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Lies My Teacher Told Me : Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong [Paperback]

by James W. Loewen
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (822 customer reviews)


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Book Description

September 3, 1996 0684818868 978-0684818863 1

Winner of the 1996 American Book Award and the Oliver Cromwell Cox Award for Distinguished Anti-Racist Scholarship

Americans have lost touch with their history, and in this thought-provoking book, Professor James Loewen shows why. After surveying twelve leading high school American history texts, he has concluded that not one does a decent job of making history interesting or memorable. Marred by an embarrassing combination of blind patriotism, mindless optimism, sheer misinformation, and outright lies, these books omit almost all the ambiguity, passion, conflict, and drama from our past. In ten powerful chapters, Loewen reveals that:

  • The United States dropped three times as many tons of explosives in Vietman as it dropped in all theaters of World War II, including Hiroshima and Nagasaki
  • Ponce de Leon went to Florida mainly to capture Native Americans as slaves for Hispaniola, not to find the mythical fountain of youth
  • Woodrow Wilson, known as a progressive leader, was in fact a white supremacist who personally vetoed a clause on racial equality in the Covenant of the League of Nations
  • The first colony to legalize slavery was not Virginia but Massachusetts

From the truth about Columbus's historic voyages to an honest evaluation of our national leaders, Loewen revives our history, restoring to it the vitality and relevance it truly possesses.



Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Winner of the 1996 American Book Award and the Oliver Cromwell Cox Award for Distinguished Anti-Racist Scholarship

Americans have lost touch with their history, and in this thought-provoking book, Professor James Loewen shows why. After surveying twelve leading high school American history texts, he has concluded that not one does a decent job of making history interesting or memorable. Marred by an embarrassing combination of blind patriotism, mindless optimism, sheer misinformation, and outright lies, these books omit almost all the ambiguity, passion, conflict, and drama from our past. In ten powerful chapters, Loewen reveals that:

  • The United States dropped three times as many tons of explosives in Vietman as it dropped in all theaters of World War II, including Hiroshima and Nagasaki
  • Ponce de Leon went to Florida mainly to capture Native Americans as slaves for Hispaniola, not to find the mythical fountain of youth
  • Woodrow Wilson, known as a progressive leader, was in fact a white supremacist who personally vetoed a clause on racial equality in the Covenant of the League of Nations
  • The first colony to legalize slavery was not Virginia but Massachusetts
  • From the truth about Columbus's historic voyages to an honest evaluation of our national leaders, Loewen revives our history, restoring to it the vitality and relevance it truly possesses.

    About the Author

    James W. Loewen is the bestselling author of Lies My Teacher Told Me and Lies Across America. He is a regular contributor to the History Channel's History magazine and is a professor emeritus of sociology at the University of Vermont. He resides in Washington, D.C.

    Product Details

    • Paperback: 384 pages
    • Publisher: Touchstone; 1 edition (September 3, 1996)
    • Language: English
    • ISBN-10: 0684818868
    • ISBN-13: 978-0684818863
    • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.2 x 0.7 inches
    • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
    • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (822 customer reviews)
    • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #31,601 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

    Customer Reviews

    Most Helpful Customer Reviews
    2,151 of 2,289 people found the following review helpful
    4.0 out of 5 stars A Must Read for any Student of American History August 6, 2001
    By A Customer
    Format:Paperback
    As a conservative white male who views revisionist history quite skeptically, I did not expect much from this book. As a student of American history, I understood what a woeful job our textbooks and (unfortunately) our teachers do in teaching the actual history of this country, but I never expected both the depth and the level of scholarship Mr. Loewen presents in this book. It is well researched, well written and much needed. Having grown up near an Indian reservation, my own personal studies in original sources confirm how accurate Mr. Loewen really is. The book is hardly "political correctness" run amuck as suggested by one review. And his point is not to paint America as evil or bash Christian Europeans as two other reviews would lead us to believe. This type of simple minded attack does not tell us anything about the book, but rather betrays the reviewers' own entrenched viewpoints - viewpoints that certainly will not be changed by exposure to the truth. In fact, the criticisms make Mr. Loewen's point almost better than he can as to why history is taught in feel-good myths rather than truth. Yes, Mr. Loewen treats certain issues and not others. He tells us he is doing so several times throughout the book, and makes apologies for it. This is not intended to be a replacement for a full history of the United States. Mr. Loewen makes good and valid suggestions as to such replacements. It is not even intended to be a complete coverage of all the things our history texts get wrong. He would need several more volumes for that, and even then would get some of it wrong. For those who actually read the book (and many reviewers obviously did not), he admits all of this. Mr. Loewen's book is an important start. But it is only a start. Read more ›
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    629 of 669 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars Why kids hate history (but shouldn't have to) May 5, 2009
    Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
    This is a real eye-opener to anyone who thinks they learned about U.S. history in high school. Loewen spent eleven years reviewing the 12 most commonly-used U.S. history textbooks and found all to be seriously wanting. Textbook publishers want to avoid controversy (so, apparently, do many school systems), so they feed students a white-washed, non-controversial, over-simplified version of this country's history and its most important historical figures.

    To make his point, Loewen emphasizes the "dark side" of U.S. history, because that's the part that's missing from our education system. So, for example, we never learned that Woodrow Wilson ran one of the most racist administrations in history and helped to set back progress in race relations that had begun after the Civil War. Helen Keller's socialist leanings and political views are omitted and we only learn that she overcame blindness and deafness. John Brown is portrayed as a wild-eyed nut who ran amok until he was caught and hanged, rather than an eloquent and dedicated abolitionist who uttered many of the same words and thoughts that Lincoln later expressed.

    Loewen's book vividly illustrates the maxim that "those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it." Ignorance of our real history also renders us incapable of fully understanding the present and coming to grips with the issues of our time. For example, from the Civil War until around 1890, real racial progress was underway in the United States and civil rights laws were Federally enforced in the South. The military was integrated and former slaves had the right to vote, serve on juries and as witnesses in trials, own property and operate businesses.
    Read more ›
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    131 of 145 people found the following review helpful
    4.0 out of 5 stars An important book to read, but... June 22, 2010
    Format:Hardcover
    This is one of the books that changed the way I look at history and modern current events. So much of what I thought I knew about American History was overturned or cast in a new light, and some aspects of modern life make a lot more sense now. At times it can feel like you're getting beaten over the head with negativity, but if you can get past that you'll gain some valuable knowledge and insight. It's well worth the read.

    Loewen makes a very good point that we shouldn't unthinkingly accept what textbooks teach us, but we shouldn't unthinkingly accept what Loewen teaches us either. He's not immune from his own historical misrepresentations and simplifications in service of making his point. I'm a liberal and his digs at Bush Sr. were tiresome even to me. The whole truth isn't here--the whole truth is best learned from multiple books, sources, and viewpoints. But, please don't let the above criticism stop you from reading. This book gives a great starting-off place for finding out more of the whole truth about American History.
    Was this review helpful to you?
    147 of 172 people found the following review helpful
    4.0 out of 5 stars A MUST for parents and educators. December 26, 2000
    Format:Paperback
    In *Lies My Teacher Told Me*, sociologist James W. Loewen looks at twelve popular American history textbooks used in public high schools today and concludes that they are inexcusably inaccurate and biased. He shows that, in addition to their being sloppy and error-prone due to incompetence, textbooks oversimplify historical facts and causes, obscure the process by which historical interpretations are made and revised over time, perpetuate national myths and even willfully lie. Often, Loewen reveals, this is done in the service of promoting blind patriotism in students or in capitulation to various interest groups and other pressures that work to undermine the professionalism and integrity of the textbook industry itself. A multitude of examples from actual textbooks used today will likely disabuse many lay readers--including many high school teachers, according to cited studies of their expertise in their own field--of cherished but wrong beliefs.
    Some readers will object to Loewen's obvious "liberal bias." There is a case to be made for this. I, for one, would like to see a deconstruction of textbooks' pervasive anti-capitalistic mentality. Is it honest history, for example, to mention the antitrust suit against Standard Oil but not to mention the fact that its business practices did not harm consumers but benefited them? Or that many of the reforms of the Progressive Era--the Meat Inspection Act and the Pure Food and Drug Act, to name but two--were lobbied for by "big business" (appropriate here, but what a loaded term!) to throttle their competitors? Or that there is more than one theory of the causes of the Great Depression--and that Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal only prolonged it?
    But, no matter. Such criticisms are beside the point.
    Read more ›
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    Most Recent Customer Reviews
    5.0 out of 5 stars Only the (Historical) Truth will set us free ...?
    This is the kind of book that will make a grown man cry. It reveals that much of what we have learned as American history, from its "so-called discovery" down to Barack... Read more
    Published 2 days ago by Herbert L Calhoun
    5.0 out of 5 stars You will get angry
    There is a lot of info that I did know, but have a feeling many do not. However, there was a great amount I didn't know, and he puts it together in a way that I found myself... Read more
    Published 4 days ago by Brian Hudson
    5.0 out of 5 stars must read for any American history student
    If you felt like you weren't told the whole story when you finished American history in high school this book will explain to you why.
    Published 11 days ago by Dave
    5.0 out of 5 stars Incredible book, life changing
    This book is a must read for all serious teachers of American History.

    This book has the power to inspire real and important change in history classrooms across America.
    Published 11 days ago by Kristi
    5.0 out of 5 stars A Real Eye-Opener
    James W. Loewen does a great job of explaining how our history was "written by the winners". Read more
    Published 12 days ago by D. Denton
    1.0 out of 5 stars Gramscian National Flagellation
    This is indeed an extraordinary work. Did you know that the "white invaders" were stupid, filthy, uncivilized, thieving, gold-obsessed, slavery loving, raping, abortionist,... Read more
    Published 14 days ago by Kat1979
    5.0 out of 5 stars More Lies
    This book is a great read for historians and political buffs. This book should be placed in public school libraries as a supplement to "text" books. Read more
    Published 16 days ago by R. HOLMES
    2.0 out of 5 stars started well, ended not so much
    I bought this book expecting a dive into historical inaccuracies as promulgated by the textbook version of history. Read more
    Published 19 days ago by Delius
    5.0 out of 5 stars Thinking outside the box of American education
    We all have had the make believe history rammed down our throats in the US. If you weren't lucky enough to have history taught in a setting of a liberal arts history class then one... Read more
    Published 26 days ago by Gary L. Brownfield
    5.0 out of 5 stars Could not put down.
    One of best five books I have ever read! Every high school student should have this book as mandatory reading during their US History Class.
    Published 27 days ago by Thomas W Cameron
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    Pledge of Allegiance to flag - origin of the straight-arm salute?
    This is an interesting discussion about socialism and the swastika. How on earth is it a discussion about LIES MY TEACHER TOLD ME? Curry begins by writing, "the author Loewen completely evades the topic of the Pledge's early gesture..." Well, "the author Loewen" never wrote... Read more
    Dec 1, 2008 by J. Loewen |  See all 11 posts
    Welcome to the Lies My Teacher Told Me forum
    this forum hasn't been breathed to life since 2005, so i will begin it after like 6 years. in college, in my West and the world class, there is this professor who recommended this book to the students. She always whined and moaned about how teachers didnt teach the whole truth about history, and... Read more
    Jul 15, 2010 by A. Palacio |  See all 2 posts
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