What Our Teacher Told Me

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Chapter 1 Handicapped by History

Brief Summary
As the first chapter in this long analytical book, chapter one serves as the foundation for the rest of the novel, with a basic premise that “history textbooks make fool out of the students.” It shows how portrayal of historical figures and events in the best light for the reputation of United States leads to biased and distorted historical education.

Author’s Viewpoint
Loewen uses two examples—Helen Keller and Woodrow Wilson—in order to illustrate his point, and I would like to focus on the latter for this analysis. Loewen states that while Woodrow Wilson is often presented as the founder of League of Nations following World War I and the leader of progressive causes like women’s suffrage, textbooks rarely make any reference to racial segregation of federal government and his military interventions in foreign nations (22). Wilson intervened in countries like Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Nicaragua, and, which set up dictatorship in those nations, but surprisingly documentary evidences only emphasize his role in withdrawing the troops, which sounds ironic considering that he “wasn’t” the one who put the troops in at the first place (25). Instead, textbooks portray his intentions as building up friendship or take a step further and blame the invaded nations themselves (24). Next argument that Loewen makes is that Wilson was a racist who effectively closed the Democratic Party to African Americans, a fact that most of us are not aware of because textbooks either exclude such facts or imply that the president had no other choice but to enforce segregation policies for the best interest of the nation (29).

Analysis on American Pageant
Our textbook does indeed lie about Wilson’s policy, Clearly his purpose of sending troops to Haiti and other foreign countries was to determine their president and set up treaty preferential to US, but in our books, it says “In 1915, Wilson RELUCTANTLY dispatched marines to protect” to quell disorders in Haiti, and he proposed to provide US supervision of finances and the police (710); by describing that way, we as readers cannot sense the evil intentions behind the US policies. I was also surprised to see that textbooks limited details of invasions to only Dominican Republic and Haiti, even though nations like Nicaragua and Cuba were involved too during the Wilson era (they were just marked on a map, that’s all). In Loewen’s book, he said that Thomas Bailey, the author of our textbook, knew about 1918 US invasion of Russia (as he wrote in a different venue), but again, Bailey didn’t include such fact in American Pageant. Why hide facts from the public? Finally, American Pageant does not bother to mention anything regarding Wilson’s racial stance in the entire chapter about Wilson. He did have racial prejudice as Loewen mentioned, but leaving such information out creates a big hole in the study of history.

Chapter 2 1493

Brief Summary
Chapter Two discusses the Pre Columbian Americas and Columbus’s discovery of the new world, and shows how much our society is deceived by inaccurate portrayals of the man in the textbooks.

Author’s Viewpoint
Columbus is one of the most admired figures in the American history. He is one of the two people the US honors by the name of national holiday, and thus textbooks “make up all kinds of details to tell a better story and humanize Columbus” (38). Well first of all, contrary to the preconceptions, Columbus didn’t discover the Americas. Many historians suggest that Europeans may already have been fishing off Newfoundland in the 1480’s, and that whites and blacks may already have come to the Americas way before Columbus, considering that Indians were able depict in a masterly way the head of a Negro or of a white person without missing a single racial characteristic (39, 42). Sometimes, authors invent facts to add to the melodramatic effect. For example, texts say that he was...
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