used today. This book should be read by every parent and given as a gift to every teacher of History and Social Studies you can find. Teaching happy history doesn't make it so-lets teach our kids the truth so that they can engage the world with a clean slate.

A Valuable Read on a Very Vexing Problem

Much of what a reader gets out of a book depends on what he/she brings to the exercise. This reviewer came from a blue-collar background, attended public schools through college, eventually received a doctorate in a demanding field requiring scholarship and a grounding in history, and finally retired back to blue-collar pursuits. One needn't log years in formal education, however, to agree with James Loewen's introduction entitled "Something Has Gone Very Wrong" with the teaching of history in this country. I will reveal up front that I recommend this book to any open-minded citizen looking for alternative views of the problem and its solution. The stress is on "open-minded." But first, some comments on the book's weaker points. For starters, its title is clearly provocative. The word "lie" suggests a deliberate intention to deceive and, as the author himself acknowledges many times, well-meaning teachers dispensing information by rote may not even know the subject matter well enough to "lie" about it. Obviously, the title was chosen to entice people into buying and reading the book. Unfortunately, it may have the opposite effect on some. Second, the text can only be described as "dense." "Dense," as in long sentences and long paragraphs, which can also intimidate some readers. And finally, there is something off-putting about a steady litany of what is wrong with the world as opposed to what can be done about it. However, as the reader will find, Mr. Loewen finds much ammunition for each chapter -- a bit of it amusing, much of it shocking and all of it relevant. Take, for example, the following passage describing something that is surely happening thousands of times a day around the country: "As we college professors get older, we grow ever more astonished at what our undergraduates don't know about the recent past. I first became aware of this phenomenon as the 1970s inexorably became the 1980s. Lecturing on the Vietnam War, I increasingly got blank looks. ... On the first day of class in 1989, I gave my students a quiz including the open-ended question, `Who fought in the war in Vietnam?' Almost a fourth of my students said the combatants were North and South Korea!" "Lies My Teacher Told Me" is primarily an expose of the teaching -- or lack thereof -- of high school history and of the caliber of students sent out into the world or up into college-level history classes. I find Mr. Loewen successfully demonstrates that the bulk of history is taught from bland textbooks written to the safest common denominator. After weeding out most references to anything controversial, and putting in enough chronological items to satisfy a wide constituency, the textbook industry and its academic allies end up with history "without content," often wildly inaccurate and largely without relevance to students' personal lives. We are all familiar with the poor showing of American high school students vis-à-vis foreign students i

Honest History Does NOT Diminish America in Any Way

In this superb book, James Loewen argues what most Americans have understood since childhood, namely that our American History textbooks, are, boring, theme-driven, inaccurate and largely ineffective at imparting the richness of their subject. While the book?s title and argument may seem like a leftist gerrymander, they are not. Loewen, a professor of Sociology at the University of Vermont (who spent several years analyzing ten high school American History textbooks totaling more than 8,000 pages), is not out to reverse the traditional cast of heroes and villains in American history. Instead, Loewen advocates an honest and inclusive history that simply reveals events as they actually happened. While this may expose some dark truths about ?heroic? people and events in American history, and may cast historical ?villains? in a new light, Loewen does not believe it will cause students to despise their country. On the contrary, he argues that revealing conflicts and problems that our text books ignore or conceal will make American history come alive and will almost certainly enhance students? appreciation for their country. Ironically, while many textbook editors and teachers fear that altering their inaccurate and theme-driven content will cause students to despise their country, they miss the fact that this is precisely what the specious, vapid nature of the textbooks already accomplishes. Some of Loewen?s interesting observations are contained below:COLUMBUSColumbus was almost certainly not the first European to discover or colonize North America. He tortured and mutilated the native population of Haiti and eventually exterminated it by working the inhabitants to death searching for gold. All of these facts are available in the journals of Columbus and his colleagues.NATIVE AMERICANSPrior to the arrival of white settlers, North America was thickly settled with tens of millions of Indian tribes that formed a complex civilization consisting of advanced agricultural techniques (guess where white settlers learned it from), trade, roads, villages, and government. The white settlers wiped out most of these people at first inadvertently by spreading disease, and then deliberately through wars of extermination. History text books often present Indians as sparse, primitive, violent (it was actually white people who scalped Indians), and inevitable victims of progress.RECONSTRUCTIONFor more than one hundred years, history textbooks have characterized post-Civil War Reconstruction as a combination of white corruption and black ineptitude. Few mention that the ultimate cause of Reconstruction?s failure was the terrorism that some white southerners perpetrated against black people and white?s who favored reconstruction. Many of the so called carpetbaggers and scallywags were in fact anti racists who attempted to help rebuild the south along egalitarian lines. And when given even minimal opportunities (most of which were subsequently dismantled by the government

"Ye shall know the truth . . ."

That's the beginning of the motto on the Main Building at the University of Texas. But it's the remainder of the quote--for all the right-wing critics of this book, from Jesus Himself--that is the power behind Loewen's thesis: ". . . and the truth shall make you free." This is NOT a history book. It is, rather, an expose on how history textbooks--especially those for high school students--have played fast and loose with the truth of American history, mainly by selective omission. One critic asserts that the result is to blame the White (Southern) Male for all our ills. One is tempted to say, "Well, if the shoe fits," but this isn't a book about guilt. I'm a white (southern) male, and I've never sold Indians into slavery; never imported Africans to work on my plantation; never thought women should be denied the right to vote (God forbid! I have three sisters and three daughters); never . . . well, you get the point. I feel no guilt for events I had no control over. And Loewen nowhere seeks to blame any living person for what may or may not have happened in the past. Rather, Loewen's point is very simple and very direct: by choosing to selectively remember only those events from our history that are less disturbing, and whitewashing (if the shoe fits...) those that ARE disturbing, we betray the very nature of the words "truth" and "freedom," and we become incapable of making informed decisions in the here-and-now. This is because a truly free society is one mature enough to know ALL the facts, intelligent enough to critically analyze them, courageous enough to deal with the truths they impart, and finally, good enough to move beyond them to true freedom. The truth is, Loewen's critics don't have the stomach to face the truths of American history, and as a result they're not really free. This book should be read by anyone who values freedom, but at a minimum by all high school students, all parents of high school students, and all school board members. Anyone afraid of reading this book is afraid of being free.
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