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

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Book Overview

This description may be from another edition of this product. 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...

Customer Reviews

6 ratings

Everyone needs to read this

Honestly, I'm a biologist and don't have much interest in history - I chose this book to try and learn more about history which I don't think I've learned about since high school. That said, this book was amazing. It really opens up your eyes to how we are taught history in the US and why it effects us negatively. Lots of things 'clicked' as I was reading, it was really enlightening.

A Valuable Read on a Very Vexing Problem

Much of what a reader gets out of a book depends on what he/she brings to the exercise. This reviewer came from a blue-collar background, attended public schools through college, eventually received a doctorate in a demanding field requiring scholarship and a grounding in history, and finally retired back to blue-collar pursuits. One needn't log years in formal education, however, to agree with James Loewen's introduction entitled "Something Has Gone Very Wrong" with the teaching of history in this country. I will reveal up front that I recommend this book to any open-minded citizen looking for alternative views of the problem and its solution. The stress is on "open-minded." But first, some comments on the book's weaker points. For starters, its title is clearly provocative. The word "lie" suggests a deliberate intention to deceive and, as the author himself acknowledges many times, well-meaning teachers dispensing information by rote may not even know the subject matter well enough to "lie" about it. Obviously, the title was chosen to entice people into buying and reading the book. Unfortunately, it may have the opposite effect on some. Second, the text can only be described as "dense." "Dense," as in long sentences and long paragraphs, which can also intimidate some readers. And finally, there is something off-putting about a steady litany of what is wrong with the world as opposed to what can be done about it. However, as the reader will find, Mr. Loewen finds much ammunition for each chapter -- a bit of it amusing, much of it shocking and all of it relevant. Take, for example, the following passage describing something that is surely happening thousands of times a day around the country: "As we college professors get older, we grow ever more astonished at what our undergraduates don't know about the recent past. I first became aware of this phenomenon as the 1970s inexorably became the 1980s. Lecturing on the Vietnam War, I increasingly got blank looks. ... On the first day of class in 1989, I gave my students a quiz including the open-ended question, `Who fought in the war in Vietnam?' Almost a fourth of my students said the combatants were North and South Korea!" "Lies My Teacher Told Me" is primarily an expose of the teaching -- or lack thereof -- of high school history and of the caliber of students sent out into the world or up into college-level history classes. I find Mr. Loewen successfully demonstrates that the bulk of history is taught from bland textbooks written to the safest common denominator. After weeding out most references to anything controversial, and putting in enough chronological items to satisfy a wide constituency, the textbook industry and its academic allies end up with history "without content," often wildly inaccurate and largely without relevance to students' personal lives. We are all familiar with the poor showing of American high school students vis-à-vis foreign students i
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