Emily's Reviews > Lies My Teacher Told Me

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

bookshelves: history

Wonderful read for students of American History and sociologists. Loewen conducted a fabulous study of American History textbooks in the late 80s and early 90s. What he found was a narrative lacking much depth, diversity, and frankly, any excitement. He was right. Most texts still adhered to the "great white father's" narrative of American history that our parents and grandparents learned throughout the 20th century. Much of American history, from Columbus to Lincoln to Vietnam and anything in between, had been written in terms of black and white. There were heroes vs villains, Presidents vs rebels, democracy triumphing over everything else, America the beautiful leading the rest of the world to a better life...to freedom. There was very little of the gray area that makes history so interesting and so real. Life is not black and white, and neither is history. Loewen points out the missing gray areas. The racial tensions, the terrible treatment of native americans, the flawed human being behind the President, etc. This is what our teachers didn't tell us, but should. These are the stories that provoke discussion, thought, and understanding... better tools that hero worship, or President or General worship as teh case may be. These are the stories Loewen encourages authors to add to the textbooks.

Since the publication of this book, much of the textbook narrative of American history has finally caught up to historical scholarship. This is still an important read and a useful one. It forces you to think about the way that our history is told and literally constructed by those who write the textbooks and disperse the information. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in American history and as a teacher, I found Loewen's perspective invaluable.
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