Lies My Teacher Told Me
Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong is a 1995 book by James W. Loewen, a sociologist. It critically examines twelve popular American high school history textbooks and concludes that the textbook authors propagate false, Eurocentric and mythologized views of American history. In addition to his critique of the dominant historical themes presented in high school textbooks, Loewen presents themes that he says are ignored by traditional history textbooks.
Cover of the 1995 edition
|Author||James W. Loewen|
|Subject||American history, Historiography, Native American history, African American history|
|Publisher||The New Press|
|LC Class||E175.85 .L64 1995|
|Followed by||Lies Across America: What Our Historic Sites Get Wrong|
In Lies My Teacher Told Me, Loewen criticizes modern American high school history textbooks for containing incorrect information about people and events such as Christopher Columbus, the lies and inaccuracies in the history books regarding the dealings between the Europeans and the Native Americans, and their often deceptive and inaccurate teachings told about America's commerce in slavery. He further criticizes the texts for a tendency to avoid controversy and for their "bland" and simplistic style. He proposes that when American history textbooks elevate American historical figures to the status of heroes, they unintentionally give students the impression that these figures are superhumans who live in the irretrievable past. In other words, the history-as-myth method teaches students that America's greatest days have already passed. Loewen asserts that the muting of past clashes and tragedies makes history boring to students, especially groups excluded from the positive histories.
The twelve textbooks Loewen examined for the first edition are:
- The American Adventure (Allyn & Bacon, 1975)
- American Adventures (Steck-Vaughn, 1987)
- American History (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1982)
- The American Pageant (D. C. Heath and Company, 1991)
- The American Tradition (Charles E. Merrill Publishing, 1984)
- The American Way (Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1979)
- The Challenge of Freedom (Glencoe, 1990)
- Discovering American History (Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1974)
- Land of Promise (Scott, Foresman, 1983)
- Life and Liberty (Scott, Foresman, 1984)
- Triumph of the American Nation (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1986)
- The United States: A History of the Republic (Prentice Hall, 1991)
In the second edition, Loewen added a newer edition of The American Pageant and six additional textbooks:
- The American Pageant (Houghton Mifflin, 2006)
- The American Journey (Glencoe/McGraw-Hill, 2000)
- The Americans (McDougal Littell, 2007)
- America: Pathways to the Present (Prentice Hall, 2005)
- A History of the United States (McDougal Littell, 2005)
- Holt American Nation (Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 2003)
The book has been released in three distinct editions. For the original 1995 edition, Loewen examined twelve textbooks. For the 2007 edition, he revised the text to address six additional textbooks. The 2018 edition retains the same text as the 2007 edition, adding a new preface The age of alternative facts.
Lies my Teacher Told Me is the winner of the 1996 American Book Award, the Oliver Cromwell Cox Award for Distinguished Anti-Racist Scholarship, and the Critics Choice Award of the American Educational Studies Association.
- Loewen, James. Interview by ushistory.org. 12 May 2000. Web. 21 Aug 2011.
- "Lies My Teacher Told Me". In These Times. 42 (10): 45. October 2018.
- American Booksellers Association (2013). "The American Book Awards / Before Columbus Foundation [1980–2012]". BookWeb. Archived from the original on March 13, 2013. Retrieved September 25, 2013.
1996 [...] Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong, James W. Loewen
- Shields, Zachary. "In His Own Words Archived 2012-04-02 at the Wayback Machine". Decatur Magazine. Feb/Mar 2006. Retrieved 18 Aug 2011.