Lies My Teacher Told Me
James E. Loewen’s book Lies My teacher Told Me is a book that should be read by everyone at some point in their lives. According to James W. Loewen, students hate history classes and when they have to take history, the students think it’s boring. They repress everythingthey were taught. James W. Loewen spent a lot of time studying 12 history textbooks; he observed high school history classes and interveiwed high school history teachers. Ths is how he knows that the textbook leave out conflict or real suspense (pg 13). In his book he tells us what the textbooks lleft out or distorted about events that took place in history.
He asks the question “Why are history textbooks so bad? (pg14). Nationaism is one reason; they want us to be proud of America and proud to be an American. The textbooks do not include controversy; if they did then students may think the subject was interesting. Students are not taght the details of our heros’ unacceptabele side. Our history textbooks do not teach us about that Helen Keller was a radical socialist and admired the communist party in Tussia. How did she come to be so radical? Our students are taught that Helen Keller was deaf and bling, that is all most people remember her for.
She came rrom an affluent family and she was shocked to find out how really poor pwople lived, how they had poor health care, miserable livinge conditions, poor nutrition and that people worked in sweatshops. She fought for the righs of women to vote. We are taught that Woodrow Wilson was a great statesman. After he led America into World War I he led the struggle to esablish the League of Nations. Loewen states that we were never tayght that Wilson was a leader of segregation in the federal government. He led some outrageois militant interventions in foreign countries: the consequences of those are still causing gavoc today.
He sent money to the “white” side of the Russian Civil War and authorized a naval blockade of the Soviet Union. He sent forces to help overthrow the Russian Revolution. That caused aggression that motivated Russia in the Cold War. Wilson was openly hostile to black people. He barred blacks from any federal hobs. When he ran for office he prmised he would press for civel righes, when he got into office he did not do that. Christopher Columbus is portrayed as America’s first hero. today Christopher Columbus is one of two people to have their name marked on a national holiday.
If we knew the true facts of Christopher Columbus would we be less likely to celebrate and honor him on that day? Christopher Columbus was ooking for a new route to the east to get spices because the Turks closed the land route. After two months at sea he landed in the West Indies. He found a new contient, so we were taught. For centuries fishermen and seamen had known the earth was roung. The Turks made money from the land routes being open so they had not reason to close the land routes. Europeans had been fishing off of Newfoundland in 1480’s.
For thousand of years the Irish an dPhoenicians had visited Canada and New England, Columbus’ purpose fro the beginning was not exploration or trade, but conquest and exploitation. the fact that sailors carried small pox, bubonic plague adn influenza killed a very large percentage of the natives everywhere they went. Taking of land , wealth and labor from the natives which caused their near extermination and the transatlanti slave trade which created racial underclass were introduces by Columbus that revolutionized race relations and transformed the modern world.
When Christopher Columbus could not find gold to take, he took slaves and shipped them to Europe. He mistreatedthe natives he came upon, taking their land and raping their women. The truth about the Thanksging tradition is that George Washington set aside days for national thanksgiving. During the civil war the union needed all the patriotism it coud come up with, Abraham Lincoln proclaimed thanksgiving a notional hiliday. The pilgrims had nothing to do with it. No one used the term “pilgrims” until the 1870’s the term, Pilgrims did not get introduces in the tradion until the 1890’s.
The Pilgrims did show courage in making the trip and they suffered from diseases such as scurvy and pneumonia and half of them died. When the Pilgrims landed, they fornd land already cleared; they found corn, squash and beans. they had the place to themselves and helped themselves to the crops. hey thought that God had brought the plague to the Indians so they could have their land. The pilgrims did not cause the plague but the British anFrench fishermen had brought it. Within three tears the plague killed between 90 and 96 percent of the natives of coastal New England. That left the land for the Pilgrims.
Students, especially of the niddle class, know little about how the American class structure works and nothing about how it has changed over time. textbooks touch on the certain points of labor history but do not cover anything that has to do with social class. Four of the twil textboos Loewen reviewed, suppled fragmentary analyses of social stratification that were more in the colonial America. Teh textbooks takl about “Social Mobility” however ther s not anything said about the differences in social classes. Social class is an imprtant part of our society. It starts from conception.
Affluent mothers are more likely to get prenatal care than a poor or working lass mother to be. Low income kids often times have negaive attitudes. To teach about social class in our history and in our present would invite students to let go and look past their own social class to be able to learn and grow beyond the begative thoughts that hold them i the same social class. Recent history is the history that has the most impact on our lives today. Loewen compares the War of 1812 and Vietnam War, which high school students know very little about. The war of 1812 killed 2,000 Americans an dlasted half as long as the Vietnam War.
It lasted 10 years and 50,000 Americans died. textbooks give the two the same amount of space. teh textbooks do not show the degree of destruction done in Vietnam and to the Vietnamese population. the textbooks do not coner My Lai where American troops “had personally raped, cut off ears, cut off heads, taped wires from portable telephones to human genitals and turned up the power, cut off limbs, blown up bodies, randomly shot at civilians, razed villages in reminiscent of Genghis Khan, shot cattle3 and dogs for fun, poisoned food stocks, and generslly ravaged the countryside of South Vietnam. as john Kerry tokd the Senate Foreign Relations committee in April of 1971. (pg 245) Most teachers do not want to cover the Vietnam War in detail, they are agraid it might give students the wrong impression of American institutions. Along with the Vietnam War not being covered in schools is the womens’s movement. Techers are afraid of offending the parents of the students. Most yount addults that have had history classes in high school cannot say when the civil War was fought or who was in the Vietnam War.
Our History in the textbooks is portrayed as dead facts about our history would be remembered by the students. History is taught in a positive way of the white mand, the students ofother bakgrounds and nationalities often get offended and resist learning American History. If the teachers strayed away from the traditional way history is taught and brought in other sources and addd emotion to it, it would be a more interesting subject to study. This book is intriguing and thought provoking.
I had no idea that history was taught like this. I fully agree that history at the same time should focus on patriotism, it should also be taught with facts, true facts. Our hisory is our history, it is what it is and we connot change it. The only thing we can do now is change the way it is taught in the present and the future. If we teach the wrong doings of the past, we may not make the same mistakes again.