If history repeats itself, why are we so quick to repress it? Is it an ignorance and unwillingness to learn associated with the boringness of history, or something more? Personally, as a student I have never met one person who legitimately loved history (except history teachers of course). In Lies My Teacher Told Me, James Loewen plunges to the unexplored and purposely avoided depths associated with American history. By exploring the magical fairytale land of history textbooks’ and biases towards the so called “heroes” of society, Loewen sheds light to the raw truth and the effects of bad textbooks on the youths of America. By drawing attention to these shunned truths, Loewen intentionally and unintentionally introduces a network of problems as a cause and effect of glorifying the wrongs of American history. This book makes a bold criticism of the information that is taught to every single child admitted to the public education system. James Loewen enforces his criticism by providing examples of the glossed over parts of history.
By discussing “heroes” such Christopher Columbus, J. Edgar Hoover, Helen Keller, Abraham Lincoln, and Woodrow Wilson, Loewen explores how textbooks glorify people without analyzing anything other than their achievements. He blames the main reason for lack of student awareness on the textbooks. By studying twelve textbooks that have been in circulation since 1994, Loewen comes to the conclusion that in order to boost sales for mass production textbooks whitewash the truth to make history into a version that everyone likes and to avoid controversy. All in all, the reason for disinterest in the subject of history is the blurred truths around it, meant to appease the American side of the story rather than the complete truth. James Loewen seeks to draw attention to what everyone wants to ignore, which is the harsh reality. He seeks the teaching of the truth in classrooms and textbooks rather than mass produced half-truths, all in an effort to avoid repeating history.
Besides being an author of nine books and many other writings, James Loewen is a professor and a member of many organizations that reflect his interests such as the American Historical Association, American Studies Association, Organization of American Historians , and American Sociological Association. He gained his education from Carleton College and Harvard University. In his writings he expresses his interest of drawing attention to the supposed truths that Americans live and accept. He explores subjects that many people won’t involve themselves with because of the messy histories and preconceptions with the subject. Loewen isn’t just a writer, he is a researcher that spent many hours carefully sifting through sources to separate the bogus believed information from the actual verified history. His work in Lies My Teachers Told Me can be used for the average American that took American history, to learn the truths about the lies or marred truths they were taught in high school, in an effort to draw attention and hopefully change to the area.
James Loewen used a multitude of research materials in compiling Lies My Teacher Told Me. He has a long lengthy list in the back of the book for his references and the exact twelve textbooks he consulted while writing this book.The best strength of this book is James Loewen’s message. His effort to draw attention to what the mass population just accepted as a fact of life. The change that he attempts to bring by addressing the issues with the history teachers, curriculum, and most of all textbooks, instead of putting the blame on inattentive children, is admirable. Personally, I admire how much research he put into this, into a subject that could be a hit or miss. I believe this book can be improved by being less like the books it’s criticizing. For one he’s just as biased as the books he’s criticizing. I feel that despite drawing attention to the issues of the history, the author draws it out, including every inkling of information possible, which dramatically tips the scale in the opposite direction. This is ironic because he criticizes the length and weight of history books while his book is 444 pages long. And while I feel like he does a good job expressing the issues of the ignorance surrounding the subject of history, I also feel like he overdoes it.
The book Lies My Teacher Told Me specifically is targeted toward the people that have been wronged by history books, but if you’ve been taught that your whole life, why would you pick up a book that defies that? Overall this book was a insightful read that made me think twice about the high school education I got. Which is a good thing. I believe everything should be questioned (which includes this book), especially now days with so much fake news and biased media. This book makes me want to research and discover the real truths of everything I believed to be accurate.I don’t necessarily believe in all of the information because I feel like a good portion was Loewen’s opinion rather than fact. But I feel like my biases make it harder to distinguish the facts from his opinions because I agree with him on a good portion of it. Every history teacher should read this book before teaching to know that they are teaching the whitewashed version of history meant for mass population. Every college student should read this book as well to gain a better understanding of the methods of mass distribution of information and how it morphs information to make it all audience friendly. It wouldn’t be bad if parents read this book either to understand and teach their children an extended version of history not taught in classroom; a history that gives all the information, rather than the dumbed down textbook version.