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Lies My Teacher Told Me

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Lani Ingram

on 5 December 2014

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Transcript of Lies My Teacher Told Me

Effects of the lie:
Lies My Teacher Told Me
Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong
By: James W. Loewen

History classes are textbook dominated and generally overly full and comprised of "factoids", students think history classes are irrelevant and boring. Why is this? Lowen spent two years at the Smithsonium Institute comparing American History textbooks commonly used in classrooms around the country. He concluded that textbook authors continue to use Eurocentric, factually false mythologized views of history. His findings are documented in the best selling book:
Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong
The process of Hero-making
Chapter One: Handicapped by History
Effects of the lie:
By omitting facts about historical figures to create an unblemished version of them, creates figures many students can not relate to. Herofication is not helping our students and we need to teach the entire story and let our students form their own opinions. By challenging students and letting them be skeptical, they become thinkers.
What should we do about the lie?
Why was this book written?
What is the lie?
This chapter makes people in history into heroes. We know Helen Keller as the blind and deaf girl who overcame her handicaps and is considered an inspiration, and Woodrow Wilson as an accomplished president who established the League of Nations and is connected to progressive ideas such as women's sufferage. However, Lowen explains the parts that history textbooks left out: Helen Keller was an active socialist and Woodrow Wilson was a racist who had little regard for the rights of anyone whose opinions differed from his own.
Through the hero-making process of people in American history we turn flesh-and-blood individuals into pious, perfect creatures without conflicts, pain, credibility or human interest (p. 19).
Denying students the humanness of historical figures (p. 35).
George Washington portrayed as an American Hero: ten feet tall, blemish-free, with a body of a Greek god.
Introduction Excerpt
Chapter Two: 1493
The True Importance of Christopher Columbus
What is the lie?
History textbooks teach students that Columbus "discovered" the New World, when in fact people had lived in the Americas for thousands of years. "How can you discover what another already knows knows and owns?" p. 71. Also Columbus used punishment by example and demanded food, gold, spun cotton and whatever his crew mates wanted, including sex with their women. His conquests may have been courageous but was also genocide an encouraged slavery.
Effects of the lie:
Offend the Native Americans, African and Phoenician precursors to Columbus.
When textbooks glorify white explorers, the oppressor, they offend all people of color.
Cherishing Columbus is a characteristic of white history, not American history.
What should we do about the lie?
As a society we can not pick and choose what and who we study. We need to teach both sides of history. "Merely being part of the United States, without regard to our own acts and ideas, does not make us moral or immoral beings. History is more complicated than that" p. 70.
Chapter Three: The Truth
About the First Thanksgiving
What is the lie?
This chapter describes the myth about the Europeans being the first settlers to America. When in fact, the Native Americans already were living here. Also, the Europeans received help from the Natives because they stole from their dead, took over their land and spread many diseases to the Native Americans.
The plague brought by Europeans, wiped out 90 percent of population in three years. Because of this there was no real Indian challenge in New England for the British for many years.
Effects of the lie.
Thanksgiving celebrates or ethnocentrism
Marginalizes the Indians as primitive naked guests.
Teaches students that Pilgrims introduced this tradition, which is not accurate. Eastern Indians observed harvest celebrations for centuries.
What should we do about the lie?
We don't necessarily have to teach "feel-good" history in our classrooms. As a country we can still celebrate Thanksgiving but accurately know the facts about the early settlement of our country. "Correctly taught, the issues of the era of the first Thanksgiving could help Americans grow more thoughtful and more tolerant,rather than more ethnocentric" p. 97.
Chapter Four: Red Eyes
Chapter 5: Gone with the Wind
What is the Lie?
Effects of the Lie:
What should we do about the lie?
Chapter 6: John Brown and Abraham Lincoln
What is the Lie?
Effects of the Lie:
What should we do about the lie?
What is the lie?
This chapter is a continuation of the myths surrounding American Indian and European "settlers" interactions. Lowen states, "American Indians have been the most lied-about subset of our population" p. 99. Textbooks create a picture of white aggressors as "settlers" and Native settlers as the aggressors. Our textbooks downplay Indian wars so we do not resonate that European conquests took an entire continent from the Native Americans. Also, Native Americans were enslaved all throughout the country. Ponce de Leon who we believe was an explorer searching for the fountain of youth was aslo in the business of capturing slaves.
Native Americans are depicted as primitive "savages".
Natives are portrayed through white eyes.
Downplay that the British and other European nations claimed land that did not belong to them.
What should we do about the lie?
Lowen explains that we must acknowledge our past and send white children home with thought provoking questions about our past. I could not agree more. History is more complex than us vs. them or good vs. bad. Students need to learn the unpolished truths about white-Indian relations.
Native American Tribes
European Claim to Land
What We Learned:
Being a social studies teacher, this book was very insightful and had a great impact on the future educator I want to become. Our textbooks teach from and Anglo point of view with various factoids such as dates and names students are required to remember. Rather than memorizing these tedious facts we should teach the "meat and potatoes" such as the causes and effects. Teach our students to think skeptically and question the things they learn about. History does not have to be a feel-good version but merely a presentation of the facts. Perhaps students will have a greater by in if they can connect with the people they are learning about. This book helped me realize I am obtaining a masters in the correct field because I want to change the curriculum our students are learning in history classes. I want to create a curriculum that has students excited about history and not bored.
Chapter 9: See No Evil
Choosing Not to look at the war in Vietnam

The lie:
pg. 247 "Americans must be well over forty to recall these images (Vietnam War) today. Young people have little chance to see or recall these images, unless their history books provide them."
1. Images changed how Americans viewed the war.
2. Most pictures (if any) were sanitized to hide the gory and inhumane actions from both sides (US & North Vietnam)
3. My Lai massacre; March 16, 1968 up to 504 unarmed civilians killed.

Effects of the Lie:
1. Many students left to not understand the impact on the civilian population of Vietnam and the anti-war movement in United States.
2. Many textbooks gave more coverage to War of 1812 than to Vietnam.
The Disappearance of the Recent past
The Lie:
pg. 260 "Authors of American History textbooks appear all too aware of the "sasha"- of the fact that teachers, parents, and textbook adaption board members were alive in recent past."
1. "the sasha" is controversial because readers bring... their own knowledge, understanding, they may not agree with what is written.
2. The less said about recent past, the better.
3. Average number of pages devoted to historical decades. a. 1930's; 40 pages
b. 1940's; 40 pages
c. less than 35 pages on each later decade including civil rights movement, Vietnam War, assassinations of MLK, Malcom X, and John & Robert Kennedy.
"Columbus the explorer or Columbus the exploiter?"
Columbus's 2nd voyage 1493-1494.
The Effects of the Lie;
1. The 1960's are now NOT apart of the recent past, so more coverage is being told.
2. Many teachers lack courage or simply run out of time covering all of the textbook.
3. Teachers do not want to risk offending parents.
4. Objectiveness comes as time passes. historians believe that if we are too close to recent events, we cannot step back and view history in context.
Chapter 10: Down the Memory Hole:
"Is Manifest Destiny equal to American Industrialism?"
The Lie:
1. The final message of American History Textbooks portray a guiding message of values that will lead the reader into the future.
2. Optimistic viewpoints of American might vs. 'pessimistic" reality

pg. 297 "...belief in progress makes students oblivious to merit in present-day societies other than our own. To conclude that other cultures have achieved little about which we need to know is a natural side effect of believing our society is the most progressive."
Effects of the Lie:
the author of "Lies" talks about textbooks not covering current issues and a lack of emphasis on
a) Energy shortages/abuse
b) Climate Change/effects
II. Textbook companies do not challenge students to think about practices from American "way of life."
III. Promoting "progress" only increases, not diminishes "ethnocentrism."
Chapter 11: Progress Is Our Most Important Product

1. History textbooks supply irrelevant and even erroneous details, while omitting pivotal questions and facts. (From Columbus's second voyage to the possibility of impending ecocide)
2. Offer no practice in applying student understanding of the past to present concerns.
3. No rational critical thinking about anything in the future.
Effects of the Lie:
The Lie:

1. Not every History book is complete-the past is too immense

2. Publishers must choose what is important? What is appropriate for a given age level?

3. Teaching History is class warfare-written by the elite.

pg 307 "History textbooks lack a trust of United States or inducing good citizenship and make little impact."
Chapter 12: Why Is History Taught Like This?
"day-to day resistance"
The Lie:
1. Students invest a great amount of creative energy getting teachers to waste time and relax requirements
2. Rote memorization vs. critical thinking activities?
3. 2/3's of students simply are not learning even the details of American History being taught them.
4. Still less are they learning to apply lessons from the past to current issues. (relevance)
Effects of the Lie:
1. Students are left with no resources to understand, accept, or rebut historical references used in arguments between candidates for office, sociology professors, or newspaper journalists.
2. If knowledge is power, ignorance cannot be bliss.
3. Short-term reasons for accepting what teachers & textbooks tell students. a) they will be tested on it.
b) arguing takes more energy!
What I learned is that textbook companies control what students learn and what teachers perceive to know. "teachers rarely say "I don't know" in class and rarely discuss how one might then find the right answer." I have had students in my History classes ask questions about whether certain topics were true or not and I always advocate to "question everything!"It rings true that History is usually written by the winners and seldom by the losers. I had a smart professor of mine, once told me "the masses are asses" - easily- led and seldom question what they are being fed. I think it is just fine to question what you are being fed.
Through the reading of this text I learned several perspectives about history textbooks that sadly I was not knowledgeable about, and it makes me want to become more conscious of true American history. Although, I am an English teacher I do touch on several aspects of history through the novels I teach, and I believe our students should have the opportunity to know that textbooks do not always illustrate "everything" that took place. Furthermore, this text guides teachers to critically think of how they utilize textbooks, and that there are other supplemental materials that could guide students towards a more fruitful and empathetical look of what American history was and is. Overall, I wholeheartedly believe that as a teacher for 21st century students we need to train students to never stop questioning the status quo as well as to seek other perspectives because when questioning stops then thinking stops, and I want students to become better and stronger than prior generations; therefore, teachers need to seek outside resources when teaching.
Brown pictured as "crazy"
Chapter Seven: The Land of Opportunity
What is the Lie:
In chapter 7 Loewen describes the issue of how textbooks portray social classes in America, and how students that leave high school have a skewed perspective of how social classes work. Furthermore, textbooks still label America as middle class, and leave out several details of labor history. Another aspect that was descried in the chapter was how social class time and time again can determine ones' success for the future because of this many students have a false impression of how people become poor and they fail to learn about how all people don't have the same equal opportunities.
Effects of the Lie:
Textbooks imply that America's government when they have done wrong they try to turn it into a positive by stating it was "based on humanitarian motives" (232) such as our conflicts with Iran.
"Textbooks leave out everything bad that government ever did" (239).
Put a different spin on conflicts that occurred, and it forces students to infer what is true and what is not.
Chapter 8: Watching Big Brother
What is the Lie?
Effects of the Lie:
Images that textbooks use to, "reinforce the idea that our country's main role in the world is to bring good" (223).
What should we do about the lie?
What should we do about the Lie?
Chapter 13: 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.
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