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chrisblocker

Chris Blocker

Literary snobbery and other thoughts by Chris Blocker

Currently reading

Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within
Natalie Goldberg, Julia Cameron
Home Fire: A Novel
Kamila Shamsie
A People's History of the United States: 1492 to Present
Howard Zinn

Lies My Teacher Told Me

Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong - James W. Loewen

If you're looking for an unbiased, fast-paced narrative of history this is not the book. Though Lies My Teacher Told Me tries to sell itself as the above, such a description is inaccurate. It promises to be the history book for “anyone who has ever fallen asleep in history class.” Truth is, if you don't like dry, academic reading this book will be a chore

Lies... is not fast-paced and it is not without bias, but it is a wonderfully fresh take on history. And Loewen's point that the history of American textbooks is boring for many people is true. Personally, I enjoyed history until about the age of twelve, then it became tiresome for me. I couldn't explain why, but reading Lies... made it clear—it's the same repetitive story of world needs help, white man arrives on scene, very minor conflict occurs, white man saves the future. Really, that is the basis of every historical story I knew in my school days. When I went to college, I refused to take any history course. I was fed up with history. At the time, I felt fortunate that there were enough alternative choices to satisfy that tract of my general ed. requirements. Now I wonder if I missed out, or if it would've been more of the same.

Lies... is in no way all inclusive. Loewen picks a small selection of historical events that he seems most familiar with. Using a massive sampling of sources, both past and contemporary, Loewen rewrites these events in a manner much closer to truth. He steers away from many events that one may think would be full of discrepancy, but it is not difficult for a reader to surmise what likely happened.

For anyone who has questioned the telling of history or done research of their own on the subject, many of Loewen bigger points will be redundant. It is the smaller details—the journals and articles from the people who actually lived through these events—that make this book so shocking. His liberal “white man is bad” tone will anger some. For others it will finally tell history from a unique perspective, one that is infinitely more colorful.