Lies my teacher told me Everything American history textbooks get wrong

James W. Loewen

Book - 2019

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New York : The New Press [2019]
Main Author
James W. Loewen (author, -)
Young readers' edition
Physical Description
xviii, 282 pages : illustrations ; 23 cm
Includes bibliographical references and index.
  • Introduction: Why I Wrote This Book-And Other Questions Answered
  • List Of Textbooks Studied
  • 1. The Problem With Making Heroes
  • 2. What Did Columbus Really Do?
  • 3. The Truth About The First Thanksgiving
  • 4. Through Red Eyes
  • 5. Invisible Racism
  • 6. John Brown, Abraham Lincoln, And Invisible Idealism
  • 7. The Land Of Opportunity
  • 8. Keeping An Eye On The Government
  • 9. Seeing No Evil In Vietnam
  • 10. The Disappearance Of The Recent Past
  • 11. History And The Future
  • 12. Does This Way Of Teaching History Work?
  • Afterword: The Future Lies Ahead-And What To Do About Them
  • Notes
  • Index
Review by Booklist Review

Don't know much about history, starts Sam Cooke's 1960s hit. In Stefoff's YA adaptation of Loewen's adult best-seller, updated with information to 2019, teens are introduced to a problematic lack of history knowledge and critical-thinking skills in today's students. After analyzing well-known textbooks, Loewen identifies them as the main cause of the deficit. Using Helen Keller and Woodrow Wilson as examples, the opening chapter pinpoints the root problem: heroification, in which ideals and archetypes prevail over an individual's nuanced life and effect on history. From here, the author takes readers through several commonly studied subjects in history, including Christopher Columbus, European settlers and their impact on Native Americans, slavery and the Civil War, the civil rights movement, and the Vietnam War. In the process of comparing textbooks' shallow, vague, and even incorrect descriptions with more accurate scholarship, he raises such issues as racial bias, Eurocentrism, American exceptionalism, and what these texts leave out. Loewen also stresses throughout that by avoiding controversy, textbooks never prepare students for the future. Evocative and thought-provoking, this is what history should be.--Angela Leeper Copyright 2019 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by School Library Journal Review

Gr 7 Up-The original 1995 edition of Lies My Teacher Told Me shocked many readers with its blunt analysis of 12 high school history textbooks. This young reader's edition continues along the same lines, pointing out the fallacies involved when telling adolescents an idealized, incomplete version of U.S. history. Loewen focuses on the following themes: heroification (telling only the positive, exemplary parts about significant figures in American history), the realities of both the Columbus and First Thanksgiving stories, Native/First Nations experiences being ignored or told only from a European perspective, racism, idealism, classism, government `perfection,' and the dangers of teaching history without considering its impact on the future. The book covers much of the same material as in the previous editions except with shortened, simpler text. Relevant facts and figures have been updated, as well as references to the current president and administration. VERDICT An important and necessary purchase for all secondary schools who want students to develop a love and appreciation for U.S. -history while seeing it with clearer eyes. -Heidi Grange, Summit Elementary School, Smithfield, UT © Copyright 2019. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review

A slimmed-down version of Loewen's (Sundown Towns, 2018, etc.) damning indictment of the way United States history is taught.As in the adult edition, the author bases his argument on critical examinations of 18 high school textbooks published between 1974 and 2007. He sees clear tendencies to blandly hero-ify not only historical figuressuch as Helen Keller, commonly presented in relation to her disabilities, not for her lifelong social and political radicalismbut also American culture and government, which are consistently portrayed as international forces for good despite centuries of invasion-based foreign policy. To freshen his material, the author slips in more recent statistics and general comments that newer textbooks seem to have filled in at least some of the more egregious gaps. More provocatively, he also flings down a gauntlet to young readers by not reproducing two of the five photos he discusses as iconic images of the war in Vietnam, arguing that they are still too edgy for some school districts. He also offers alternative narratives about the conflicts between European immigrants and Indigenous residents, slavery, racism, social class, and the ideal of "progress." Overall, he presents a cogent argument for studying historical nuances. He argues that young people should not be deprived of hearing the incredible truth of American history in service to avoidance of controversy or blinkered, parochial nationalism.An accessible, eye-opening invitation to look for hiddenand not-so-hiddenagendas in supposedly authoritative sources. (notes, index) (Nonfiction. 13-18) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.