A History teacher who attends my church recently recommended that I read Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your High School History Textbook Got Wrong by James Loewen in the context that most history we’ve been taught in school is erroneous. Supposedly this author uses primary sources and has brought to light many falsehoods that have gone undetected. I have one of your books (Teaching the Trivium), and I respect your scholarship. Therefore, I was wondering if you know of the book and if you can comment on its content. Since you rely on primary sources for your research, I was wondering if you know of this author and if you would recommend him? He apparently does not write from a Christian perspective and is more liberal in his views, so I was seeking some input before I read this book. Can you suggest some criteria that would help to critique a book of this nature for someone who is not well versed in the subject matter he tackles. I guess, as with any subject that we are not expert in, how can we know if it is true? I appreciate your thoughts. Thank you, Pam
Can anyone give us a critique of this book?
I’m afraid I haven’t even heard of this book, although what you write about it interests me and I plan to look for it!
I do want to say that my high school US history text book did contain an awful lot of “lies of omission.”
For example, it never mentioned that in the 1940’s, West Coast Japanese-American citizens (U.S.-born CITIZENS) were stripped of all rights, taken from their homes, and sent to “camps” for years.
In spite of this, many Japanese-American high school graduates volunteered for the U.S. Army, where they made up the famous 442nd, which served in Italy, where they become the most highly decorated Army unit (and suffered the most casualties). They did this to prove their loyalty to the country of their birth–the US.
Following the end of WWII, when the Japanese-Americans returned to their hometowns, they found that their belongings and bank accounts had mysteriously disappeared, and they continued to suffer decades of prejudice.
This is only one of many glaring omissions.
Thank you for bringing up this book–I am very curious to see if it’s the kind of book I am hoping for!
My daughter, a recent homeschool grad, who loves history and research, recently read this book. Here are some of her thoughts…
I bought Lies My Teacher Told Me a few months ago and read it very quickly because it was so interesting. The chapters on Columbus, Native Americans, Vietnam, John Brown, Lincoln, and the Reconstruction were very eye-opening. Much of the text is heavily footnoted and Mr. Loewen did use many primary sources. If you want to check them, they are all listed in the back and you could double check them yourself. I didn’t because I thought it looked legitimate just from the primary sources listed. (I’m a history major and do a lot of research myself.) No, he does not say he is a Christian and yes, he is a little liberal (I only noticed it slightly at the end of the book) but I didn’t feel that Christians were put-down or presented as evil in the book. That’s not what “Lies…” is about. Basically, he’s presenting facts. Learning what Columbus did to the natives “in god’s name” could make some people think Mr. Loewen is making Christians look bad, simply for letting his primary sources tell their story, or it could make one realize that Columbus was a not-so great person who used his “faith” as a means for personal gain and racism. The book is also eye-opening in showing that the textbook companies have to tailor their textbooks to meet certain states’ “standards” even at the expense of the truth. (How textbooks are written/compiled is a “book” in itself, I think…) Mr. Loewen also mentions homeschoolers positively in the new introduction. I think everyone should read this book…it’s a very interesting bit of history… and, as long as you’re discerning about them, it’s good to read mainstream books sometimes.
Another good book is: The Good Old Days: They were Terrible! by Otto Bettmann. Solomon said, “Do not say, “Why were the old days better than these? For it is not wise to ask such questions.” Ecclesiastes 7:10.