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Lies My Teacher Told Me : Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong 1st Edition

1,159 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0684818863
ISBN-10: 0684818868
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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.

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    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: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,159 customer reviews)
    • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #23,532 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

    Customer Reviews

    Most Helpful Customer Reviews

    2,689 of 2,849 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 6, 2001
    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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    807 of 857 people found the following review helpful By History Man VINE VOICE on 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.
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    431 of 469 people found the following review helpful By Maginot on January 15, 2003
    Format: Paperback
    In this superb book, James Loewen argues what most Americans have understood since childhood, namely that our American History textbooks, are, boring, theme-driven, inaccurate and largely ineffective at imparting the richness of their subject. While the book�s title and argument may seem like a leftist gerrymander, they are not. Loewen, a professor of Sociology at the University of Vermont (who spent several years analyzing ten high school American History textbooks totaling more than 8,000 pages), is not out to reverse the traditional cast of heroes and villains in American history. Instead, Loewen advocates an honest and inclusive history that simply reveals events as they actually happened. While this may expose some dark truths about �heroic� people and events in American history, and may cast historical �villains� in a new light, Loewen does not believe it will cause students to despise their country. On the contrary, he argues that revealing conflicts and problems that our text books ignore or conceal will make American history come alive and will almost certainly enhance students� appreciation for their country. Ironically, while many textbook editors and teachers fear that altering their inaccurate and theme-driven content will cause students to despise their country, they miss the fact that this is precisely what the specious, vapid nature of the textbooks already accomplishes. Some of Loewen�s interesting observations are contained below:
    Columbus was almost certainly not the first European to discover or colonize North America. He tortured and mutilated the native population of Haiti and eventually exterminated it by working the inhabitants to death searching for gold. All of these facts are available in the journals of Columbus and his colleagues.
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