Review: Lies My Teacher Told Me

Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong, Revised and Updated EditionLies My Teacher Told Me
by James W. Loewen

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Lies My Teacher Told Me / 9781595583260

This is an incredible book, half-history tome and half-social study on our culture and educational system, and all-fascinating and informative. Author James Loewen believes that the way in which we teach history is fundamentally wrong -- that we sanitize and water-down history into something patriotic-yet-dull and in doing so, we turn our children off completely to the past.

"Lies My Teacher Told Me" goes through a number of chapters on important subjects in our nation's history, and I can almost guarantee that anyone reading this book will learn something interesting they didn't already know. There is a wealth of information here on a variety of subjects, and it's all very well organized and easy to read. Loewen offers teaching suggestions as he goes, and one chapter that I found particularly thought provoking was the one on corporations: Loewen points out that history books are almost uniformly structured around the actions and milestones of the federal government, when a convincing case could be made for structuring an alternative history book around the actions and interests of the corporations that have influenced our government.

Loewen tells history like it happens and doesn't pull his punches to protect our traditional heroes, but at the same time, the history here isn't "feel bad" history. On the contrary, this history is fascinating and utterly liberating because such a burden is lifted when we admit that America hasn't been steadily improving without pause since Day 1, and that any evidence to the contrary is the product of an individual just not trying hard enough. If anything, I think this message is the most important one in the book: that children actually do want to learn history as it happened, not as some warmed-over agreed-upon-by-committee "morale building" exercise that leaves them cold and disconnected from their own past.

If you have even a mild interest in United States history at all, and especially in how it is taught in our schools, "Lies My Teacher Told Me" is a must-read that you won't be able to put down.

A note about the audio version of this book: the voice actor is incredibly talented and brings a great deal of warmth and meaning to the text -- the audio version is really a joy to listen to. The audio version is based on an older edition of the book than this particular updated edition, but the differences are not major and do not prevent a reader from following along between the audio version and the text, if desired.

~ Ana Mardoll

View all my reviews


Dav said...

I keep meaning to read this and then not.  I was always a fan of actual interesting history, which to me is more about storytelling than dates.  And there's lot of different stories, and they keep going and interweaving, and that is something that can be tremendously exciting for kids, and it's made *better* by not whitewashing, not worse, for the same reason you need conflict in your stories. 

Anthony Rosa said...

Man, I read this book years ago! Because of this post, I had to go look through my bookshelves to find which of them had the book. (It was the second bookshelf I checked! At least it wasn't the fourth...) So, it's nice to read it again.

Post a Comment