“Lies My Teacher Told Me”
“Old myths never die, they just become embedded in the textbooks” -Thomas Bailey
The author, James Loewen begins the book by shedding light on why no one is that interested in their high school history courses. Loewen goes on to explain that the reason why history books are so boring is because they are filled with “facts” meant to memorized not understood. There is no thought-provoking intriguing stories portrayed in our history books, because our version of history has been rewritten to be comfortable for affluent white males to read. This simply isn’t true of history. History is filled with emotional, heart wrenching, drama filled stories that are just not being told. He claims that American history textbooks help perpetrate the archetype of the blindly patriotic hard hat by omitting progressive elements of the working class.
He makes the argument that because of this, most students exit history lessons without having the ability to think coherently about social life. The book is filled with excellent fact-checked information to back up his claims and mountains of details that provoke the reader to think more deeply about information we have all been fed. He challenges information that would be considered general knowledge to most Americans, however he provides the real story, and theories behind why, and who is editing our information. The author also offers tips as to what we can do to combat this reality. Loewen suggests that the reader learn how to actually learn history by using a different approach than what we have been taught: Ask yourself, why and when it was written? Who’s viewpoint is being presented? Is it believable? Is it backed up by multiple sources? How is America portrayed?
If our students were taught to question books armed with this knowledge, we would be promoting a more free thinking, emotionally sound, socially aware learning environment. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, Loewen was a little-long winded in details at times and doesn’t spend as much time highlighting Latin, or Women’s history. He focuses in-depth however, on the rich/poor gap, social class, African-American, and Native American history. He writes thoughtfully and provokes a lot of emotion in his points and observations. He delves into the idea of the American hero and the reason why our heroes’ pasts or questionable actions are censored. After reading this, I feel much more informed about important events and more prepared to read with understanding when it comes to our past.
“Concealment of the historical truth is a crime against the people“
-Gen. Petro Grigorenko