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Title: Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong
Author: James W. Loewen
Number of Pages: 383 pages
Book Number/Goal: 26/75 for 2009
My Rating: 5/5

This is an excellent book. The author examines twelve popular American history textbooks (all high school level, I believe) and discusses what they leave out or even flat-out lie about, and the way they end up with a history that is extremely bland, where no one ever causes anything, things just magically happen (because to discuss causes might put America or Americans in a bad light, and we can't have that!), and how they present a picture of uninterrupted progress, where things have never got worse and people before us were always unenlightened.

One of the results of this type of teaching is that it's so boring, kids learn to hate history. Certainly that was my experience. Most of my classes were rote memorisation of battles and little else. He also discusses how near-past history is lost because teachers rarely get to the end of the book. That, too, reflects my own experience, as we never got past World War II.

A lot of the stuff discussed in this book was stuff I knew vaguely, but didn't know the details. Other things, I was totally unaware of. For example, the book starts off discussing Woodrow Wilson and how he has been whitewashed and made into a hero when in fact he was extremely racist and sexist, and interfered in the politics of other countries (especially South America) pretty much non-stop. To be honest, I could not have told you a single thing Woodrow Wilson did, or even when he was president (not even approximately!), so I don't know whether my textbooks whitewashed him or simply didn't discuss him much (certainly they did not present him flaws intact).

Much of the book deals with how textbooks whitewash US history in regards to Native Americans and blacks, but I would have also liked some discussion on other minorities, especially Asian-Americans and Latin@s. But other than that, I really enjoyed it a lot. It was an easy read, too, not at all boring. If I hadn't had other stuff to do and forced myself to read just a chapter at a time, I probably could have read it all in one sitting.

This book has actually got me interested in history, which I never have been. American history was especially boring to me, and I never understood why we had essentially the exact same class in 8th and 11th grades (I did enjoy my 9th grade world history class more, especially the section on the French revolution, where for two weeks we played what I now realise was essentially a LARP about the revolution).


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