Lies My Teacher Told Me


Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong is a 1995 book by James W. Loewen, a sociologist. It critically examines twelve popular American high school history textbooks and concludes that the textbook authors propagate false, Eurocentric and mythologized views of American history. In addition to his critique of the dominant historical themes presented in high school textbooks, Loewen presents themes that he says are ignored by traditional history textbooks. A revised hardcover edition was released on April 1, 2008.

Themes ...heroification [is] a degenerative process..that makes people over into heroes [lacking any] human interest... [in fact] Helen Keller was a radical socialist... a member of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), the syndicalist union persecuted by Woodrow Wilson... my students seldom know or speak about [other] antidemocratic policies that Wilson carried out: his racial segregation of the federal government and his military interventions in foreign countries... [including] expeditionary forces to Murmansk, Archangel, and Vladivostok [in the Soviet Union] [Lies, p.11-14]

In Lies My Teacher Told Me, Loewen criticizes modern American high school history textbooks for containing incorrect information about people and events such as Christopher Columbus, the lies and inaccuracies in the history books regarding the dealings between the Europeans and the Native Americans, and their often deceptive and inaccurate teachings told about America's commerce in slavery. He further criticizes the texts for a tendency to avoid controversy and for their "bland" and simplistic style. He proposes that when American history textbooks elevate American historical figures to the status of heroes, they unintentionally give students the impression that these figures are superhumans who live in the irretrievable past. In other words, the history-as-myth method teaches students that America's greatest days have already passed. Loewen asserts that the muting of past clashes and tragedies makes history boring to students, especially groups excluded from the positive histories.[1]

Sources The U.S. government calls actions such as the [following] "state-sponsored terrorism" when other countries do them to us...
  • deposing [Iranian] Prime Minister Mussadegh... in 1953.
  • bringing down the elected government of Guatemala in 1954.
  • rigging of the 1957 election in Lebanon...
  • assassination of Patrice Lumumba of Zaire in 1961.
  • repeated attempts to murder Premier Fidel Castro of Cuba...
  • bringing down the elected government of Chile in 1973.
[Lies, p.215]

The twelve textbooks Loewen examined for the first edition are:

  • The American Adventure (Allyn & Bacon, 1975)
  • American Adventures (Steck-Vaughn, 1987)
  • American History (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1982)
  • The American Pageant (D. C. Heath and Company, 1991)
  • The American Tradition (Charles E. Merrill Publishing, 1984)
  • The American Way (Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1979)
  • The Challenge of Freedom (Glencoe, 1990)
  • Discovering American History (Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1974)
  • Land of Promise (Scott, Foresman, 1983)
  • Life and Liberty (Scott, Foresman, 1984)
  • Triumph of the American Nation (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1986)
  • The United States: A History of the Republic (Prentice Hall, 1991)

In the second edition, Loewen added a newer edition of The American Pageant and six additional textbooks:

  • The American Pageant (Houghton Mifflin, 2006)
  • The American Journey (Glencoe/McGraw-Hill, 2000)
  • The Americans (McDougal Littell, 2007)
  • America: Pathways to the Present (Prentice Hall, 2005)
  • A History of the United States (McDougal Littell, 2005)
  • Holt American Nation (Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 2003)

Lies my Teacher Told Me is the winner of the 1996 American Book Award,[2] the Oliver Cromwell Cox Award for Distinguished Anti-Racist Scholarship, and the Critics Choice Award of the American Educational Studies Association.[3]

  1. ^ Loewen, James. Interview by 12 May 2000. Web. 21 Aug 2011.
  2. ^ American Booksellers Association (2013). "The American Book Awards / Before Columbus Foundation [1980–2012]". BookWeb. Archived from the original on March 13, 2013. Retrieved September 25, 2013. 1996 [...] Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong, James W. Loewen 
  3. ^ Shields, Zachary. "In His Own Words Archived 2012-04-02 at the Wayback Machine.." Decatur Magazine. Feb/Mar 2006. Retrieved 18 Aug 2011.
External links
  • Official website
  • Booknotes interview with Loewen on Lies, March 26, 1995.

This content is from Wikipedia. GradeSaver is providing this content as a courtesy until we can offer a professionally written study guide by one of our staff editors. We do not consider this content professional or citable. Please use your discretion when relying on it.