Books: Non-Fiction

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

Book — Non-fiction. By James W. Loewen. 2018. 480 pages.
Provides a detailed critique of 12 leading high school history textbooks.

Time Periods: All US History
Themes: Civil Rights Movements, Democracy & Citizenship, Racism & Racial Identity, Slavery and Resistance, US Foreign Policy

Lies My Teacher Told MeEvery teacher, every student of history, every citizen should read this book. It is both a refreshing antidote to what has passed for history in our educational system and a one-volume education in itself. —Howard Zinn

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 in the summer of 2006.

For the 2018 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.


Read the introduction to Lies My Teacher Told Me in an article in the Washington PostIt’s back in the age of ‘alternative facts’: ‘Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong’.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1 | Handicapped by History: The Process of Hero-making
The truth about Helen Keller, Woodrow Wilson, Betsy Ross, etc.

Chapter 2 | 1493: The True Importance of Christopher Columbus
From the real ‘discoverer’ of the New World to the myths about a flat world to the enslavement and extermination of the Arawaks to Columbus’ penniless’ death.

Chapter 3 | The Truth about the First Thanksgiving

Chapter 4 | Red Eyes
The truth about Native slaves, Native raiders, the French and Indian War, scalpings, the Louisiana Purchase, and much else.

Chapter 5 | “Gone With The Wind”: The Invisibility of Racism In American Textbooks
The truth about racism, the Lincoln-Douglas debates, lynchings, and the success of the Reconstruction governments before Reconstruction was ended by violence.

Chapter 6 | John Brown and Abraham Lincoln: The Invisibility of Antiracism in American History Textbooks
The truth about John Brown, the Lincoln-Douglas debates, carpetbaggers, scalawags, and slaves in the Civil war armies.

Chapter 7 | The Land of Opportunity
The absence of social class in American history textbooks.

Chapter 8 | Watching Big Brother: What Textbooks Teach about the Federal Government
How textbooks misrepresent the U.S. government and omit its participation in state-sponsored terrorism.

Chapter 9 | Down the Memory Hole: The Disappearance of the Recent Past
Why students rarely learn about events that happened in their teachers’ lifetimes.

Chapter 10 | Progress Is Our Most Important Product
The myth of Progress: bigger is not always better.

Chapter 11 | Why Is History Taught Like This?
Why so much time is devoted to minutia when large-scale epidemics among Natives are ignored.

Chapter 12 | What Is the Result Of Teaching History Like This?
Minority Students End Up Alienated, All Students End Up Bored, and No One Can Use the Past To Think Cogently About the Future.

Afterword | The Future Lies Ahead and What To Do About Them
How to Assess Sources, Learn About the Past More Accurately, and Teach Others What Has Gone Wrong.

ISBN: 978-1620973929 | New Press

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