Lies My Teacher Told Me

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Marshall Pickel
American history is taught in high schools all over the country. It is held as a core curriculum for every American student because of the importance found in teaching our youth of our “perfect nation” and our “perfect past”. However, contrary to popular belief, James W. Loewen, author of Lies My Teacher Told Me, has found American history to be taught with a completely nationalistic approach. Not only is the history of our country taught with a horribly strong patriotic sentiment, but generally with a misunderstood concept of the history of America by the writers themselves. America has never lived a lie as ruinous as that in which happens in classrooms every day.

The words “American history” are no more obscure than they sound. It’s simply the history of America. Unfortunately, the history of America isn’t as virtuous as those in charge of our schools textbooks would like us to think. What can the textbook authors do about this? Lie, of course. So many of our favorite tales of valor, righteousness, and lionhearted leaders of America are not, and have never been told in truth. Why might this be? Everyone needs a hero. What makes this seemingly harmless statement as damaging as it sincerely is, is the fact that not only have we made heroes out of nearly every significant figure from our past, but that unless these figures are nearly flawless, no one believes they could pass as a “true hero” in our country. America is the mother sheltering its children from everything unholy. Unfortunately, we are the ones suffering.

American history being taught selectively leads to students learning only bits and pieces of history, and many of these bits and pieces are manipulated into being something other than history. When nearly every American we learn about is a “hero”, it’s apparent that something is happening here. Imagine being lost in a desert, and your whole life you’ve been taught that the only way to save yourself when lost in a desert is to eat sand. Would the sand really keep you from dehydrating? Not only would it not help your dehydration, it would surely make you much worse off than you would have been had you not eaten the sand. False knowledge can and will only hurt those learning it. If students continue to be fed this “sand”, they’re destined to “die in the desert”. This leads me to believe that there are absolutely no benefits that will come out of molding history to suit wants. Students remain ignorant of their country’s true history, and lack the knowledge that could otherwise be so crucial to their endeavors in the future. It is understood that history is a subject that’s content range is so vast that the only means of teaching it will be somewhat selective. The problem arises when the selected content isn’t actually history, but lies. If American history is to be taught selectively, then those in charge must be sure to select as many as the crucial points as possible, and ensure that they are being taught as truthfully as possible. Selective history allows for a wider range of content to be covered, but if it isn’t the truth then it’s not history class, it’s human manipulation.

The fact that history is taught like this disgusts me. I’ve grown up with a Vietnam veteran as my father, and I heard more horrifying truth before the age of ten than any high school graduate around. It’s a shame that the only way to see the importance and truth in history is to live with the history makers themselves. In my case, it’s a privilege. I think that American history should be told for exactly what it is. If it puts Americans at fault, then it’s because the Americans were at fault. If it portrays Americans as heroes, then let it be because on that very day, at that very moment, we were heroes. The circumstances in which I was raised have had a profound influence on my beliefs of this subject. If I were anyone other than myself, I’d just pray that it might be someone that’s been affected...
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