LIES MY TEACHER TOLD ME

EVERYTHING YOUR AMERICAN HISTORY TEXTBOOK GOT WRONG

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. 1, 1995

ISBN: 1-56584-100-X

Page Count: 384

Publisher: The New Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 1994

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THE ABOLITION OF MAN

The sub-title of this book is "Reflections on Education with Special Reference to the Teaching of English in the Upper Forms of Schools." But one finds in it little about education, and less about the teaching of English. Nor is this volume a defense of the Christian faith similar to other books from the pen of C. S. Lewis. The three lectures comprising the book are rather rambling talks about life and literature and philosophy. Those who have come to expect from Lewis penetrating satire and a subtle sense of humor, used to buttress a real Christian faith, will be disappointed.

Pub Date: April 8, 1947

ISBN: 1609421477

Page Count: -

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1947

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Carefully researched and chilling, if somewhat overwritten.

COLUMBINE

Comprehensive, myth-busting examination of the Colorado high-school massacre.

“We remember Columbine as a pair of outcast Goths from the Trench Coat Mafia snapping and tearing through their high school hunting down jocks to settle a long-running feud. Almost none of that happened,” writes Cullen, a Denver-based journalist who has spent the past ten years investigating the 1999 attack. In fact, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold conceived of their act not as a targeted school shooting but as an elaborate three-part act of terrorism. First, propane bombs planted in the cafeteria would erupt during lunchtime, indiscriminately slaughtering hundreds of students. The killers, positioned outside the school’s main entrance, would then mow down fleeing survivors. Finally, after the media and rescue workers had arrived, timed bombs in the killers’ cars would explode, wiping out hundreds more. It was only when the bombs in the cafeteria failed to detonate that the killers entered the high school with sawed-off shotguns blazing. Drawing on a wealth of journals, videotapes, police reports and personal interviews, Cullen sketches multifaceted portraits of the killers and the surviving community. He portrays Harris as a calculating, egocentric psychopath, someone who labeled his journal “The Book of God” and harbored fantasies of exterminating the entire human race. In contrast, Klebold was a suicidal depressive, prone to fits of rage and extreme self-loathing. Together they forged a combustible and unequal alliance, with Harris channeling Klebold’s frustration and anger into his sadistic plans. The unnerving narrative is too often undermined by the author’s distracting tendency to weave the killers’ expressions into his sentences—for example, “The boys were shooting off their pipe bombs by then, and, man, were those things badass.” Cullen is better at depicting the attack’s aftermath. Poignant sections devoted to the survivors probe the myriad ways that individuals cope with grief and struggle to interpret and make sense of tragedy.

Carefully researched and chilling, if somewhat overwritten.

Pub Date: April 6, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-446-54693-5

Page Count: 406

Publisher: Twelve

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2009

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