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Lies My Teacher Told Me: James W. Loewen

Lies My Teacher Told Me: James W. Loewen

Lies My Teacher Told Me by James W. Loewen has become an extremely popular book. Many high schools use it as a point of reference to examine facts that are misrepresented or incorrectly recorded. This enlightening text allows students to learn more about topics that they may have already had preconceived notions about due to other references. This

 

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Angela Hart

Angela Hart

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Woodrow Wilson

".. two antidemocratic policies that Wilson carried out: his racial segregation of the federal government and his military interventions in foreign countries" (23).
 "Under Wilson, the United States intervened in Latin America more often than at any other time in our history.. In 1917 Woodrow Wilson.. started sending secret monetary aid to the "White" side of the Russian civil war... This aggression fueled the suspicions that motivated the Soviets during the Cold War..." (23-4).

 "..Wilson's interventions in Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Nicaragua set the stage for the dictators Batista, Trujillo, the Duvaliers, and the Somozas.." (24).

 "He was an outspoken white supremacist--his wife was even worse--and told "darky" stories in cabinet meetings" (27).

 "Spurred by Birth of a Nation, William Simmons of Georgia reestablished the Ku Klux Klan. The racism seeping down from the White House encouraged this klan.." (28).

 "Wilson was not only antiblack; he was also far and away our most nativist president, repeatedly questioning the loyalty of those he called "hyphenated Americans"" (29).

 "To oppose America's participation in World War I, or even to be pessimistic about it, was dangerous. The Creel Committee... After World War I, the Wilson administration's attacks on civil liberties increased, now with anticommunism as the excuse. Neither before nor since these campaigns has the United States come closer to being a police state" (30).

 "Because heroification prevents textbooks from showing Wilson's shortcomings, textbooks are hard pressed to explain the results of the 1920 election. James Cox, the Democratic candidate who was Wilson's would-be successor, was crushed by the nonentity Warren G. Harding, who never even campaigned. [It was] the biggest landslide in the history of American presidential politics" (31).

Article: Lies My Teacher Told Me
Source: Lies My Teacher Told Me

Errors in history textbooks do not often get corrected, partly because the history profession does not bother to review them. Occasionally outsiders do: Frances FitzGerald's 1979 study, America Revised, was a bestseller, but she made no impact on the industry. In a sarcastic passage her book pointed out how textbooks ignored or distorted the Spanish impact on Latin America and the colonial United States. "Text publishers may now be on the verge of rewriting history," she predicted, but she was wrong - the books have not changed.

Article: Introduction to Lies My T...
Source: Introduction to Lies My T...

Mr. Loewen's main criticism is of the process of heroification - turning flawed, complex people (or even whole nations, including as America itself) into two-dimensional or even one-dimensional personifications of greatness. He makes the point that such a simple-minded perspective is more than inaccurate: it is genuinely uninteresting. Early in the book he cites President Woodrow Wilson and Helen Keller as (pardon the pun) textbook examples of heroification.

Article: The Earley Post
Source: The Earley Post: Lies My ...

America's history merits remembering and understanding. This book includes ten chapters of amazing stories - some wonderful, some ghastly - in American history. Arranged in roughly chronological order, these chapters do not relate mere details but events and processes that had and have important consequences. Yet most textbooks leave out or distort them. I know because for several years I have been lugging around twelve textbooks, taking them seriously as works of history and ideology, studying what they say and don't say, and trying to figure out why. I chose the twelve to represent the range of books available for American history courses. Two, Discovering American History and The American Adventure, are "inquiry" textbooks, composed of maps, illustrations, and extracts from primary sources like diaries and laws, linked by narrative passages. These books are supposed to invite students to "do" history themselves. The American Way, Land of Promise, The United States -- A History of the Republic, American History, The American Tradition, are traditional high school narrative history textbooks. Three textbooks, American Adventures, Life and Liberty, and Challenge of Freedom, are intended for junior high students but are often used by "slow" senior high classes. Triumph of the American Nation and The American Pageant are also used on college campuses. These twelve have been my window into the world of what high school students carry home, read, memorize, and forget. In addition, I have spent many hours observing high school history classrooms in Mississippi, Vermont, and the Washington metropolitan area.

Article: Introduction to Lies My T...
Source: Introduction to Lies My T...

America's history merits remembering and understanding. This book includes ten chapters of amazing stories - some wonderful, some ghastly - in American history. Arranged in roughly chronological order, these chapters do not relate mere details but events and processes that had and have important consequences. Yet most textbooks leave out or distort them. I know because for several years I have been lugging around twelve textbooks, taking them seriously as works of history and ideology, studying what they say and don't say, and trying to figure out why. I chose the twelve to represent the range of books available for American history courses. Two, Discovering American History and The American Adventure, are "inquiry" textbooks, composed of maps, illustrations, and extracts from primary sources like diaries and laws, linked by narrative passages. These books are supposed to invite students to "do" history themselves. The American Way, Land of Promise, The United States -- A History of the Republic, American History, The American Tradition, are traditional high school narrative history textbooks. Three textbooks, American Adventures, Life and Liberty, and Challenge of Freedom, are intended for junior high students but are often used by "slow" senior high classes. Triumph of the American Nation and The American Pageant are also used on college campuses. These twelve have been my window into the world of what high school students carry home, read, memorize, and forget. In addition, I have spent many hours observing high school history classrooms in Mississippi, Vermont, and the Washington metropolitan area.

Article: Introduction to Lies My T...
Source: Introduction to Lies My T...

“Over the past ten years, I have asked dozens of college students who Helen Keller was and what she did. They all know that she was a blind and deaf girl. Most of them know that she was befriended by a teacher, Anne Sullivan, and learned to read and write and even to speak…. A few know that Keller graduated from college. But about what happened next, about the whole of her adult life, they are ignorant…. To ignore the sixty-four years of her adult life or to encapsulate them with the single word humanitarian is to lie by omission.”

Article: educatorsthinkspace - Lie...
Source: educatorsthinkspace

“Many American history textbooks are studded with biographical vignettes of the very famous (Land of Promise devotes a box to each president) and the famous (The Challenge of Freedom provides “Did You Know?” boxes about Elizabeth Blackwell, the first woman to graduate from medical school in the United States, and Lorraine Hansberry, author of A Raisin in the Sun, among many others). In themselves, vignettes are not a bad idea. They instruct by human example. They show diverse ways that people can make a difference. They allow textbooks to give space to characters such as Blackwell and Hansberry, who relieve what would otherwise be a monolithic parade of white male political leaders. […] Textbooks should include some people based not only on what they achieved but also on the distance they traversed to achieve it.”

Article: educatorsthinkspace - Lie...
Source: educatorsthinkspace

Helen Keller

"Keller.. never wavered in her belief that our society needed radical change.. she helped found the American Civil Liberties Union to fight for the free speech of others. She sent $100 to the NAACP with a letter of support... She supported Eugene V. Debs, the Socialist candidate, in each of his campaigns for the presidency..
 "One may not agree with Helen Keller's positions. her praise of the USSR now seems naive, embarrasing, to some even treasonous. But she was a radical--a fact few Americans know.." (22).
 

Article: Lies My Teacher Told Me
Source: Lies My Teacher Told Me

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 outright lies, these books omit almost all the ambiguity, passion, conflict, and drama from our past.
In this revised edition, packed with updated material, Loewen explores how historical myths continue to be perpetuated in today's climate and adds an eye-opening chapter on the lies surrounding 9/11 and the Iraq War. From the truth about Columbus's historic voyages to an honest evaluation of our national leaders, Loewen revives our history, restoring the vitality and relevance it truly possesses.

Article: Lies My Teacher Told Me: ...
Source: Lies My Teacher Told Me: ...

Loewen's politically correct critique of 12 American history textbooks-including The American Pageant by Thomas A. Bailey and David M. Kennedy; and Triumph of the American Nation by Paul Lewis Todd and Merle Curti-is sure to please liberals and infuriate conservatives. In condemning the way history is taught, he indicts everyone involved in the enterprise: authors, publishers, adoption committees, parents and teachers. Loewen (Mississippi: Conflict and Change) argues that the bland, Eurocentric treatment of history bores most elementary and high school students, who also find it irrelevant to their lives. To make learning more compelling, Loewen urges authors, publishers and teachers to highlight the drama inherent in history by presenting students with different viewpoints and stressing that history is an ongoing process, not merely a collection of-often misleading-factoids.

Article: Lies My Teacher Told Me: ...
Source: Lies My Teacher Told Me: ...

James Loewen spent two years at the Smithsonian Institute surveying twelve leading high school textbooks of American History. What he found was an embarrassing amalgam of bland optimism, blind patriotism, and misinformation pure and simple, weighing in at an average of four-and-a-half pounds and 888 pages.
In response, he has written Lies My Teacher Told Me, in part a telling critique of existing books but, more importantly, a wonderful retelling of American history as it should - and could - be taught to American students. Beginning with pre-Columbian American history and ranging over characters and events as diverse as Reconstruction, Helen Keller, the first Thanksgiving, and the My Lai massacre, Loewen supplies the conflict, suspense, unresolved drama, and connection with current-day issues so appallingly missing from textbook accounts.

Article: Lies Across America by Ja...
Source: Lies Across America by Ja...
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