LIES MY TEACHER TOLD ME, Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong, by James W. Loewen

Someone one (Will Rogers?) once quipped "It ain't the things you don't know that can hurt you -- it the things you know that ain't so!" This book is a one-volume text for re-education. The author's claim is that high school history textbooks are not only exceptionally boring (use of the passive tense, for instance, quickly puts most youth to sleep), but incredibly twisted. Every history teacher, and every student forced to "take" history in a secondary school needs to read this (or have it read to them). Professor Loewen has studied thoroughly twelve texts used in high school history classes; he concludes that not one does a decent job. All are characterized by an abundance of misinformation, myopic patriotism, and in some cases outright lies; they leave out (mostly) the drama of our nation's past in terms of passion and conflict.

Woodrow Wilson, for instance, is usually thought of (because our teachers told us so) as a progressive, a "nice" guy. The records show that this "nice" guy was also a racist, an anti-unionist, a president who sent troops to foreign countries, primarily Mexico, at least sixteen times, not including World War I! His suppression of civil liberties, particularly among those who questioned his actions, was widespread; the United States came close to becoming a police state. Helen Keller once called Wilson "the greatest individual disappointment the world has ever known."

Christopher Columbus "discovered" America. Not if you happened to be a Native American. The only way to describe his actions after 1492 is "criminal."Except that may be too bland a word. A comparison to Saddam might be more accurate.

Both racism and anti-racism are almost invisible in the twelve high school textbooks. The Federal government is almost always "good;" there are few counter-examples. Political events of the recent past, being too hot to discuss, "disappear down the memory hole."

This is an interesting book. You will learn from it -- but only if you are prepared to change your mind about some things you already "know."

John Burgeson, Mancos, Colorado
June, 2007

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