Summer Reading List – Lies My Teacher Told Me

“History is written by the victors.” -Winston Churchill

Some advice. Don’t go to the Amazon page for this book and read the comments. Your brain will hurt.

I just have to point out the epic logic failure in this one comment though,

“This is a revisionist history rant by a left wing sociologist. Loewn, and Zinn, who praises the book, are well known dissenters. They believe any and all dissent is good, regardless of whether it is true to the facts or not. And facts may be fabricated, sources misrepresented, to support their ‘progressive’ self-loathing drivel.”

So…Zinn, a well known dissenter, who believes any and all dissent is good, praises Loewen’s book? Anyone else see a problem with this?

(He’s referring to Howard Zinn.)

Anyway, James Loewen’s book is fantastic. But, of course, I am a left wing progressive.

As the title suggests, Loewn critiques the content of American history courses in US high schools. He collects a number of history textbooks that are commonly used in the US and examines them for factual flaws/distortions.

The US, as I’m sure many other countries do, tends to paint a much rosier picture of its history than is accurate. Let’s be frank. We’ve done fucked up shit. We tend to gloss over the bad shit and emphasize the good shit.

This is problematic. We can’t think of ourselves as morally superior. We aren’t. I’m not saying the US isn’t great, that we don’t have a lot to offer, and that I don’t love my country. However, we aren’t infallible.

Loewen traverses through the textbooks, noting historical inaccuracies, as well as misrepresentations. Some of them I knew (Hellen Keller was a commie) and some of them I didn’t (that the Native Americans understood the concept of land ownership, but didn’t agree with how white people did it.)

As some other commenters noted on the Amazon page, history teachers don’t simply teach from the textbook. However, I didn’t take this book to be a criticism of history teachers per se, but of the textbooks and of those teachers who merely regurgitate the information in them. While some of the teachers may be accurate that they offer other sources of information to their students, many do not. And even providing “extra” information still leaves us with history text books that are misguiding.

I think this book should be taught. Students should see both sides of these stories and, which is what Loewen argues, be allowed to think for themselves.

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