Teaching what really happened How to avoid the tyranny of textbooks and get students excited about doing history

James W. Loewen

Book - 2010

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Multicultural education series (New York, N.Y.)
New York, NY : Teachers College Press/Columbia University 2010.
Physical Description
xv, 248 p. : col. ill. ; 23 cm
Includes bibliographical references and index.
Main Author
James W. Loewen (-)
Review by Booklist Reviews

"This lively, useful, but very slanted work is a follow-up to Loewen's Lies My Teacher Told Me (1995). Since it is part of the Multicultural Education series, it contains the usual platitudes and clichés covering the value and goals of multiculturalism. Loewen writes in a preachy, condescending style that highlights his left-of-center political bias. He criticizes the use of textbook content as a "weapon" that justifies or excuses racial segregation, yet it is evident that he wants history teachers to devise their own "weapons" to support his view of what "really" happened. Still, if educators can look beyond his overblown rhetoric, Loewen offers some effective criticisms of current teaching practices and provides some sensible alternatives. He asserts that many history teachers are overly dependent on the use of textbooks, often to compensate for their own lack of content knowledge. He proposes interesting methods for stimulating critical thinking and class discussions. Teachers will find much that is tiresome, but much that is valuable as well." Copyright 2009 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Choice Reviews

According to Loewen, social studies textbooks tend to portray the US as wonderful. Unfortunately, he contends these texts advance ethnocentrism. As a result, he urges teachers in grades 4-12 to focus on the problem of racism. His hope is that the teachers will allow the students to grow into engaged citizens who will shape enlightened policies. With this aim, Loewen devotes the first four chapters of this book to explanations of how conventional social studies instruction prevents students from developing critical thinking skills even though the study of history should sharpen these abilities. The remaining six chapters suggest how teachers can introduce problematic issues such as cultural imperialism, slavery, and racial segregation. Some suggestions include asking students to teach topics such as the women's movement or having different students explain parts of a book to the class and uniting the descriptions in a discussion. Readers interested in similar works might consult The Line between Us by Bill Bigelow (2006) or Revolutionizing Education, ed. by Julio Cammarota and Michelle Fine (2008). Summing Up: Recommended. Graduate, research, and professional collections. Copyright 2010 American Library Association.