LIES MY TEACHER TOLD ME by James W. Loewen

LIES MY TEACHER TOLD ME

Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong

KIRKUS REVIEW

 A decade and a half ago, in America Revised, Frances FitzGerald demonstrated that widely used school textbooks presented simplistic, fatuous, and often inaccurate versions of American history. Here, Loewen (Sociology/Univ. of Vermont; Mississippi: Conflict and Change, not reviewed) draws the conclusion that little has changed since then. In a year-long study at the Smithsonian Institution, Loewen reviewed 12 leading high school history textbooks and was appalled by the unscholarly, inaccurate, and overtly ideological material he found. Textbooks, Loewen argues, ``supply irrelevant and erroneous details, while omitting pivotal questions and facts in their treatments of issues ranging from Columbus's second voyage to the possibility of impending ecocide.'' He notes their non-treatment of subjects such as early American settlers' relations with the Indians, Helen Keller's radical socialism (textbooks often present her story only as an inspirational one), Abraham Lincoln's complex attitudes about race, and American atrocities in Vietnam. Loewen contends that American history has traditionally been taught in order to inculcate patriotism and other moral qualities rather than to get at the truth. Moreover, he asserts, the discipline of history, more than other scholarly fields, has traditionally been dominated by upper-class white male writers who share a particular consensus on American history. While the discipline of history has become more sophisticated and diverse in recent decades, Loewen shows, school history textbooks have not kept up. The result is a general lack of interest in history on the part of intelligent students. Loewen concludes that high school history teachers can do much to enhance interest in history by questioning the texts, encouraging students to do primary source work, and continually asking questions rather than providing answers. Although Loewen often is entertaining, he presents both an indictment that rings true and an eloquent call to action. (40 b&w illustrations, not seen)

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1995
ISBN: 1-56584-100-X
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: New Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 1994




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