James Loewen wrote the book “Lies My Teacher Told ME” to help the students of the United States become aware of their true history. This book attempts to show how and why American history has been taught the way it has without regard for the truth. Mr. Loewen had compared twelve different history textbooks they are: The Great Republic, The American Way, Land of Promise, Rise of the American Nation, Challenge of Freedom, American Adventures, Discovering American History, The American Tradition, Life and Liberty, The United States A History of the Republic, Triumph of the American Nation and The American Pageant. Loewen has argued his cases for Heroification, Euorcentrism and the first settlers, and Racism in our history. He has done this knowing fully that most people do not want to know the harsh realities of our nations past. The United States has tried to maintain a positive image throughout history. Unfortunately, it has many skeletons in its closet that need to come out to heal this great nation on many levels. If the public at large new the real role of racism in our nations infancy and how men tried to pursue their way of thinking as opposed to what is good for the country they would be ashamed at what the United States has stood for in the past.
Heroification is a degenerative process that makes people into heroes regardless of any type of character flaw they may possess. It appears that Mr. Loewens greatest concern about heroification does not revolve around who gets chosen for the history books but what actually happens to them after they do. He cites two examples of people that had led colored lives but in our textbooks show them as people we should strive to become like. These two people are Helen Keller and President Woodrow Wilson. (Lies19) Mr. Loewen feels that heroification has distorted the lives of Keller and Wilson and that we can no longer think straight about them. He does not just think this of these two but many other people throughout history. When it comes to Keller we think of someone who, throughout her entire life has struggled to overcome her disabilities. I feel that no one would dispute this but in reality Miss Keller was a radical Socialist for most of her life. This in itself is not so bad but her condemnation of the country into which she was born to and lived in could be considered treasonous. (Lies20) President Wilson is also an example Loewen used in his book “Lies My Teacher Told Me”. Current textbooks say that Wilson led the United States reluctantly into World War 1 and associate him with helping progressive causes. (Lies22) Under his administration Wilson intervened in Latin America more often than at any other time in our history. He also led us into an “Unknown War” (Robert Maddock) that not even one of the twelve textbooks Loewen reviewed mentions. (Lies24) Racial problems also plagued Wilson throughout his Presidency abusing power as Chief Executive he segregated the Federal Government. He appointed whites to offices that were traditionally reserved for black Americans. Also during his second term in office a wave of antiblack race riots swept the country and many blacks had lost their lives. Again these are only two examples amongst countless others which show how the textbooks do not show flaws in historical figures but heroifies them.
Euorcentrism is a term that is used in this book to describe how history has been written with its influence mainly from Europe or a European perspective. This unfortunately bases the way history is written and taught for example, textbooks use Christopher Columbus and 1492 as the day the Americas were “discovered” and by whom. Quite to the contrary the Vikings had landed in North America in approximately 1005 AD, but have been neglected when it comes to being given credit for the “discovery”. (Lies43) The real catcher to all of this is that the Americas had been inhabited during all of this by Native Indians who supposedly lived here for thousands of years prior to its “discovery”. (Lies70) One of the big questions that the book tries to answer was why Columbus had been given the credit for the “discovery” and why the Americas became a place to colonize. The book goes on telling that Columbus is a man of renowned coverage and adventures portrayed in the textbooks. Does this represent a true Columbus or is it a way of heroifying the man to teach all students that yes, you too can do wondrous feats. Giving students the reinforcement needed to be confident is great but is it worth it? Mr. Loewen expresses that it is not. Students and the public at large need to know that failure and character flaws exist in all of us. He also feels that every nationality needs and deserves credit in shaping this nation and not only the Europeans. Regardless of their contributions we also need to remember that the Americas were an inhabited land prior to its “discovery” and whose people were exploited and exterminated.
According to “Lies My Teacher Told Me” racism has been in this country since the first non-native man set foot on the Americas. North America became a breeding ground for racist views and ideology. It all started with the exploitation of the Indians and hopefully ending with the blacks. The Indians were the first to be discriminated against, first by the Spanish then by the colonials. It all started with slavery then it escalated into slaughter and confiscation of their lands and back again to slavery. Slavery of course had been around prior to 1492 however, the new world seemed to nurture and propagate it. Even after slavery was abolished in the United States in 1865, the black man still had no rights as a 100% citizen. Even today blacks feel that racism is alive and well in America. In the late 19th and early 20th century blacks seem to have the hardest time being accepted by the white man as an equal regardless of their intellect or contribution to society. We have made progress in the latter part of the 20th century in the United States but much still needs to be done to stomp out racism against all peoples.
Mr. Loewen in the chapter “Why is history taught like this” tries to convey various reasons why in fact history is taught this way in our schools. He vacillates between blaming and then exonerating the upper class with their “superior” (inferred) mentality in influencing authors and publishers for these types of textbooks. (Lies273-276) They may be part to blame in the influence on some subjects however the textbooks on the average are not chosen by these people but by committees who are part of the countless school systems throughout this great nation. These committees who do chose which textbooks are used in their schools dont actually have the time to read the textbooks but rather they scan through them. This in turn is a major motivator for the publisher to have a book that is flashy and eye catching rather then a textbook that is true to history. Textbooks are also written on the attitudes and social conditions of the time of the author rather then accurate historical facts. (Lies293) Textbooks are being written this way and history is being taught this way to show people how they should act and strive to be. This relays to the student what is deemed acceptable to everyone and what is not. When it comes to a student remembering historical lessons they normally do not remember what is being taught to them unless they are moved by it. (Lies301) So what is the result to a society where our students are being taught this way? The number one result is that students do not know the true history of their country nor do they remember what they were taught in class. This is a sad conclusion but Mr. Loewen feels it is an accurate one given responses to questions he has asked his students throughout the years. What can we do to change this and reeducate the people out there? Sadly I feel nothing can be done for those of us out there who are not truly aware of this misinformed way of teaching. But, our children need not be sheltered from our true history, rather they should learn all that has happened so we can prevent the atrocities from reoccurring again.
(Lies My Teacher Told Me James Loewen)