Book Review: Lies My Teacher Told Me

The hubs and I had dropped the kiddo at his D&D game and snuck out(approved by the host) to get a little alone time. We hiked for a while, having all those conversations that build up between dates because you can’t get through three sentences at home without the kiddo interrupting…and then we went to the library. I’ll be honest all our dates end the evening at the library. The ability to search shelves without the kiddo tugging at your arm saying he wants to go now, his stack of books is heavy, etc…oh mama. Anyway, I came across a copy of Lies My Teacher Told Me by James W. Loewen. I had heard really good things about it.

Basic Summary (Courtesy of Amazon):

Since its first publication in 1995, Lies My Teacher Told Me has become one of the most important—and successful—history books of our time. Having sold nearly two million copies, the book also won an American Book Award and the Oliver Cromwell Cox Award for Distinguished Anti-Racist Scholarship and was heralded on the front page of the New York Times.

For this new edition, Loewen has added a new preface that shows how inadequate history courses in high school help produce adult Americans who think Donald Trump can solve their problems, and calls out academic historians for abandoning the concept of truth in a misguided effort to be “objective.”

What started out as a survey of the twelve leading American history textbooks has ended up being what the San Francisco Chronicle calls “an extremely convincing plea for truth in education.” In Lies My Teacher Told Me, James W. Loewen brings history alive in all its complexity and ambiguity. Beginning with pre-Columbian history and ranging over characters and events as diverse as Reconstruction, Helen Keller, the first Thanksgiving, the My Lai massacre, 9/11, and the Iraq War, Loewen offers an eye-opening critique of existing textbooks, and a wonderful retelling of American history as it should—and could—be taught to American students.

My thoughts:

I expected more or less or something different anyway from this book. I guess I hoped for more discussion of the lies and what is really true. I like that kind of thing. While there is a good measure of that, it felt like more than half of every chapter was reviews of textbooks. Textbooks that were heinously boring when I didn’t actually read it in high school. And now I have to read excerpts of it while this guy explains why they’re boring and bad.

Maybe the problem is I already teach all the sides of every story in my history classes and encourage a healthy debate, so he was preaching to the choir?

It’s a good read if you don’t mind skimming a bit.

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