AP World History
Book: Lies my teacher told me, everything your American history textbook got wrong
Author: James W. Loewen
During my period of time that I had to read this very persuasive book into believing that you’re casual every day period of History class is basically nothing but a waste of time if not taught in the correct context. Which would include the good, the bad, and the all in between of the subject of that person or situation in history that would be important enough for generations to come to know and remember about in all its entirety.
This book also includes how Americans have lost their touch with their history, and in this thought-stimulating book, James Loewen shows just why. After surveying twelve leading high school American history texts, he has concluded that not one of them does a decent or even good enough job of making history interesting or memorable. Flawed by an embarrassing combination of blind patriotism, mindless hopefulness, upright misinformation, and outright lies, these books leave out almost all the uncertainty, passion, conflict, and drama from our past. In ten powerful chapters, Loewen reveals that:
Surely textbooks should include some people based on not only what they achieved but also
on the distance they traversed to achieve it, as written in page 9 of chapter 1. Also in chapter one
mainly in page 17, Woodrow Wilson, known as a progressive leader, was in fact a white
supremacist who personally vetoed a clause on racial equality in the Covenant of the League of
Nations. James also had written that “Woodrow Wilson’s administration was openly hostile to
black people…….. Wilson was not only anti-black”. To the history in chapter 4 page 116, about
the truth of native Americans, “ Six of the twelve histories I studies avoid this cliché of Indian
naitives about land ownership………several of them even point out that the problem lay in
whites not abiding by accepting concepts of land ownership.” From the truth about Columbus's
historical voyages to an honest evaluation of our national leaders in chapter 8 page 230, Loewen
revives our history, restoring to it the vitality and relevance it truly possesses.
In the book, Loewen covers: faulty heroic personification of false heroes vs. the lowering worth of America’s real heroes; the need to reference primary sources; our country’s forward moving belief which tends to ignore historical foreshadowing; the importance of students to think for themselves and question important events in history; and the ruin that the textbook industry has turned into. As you can see, there is a lot covered here, and this isn’t any of the lies. As I said, there is a lot explained in this book about why each historic lie was established.
There is a point in the book where Loewen refers to a passage from 1984. In 1984, George
Orwell says, “…he who controls the present controls the past.” When Loewen refers to this
quote, he is referring to the upper class and whites controlling the educational system and
textbook publishing. I believe there could’ve been a better use for this quote. While it may be
true that most history textbooks bend or throw shade history in favor of the upper class or whites,
I am deciding to use this particular quote in another fashion.
“Who controls the present controls the past.”
That, my friends, should be a charge; a mission directed at all those in the history teaching
profession. Take control of the knowledge dispersed in your classrooms (the present) and teach
the correct past. Discard the provided textbooks (not really ofcourse) and teach what you know
should be taught. Allow yourself to step out of your teaching comfort zone. I have a teacher
(not going to say anyone’s name) that likes to grill his students to push their knowledge on all
that pertaining to the subject that we speak on, that teacher was never afraid to put his neck out to
stir up discussion in the classroom. Worst case scenario, a question would arise that the teacher
did not know the answer to and he would simply say, “I will look into it.” He wasn’t afraid to show he wasn’t all-knowing.
Loewen’s book has a great underlying theme: that children should be taught that history is not restricted, and that possibilities should be discussed to further rational skills and to promote an understanding of our nation’s history. But I wish he had gone the extra step and challenged history teachers. I would recommend this book to anyone who like to read history and more on going in dept. While an appreciation for history would certainly make this book more enjoyable, it is an optional read either way. For real this book criticizes the way history is presented in current textbooks, and suggests a fresh and more accurate approach to teaching American history.
This is a real eye-opener to anyone who thinks they learned about U.S. history in high school. Loewen spent eleven years reviewing the 12 most commonly-used U.S. history textbooks and found all to be seriously wanting. Textbook publishers want to avoid controversy (so, apparently, do many school systems), so they feed students a white-washed, non- controversial, over-simplified version of this country's history and its most important historical parts.
To make his point, Loewen emphasizes the "dark side" of U.S. history, because that's the part that's missing from our education system. So, for example, we never learned that Woodrow Wilson ran one of the most racist administrations in history and helped to set back progress in race relations that had begun after the Civil War. Helen Keller's socialist leanings and political views are over-looked and we only learn that she overcame blindness and deafness. John Brown is portrayed as a wild-eyed nut who ran amok until he was caught and hanged, rather than an eloquent and dedicated abolitionist who uttered many of the same words and thoughts that Lincoln later expressed.
Loewen's book vividly illustrates the maxim that "those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it." Ignorance of our real history also renders us incapable of fully understanding the present and coming to grips with the issues of our time. For example, from the Civil War until around 1890, real racial progress was underway in the United States and civil rights laws were Federally enforced in the South. The military was integrated and former slaves had the right to vote, serve on juries and as witnesses in trials, own property and operate businesses. They also received mandatory public education, which was automatically extended to white children for the first time in the south. But, between 1890 and 1920, the Feds gradually disengaged and allowed southern racist governments to strip these rights from blacks and relegate them to virtual non-citizenship. Only within the last half-century has that policy been gradually reversed, again through Federal intervention. This history casts current racial attitudes and issues in a different light than most of our high school students are likely to see unless they are taught the complete history of their country.
It is clear that Loewen is not out to bash the United States or offer up an equally one-sided, negative version of its history. He gives a balanced account of many of the figures whose weaknesses he exposes. Thus, we learn that, although Columbus was an unimaginative fortune hunter, a racist tyrant and slave trader, he (and Spain) were not much different than most people at the time. He points out that all societies, including Native Americans and Africans, kept slaves and that it is unfair to single out Columbus as singularly evil.
The problem is that kids never learn both sides of these stories, so history becomes a bland repetition of non-opposing "events" that appear to have or had no vague causes. Historical events are not related to issues that people disputed or serious conflicts that placed them at irreversible odds with one another, the very stuff that drives history. No wonder kids are bored and uninterested. They are left with the distorted impression that, down deep, the United States always means well and, in the end, is always "right."
Loewen has presented fair accounts of key events in our history and indicated why our high school students know and care so little about it. He also suggests ways to correct this serious shortcoming that every American should give a round of applause to.
Resource: Lies my teacher told me, By: James Loewen