Dustin's Reviews > Lies My Teacher Told Me : Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong

Lies My Teacher Told Me  by James W. Loewen
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Mar 07, 08

bookshelves: history
Recommended for: EVERYONE
Read in March, 2008

What I learned from this textbook:

1. That it is not weird that I hated history/social studies in high school, but now find it interesting.

2. That textbook "authors" can't be bothered to do their own research, so all the textbooks tell the same apocryphal stories (George Washington and the cherry tree, the first Thanksgiving, Columbus as all-round good guy, the US as "international good-guy peacekeeper, with NO ulterior motives), making every factoid on every page suspect.

3. That our history is far richer and more interesting than any one book (including this one) can possibly tell, so relying on a single book to teach a class like this is setting everyone, teacher and student alike, up for failure.

4. That while history is based on facts, the interpretation of those facts really does constantly change, and how we learn about them is based on previous societal changes. It is up to every student and teacher to separate fact from interpretation, and then to apply their own interpretation as needed. A discussion of slavery and Reconstruction written by a privileged European-American before the Civil Rights movement will not carry much water if read critically instead of just read to memorize the factoids for the test.

5. That our leaders have learned from the past and are applying its lessons to the present and the future:

"Of course the people do not want war....But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, a fascist dictatorship, a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them that they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism." - German Field Marshall Hermann Goering, Nuremberg, April 18, 1946

Read this book, now. Then go out, and read more books, preferably primary and secondary sources, which tell the actual story, and include the controversies that still remain, both in ascribing motives to the people who made history, but also the controversies in interpreting what the facts actually mean, both for the present and the future.
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