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Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong
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Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  45,987 ratings  ·  2,477 reviews
Americans have lost touch with their history, and in Lies My Teacher Told Me Professor James Loewen shows why. After surveying eighteen leading high school American history texts, he has concluded that not one does a decent job of making history interesting or memorable. Marred by an embarrassing combination of blind patriotism, mindless optimism, sheer misinformation, and ...more
Paperback, 383 pages
Published September 3rd 1996 by Touchstone Books (first published October 14th 1995)
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G.K. Noyer I read the 2007 update of this book. I was surprised not to see it here, but it was excellent. I consider it a must-read, not just for the de-bunking…moreI read the 2007 update of this book. I was surprised not to see it here, but it was excellent. I consider it a must-read, not just for the de-bunking of so many things we're taught, but even more so for the insights it provides into how that process works - which groups have been putting the most pressure on textbooks editors to lie to us and our nation's children, and why. To get the most out of this book, do NOT overlook the end-notes, where most of the specifics on all that are provided, along with many other eye-opening anecdotes!(less)

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Maurean
Jan 30, 2008 rated it did not like it
Shelves: nonfiction
I originally picked this up several years ago because the blurb on the back cover appealed to me:

“Lies My Teacher Told Me” is for anyone who has ever fallen asleep in history class."

Mr. Loewen’s premise is that history textbooks have been presented to portray a slanted, optimistic and patriotic “dumbed-down” view of America, because this suits the needs of the conservative white people who sit on the textbook adoption boards. By critiquing 12 highly used American History textbooks, the author su
...more
Jim
Nov 07, 2007 rated it it was amazing
This was a great book! The first two-thirds gives example after example of the many lies, omissions, and half-truths found in American high school history books, and the last third speculates why this has happened. Here's one example:

Almost everyone knew the world was round before 1492. Columbus's main reason for traveling to the new world to find gold, and he was responsible for killing, torturing and enslaving natives by the millions. Eight million in Haiti alone were reduced to 200 within 60
...more
Jamie
Aug 01, 2008 rated it it was ok
Ostensibly, Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong by James Loewen is a book about factual inaccuracies found in a survey of twelve popular History textbooks. That's a good hook, but unfortunately once the hook gets you the place it pulls you into is slightly different than what you might expect. This book might more accurately be titled Subtle Biases Created by Questionable Omissions in A Few Textbooks. But that, of course, is not quite as bombastic a title ...more
Pouting Always
Jul 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
James Loewen reviews the history books commonly used in the US public school system and the factual inaccuracies contained in those books. The book goes over many of the common practices in publishing history textbooks especially those concerning sanitizing our history for children and what is appropriate for them to know about our country. Before reading this I had never actually thought about my own experiences in school with history but I feel like a lot of what he discusses was really valid ...more
Felicia
Dec 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, history
This book is a TOTAL eye-opener about how we're taught cultural prejudices and distorted American history through classroom textbooks. I mean, I'm pretty liberal, but the perspective of this author totally opened my eyes to things that I just took for granted about how our history was founded, about people we deify who were not the gods we simplify them into being, like Christopher Columbus and the Pilgrims, etc, and how racial inequality and sexual inequality is subtly established in the text i ...more
Trevor
Feb 02, 2010 rated it it was amazing
The problem with this one is that it has so much content, so much information per page, that it is hard to know where to start. I found this book nearly life altering, particularly since I’m a week away from studying to become a history teacher. If you are in the US this is a very important book for you to read as you are sure to be shocked by some of the myths about your history that are discussed here. For the rest of us in the non-USA this book is just as important because it serves as a guid ...more
Mischenko
Nov 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I had to take a sociology course when I was in college and had a genuinely interesting professor. He’s one that I won’t ever forget and still think about from time to time. He was the type of teacher that made learning interesting and it was a class I actually enjoyed going to. Anyhow, he gave us a recommended reading list of books he thought we should take a look at. None of them were mandatory, but I read them all. This is one of those books.

I was never really interested in learning history wh
...more
Kaora
Oct 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Americans need to learn from the Wilson era, that there is a connection between racist presidential leadership and like-minded public response.

This book is so important to read.

I do not know if there is any other field of knowledge which suffers so badly as history from the sheer blind repetitions that occur year after year, and from book to book.

History is a subject that I haven't taken since high school. Because I, like so many others, found it incredibly boring. I grew up in Canada but largel
...more
Chris
Jan 31, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
Why does nobody like high school history? Or civics, or social studies, or whatever they're calling it these days. Why does pretty much everybody hate this class? I mean, you have people who can memorize irrelevant sporting statistics for the last fifty years, but they can't name more than two nineteenth-century presidents.

The author of this book, a teacher and researcher of history, started looking into this. He'd found among his high school and college students an appalling level of ignorance
...more
Evie
Dec 16, 2008 rated it did not like it
I love works that give you the uncensored truth about history, but this particular book left me feeling as though the author had something to prove, rather than reveal.
Michael Finocchiaro
Oct 27, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, non-fiction
While not as good or revolutionary of A People's History of the United States by Howard Zinn, Loewen writes an entertaining and eyebrow-raising book about the hidden catastrophes in American history that your teachers did not tell you about. I would personally read Zinn first but this is an excellent followup (and much shorter if the length of Zinn initially intimidates you). It is highly readable and once again in the current context of fake news and flag-waving ignorance, a critical book to se ...more
Jen
Apr 09, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: american-history
When I started this book, I thought it would be along the lines of "your teacher told you this...but this is what happened..." You know like "hey columbus didn't discover the new world...blah blah blah" and there was some of that.

But more importantly, and far more interestingly, this book is an indictment of how American history is taught. As the book went forward, even I found myself thinking "yep, that's what I was taught" and wondering if I would have found American history less boring had it
...more
Karina
Dec 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I read this a while ago and forgot about it until I saw a GR friend reading it. I liked its content and I agree that history is taught a certain way to bore us into stupidity. Who remembers liking history and who can remember what they learned? I don't/can't. Now that I am older I can appreciate it and want to discover what really happened. As "they say" history repeats itself.
kendall
Jul 07, 2008 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: teachers, people interested in history/politics/education system
Recommended to kendall by: Nithya
The thesis of the book is interesting and well supported, however, I found it pretty dry which was disappointing considering a main point Loewen makes is that Middle School/High School History books are too boring. He goes into too much depth in the first two chapters making the same point over and over again, while quickly and concisely exploring more current history, which again is the same criticism he makes of the textbooks he attacks. I also thing the extreme liberal tone of the book took a ...more
Dustin
Dec 26, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: EVERYONE
Shelves: history
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 f
...more
Daniel
Sep 20, 2007 rated it it was amazing
re-read the updated version. Still excellent.


As a history major in college, I still have an affinity for the subject. This book was very interesting, because it challenged many of the things we were all taught in the American educational system.
It's a real eye opener, and while you may have a superficial knowledge of some of the events and trends that we were never taught,or taught in such a way that the real issues were glossed over, this book delves into them in depth.
I would highly recommend
...more
Jan Rice
Jul 29, 2017 marked it as collection-read-in-part  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, them-and-us
Although I bought Lies My Teacher Told Me as a resource book for the author's lecture series Rethinking Our Past: Recognizing Facts, Fictions, And Lies In American History, I've now read the 42-page Chapter 4, "Red Eyes," in its entirety. He's attempting a look at American history from the Native American (Indian) point of view. He does succeed in his trademark turning of history upside down, with an overriding theme of how Indians became savages in the national consciousness--even though Indian ...more
Josh
Nov 25, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Without question, this is the greatest non-fiction book I have ever read. To illustrate that claim, let me highlight that it served, in large part, as the inspiration for my master's thesis.

In it, Loewen, a college professor, is constantly frustrated by how little his young, incoming freshmen know about history. So, in the late 90s he wrote a scathing investigation of the most common history textbooks used in secondary classes. He details how poorly these textbooks link events, leaving students
...more
Deena
May 11, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction, history
It is all well and fine for people to criticize historians for being snobs about who writes the history books... but this book is a great example of what goes wrong when non-historians try to write history. Everything in this book is taken out of context - and is therefore at best skewed and at worst just wrong. Context is everything. Nothing happens in a vacuum; historical events out of context are just stories - and usually not very good ones at that.
Justin
Aug 22, 2007 rated it liked it
Shelves: historybooks
Lies My Teacher Told Me is a well-written and insightful expose of some of the problems inherent in the teaching of US History in public schools. From outdated textbooks to gross distortions of basic events and major figures, Loewen exposes readers to a side of US History that most do not get in high school. However, I had a problem with some of his methodology. His survey of 12 textbooks didn't seem like enough to make a truly damning critique of education in the country. In addition, his judgm ...more
Lisa Bell
Jul 10, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: history lovers
GREAT title! Really makes you think about all those HS History Classes you sat through and wondered what they were leaving out of the discussion. For example: how come we never discussed Vietnam? History magically "ended" at WWII; we always assumed that it just coinsided with the end of the school year (oops - "no time" to discuss anything after! Have a good summer kids!). This book really explores how the top 10 American History Textbooks taught in 95% of American High Schools present readers w ...more
Cyndi
Jan 19, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I learned a lot from this book. But I gotta tell you, its depressing as hell. Mankind is basically crap and have always treated each other badly and then lied about it.
The atrocities in this book are horrible. Genocides, prejudices, tortures, so many horrors. If you’re looking for a book that will make you feel good about the kindness of our fellow human beings and the strength of our historical heroes, this ain’t it.
But if you want to know the evil sides of the many names in our history book
...more
Lena
May 13, 2011 rated it really liked it
In LMTTM, sociology professor James Loewen takes a close look at the subject of American history and why it is that high school students tend not just to loathe the subject but also come out of that class so badly informed. His verdict - the textbooks are to blame.

In the 1992 version of this book, Loewen took a close look at the 12 most widely used history textbooks and discovered that their true purpose was less to educate American students about the entirety of their history but instead to acc
...more
Mike
Jan 29, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, politics
Before I get into this review, a couple of disclaimers, if I may.

First of all, I'm not an American and was not put through the American school system, which means I have no first hand experience of the standard of history teaching referred to by James Loewen. I'm British and count myself extremely fortunate to have attended a very good school at home.

Secondly, I am aware that history in many countries is twisted a little for either feelgood or nationalist purposes, depending on how you choose to
...more
Ross Blocher
Jun 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an important book for anyone living in the United States. James Loewen takes a look at some of our shared national history, primarily through the lens of the textbook. He has combed thoroughly through 18 of the top-selling American history textbooks (and 6 additional ones as of the 2007 update I read). In those textbooks, he has found a pervasive Euro-centrism, in which the accomplishments of white people are given undue weight, drowning out the other peoples and cultures who have partic ...more
Cyndy
Oct 11, 2007 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: neoconservatives - to light them up
great cocktail fodder.

i think the author has a great overall point. especially since my mom is navajo and was raised as a baby in tuba city, az. but c'mon. does anyone out there still believe the shite printed during the cold war anyway?

some of the examples in the book are pure sensationalistic crap. that's ok, it's no worse than the religious right's crap and in this case much more interesting and less mystical.

i find it just as hard to bite at each 'fact' given in this book when the author
...more
Whitney Archibald
Jan 27, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This biggest reason I'm rating this book so high is that it was so thought-provoking. Loewen reviewed 12 common American history textbooks and analyzed the content based on historical accuracy and bias. Unsurprisingly, they all presented a very sanitized and rosy view of American history. His argument is that most of the textbooks in use 1. are very Euro-centric, marginalizing minorities (especially african americans and native americans); 2. "heroify" major historical figures so much that they ...more
Jeffrey
Aug 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
Really enjoying this look at history, things I knew and didn't know, and also about how history is written, rewritten, or unwritten and why. To be fair, it's not the teachers that are lying necessarily, or intentionally, but certainly many textbooks.
Don
UPDATE #2: OK, so now I am at a different school district — which places a lot more emphasis on using the textbook and “coverage,” and I can better understand what Loewen is talking about. So, I’m finishing the book to revise my criticism. (12/17)

UPDATE: After reading the first 150 pages, now I just sorta have this book on my shelf and pick it up from time to time.


This book is very good on a few levels ... It takes the textbook publishers to task for their weak glossing over of American history,
...more
Barbara
This is a book I assigned my students. It is not easy reading, but informative. The one aspect of the book that I found unnecessary was the author's recount of exactly which high school history textbooks get which facts right, or which they leave out. Overall, this text uncovers aspects of American history that many of us don't know. For example, I associated President Woodward Wilson with being involved in the founding of the League of Nations. I didn't know that Wilson was a white supremacist ...more
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Lies My Teacher Told Me 3 10 Oct 01, 2018 02:11PM  
Goodreads Librari...: quotes -- no alternative given to assign to book title 8 19 Aug 03, 2017 01:14AM  
Madison Mega-Mara...: # 11 Lies My Teacher Told Me 1 9 Feb 06, 2015 01:38PM  
James Loewen at Busboys and Poets In Washington DC 2 52 Apr 24, 2014 05:40AM  
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