Book Review: Lies My Teacher Told Me
A fascinating and informative book, Lies My Teacher Told Me by James W. Loewen, takes a look at twelve popular American history textbooks and concludes that the information is false, viewed primarily from an European perspective, and made up to credit national myths. In addition, James Loewen presents many key historical events that he feels are missing from many of these textbooks and should be included. Published in 1995 by The New Press, Lies My Teacher Told Me rapidly became a multi-award winning novel. In roughly 400 pages, Loewen unfolds an engrossing critique that is bound to hook any reader interested in history or education.
In the novel, James Loewen provides his readers an in-depth understanding of how the information in U.S. history textbooks is often incomplete and/or even misleading. Loewen makes a compelling argument that what is taught today in history classes consists of only the succession of one president to the next and a few “important” wars. He argues that most textbooks portray many events, situations, and people less unpleasant than the reality. Moreover, Americans are always shown to be the hero and they are never in the wrong – bad things just happen to them. Loewen focuses on several major events/people in our history that are incorrectly portrayed: Columbus, Thanksgiving, slavery, Lincoln, the Vietnam War, etcetera. None of these textbooks mention that Thomas Jefferson owned slaves and also raped some of his slave women or that Japanese Americans were confined in concentration camps during World War II. James Loewen blames textbook editors, writers, publishers, and even teachers for students not knowing enough accurate information, too much inaccurate information, and not caring about any information. Along with his critique, he also suggests some historical events that might add to existing themes and also some themes that might serve as replacements to inaccurate information.
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