left biblioblography: LIES MY TEACHER TOLD ME: A REVIEW.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006


An excellent, well-written expose of how history is taught.

This is one of those books that made me progressively angrier as I read it (yeah, I know, I know, Tai Chi is supposed to make one calmer: hey, you shoulda seen the way I was BEFORE I started doing it!).

It’s not that the history of my country has warts, or black eyes. It’s the bleedin’ sweeping-under-the-rug convenience of lying to children, lest they become disheartened, antagonistic, or apathetic towards their country.

Hell with that. It’s just plain LYING that gets up my nose.

James W. Loewen, for instance, begins by sallying out with these facts: Helen Keller was a Socialist, and Woodrow Wilson was a major-league bigot, who actually sent secret troops to aid the White Russians in their war against the Bolsheviks.

Hold the phone! What did you just say?

You read that right. Keller also helped found the ACLU. No rude commentary, please: she was WAY off about the Socialism thingamabob, but I for one appreciate the existence of the ACLU.

Wilson was a raving White Supremacist, and from what I garner, much of the ‘Evil Empire’ theology stems from his bad attitude. Read the book. He makes the Shrub look good, and that’s no mean feat.

Items one after another assault the senses: Columbus was a piece of shit (he gave his men the right to rape Native American women, of any age), the Pilgrims not only didn’t found this country (hey, it’d been colonized by the Spaniards, and even New Amsterdam preceded the Mayflower colony), they were actually smelly, grave-robbing lunatics.

It is myth shattering, on so many levels. The profound influence of the Native Americans is one such glossed-over fact. They had civilizations, weren’t quite the ‘Noble Savages’ that US history would relegate them to, as a matter of fact, it appears that they were quite influential in many aspects of our culture.

We see the glossing over of many facts. America is always represented in a positive light, ‘progress’ is hoisted on an undeserved petard, and the deep undercurrent of racism persists even to this day. All because of our ancestors’ Euro-centric idiocies.

Nobody wants to find out their heroes have feet of clay. It’s very much verboten to learn that Patrick Henry, whose bold cry of ‘Give me liberty, or give me death’ was very much simply rhetoric, when he fum-fahed at Abigail Adams’ letter about freeing the slaves. Or Lincoln’s waffling over the Emancipation Declaration (yeah, you read that one right, too).

The author points to much that is wrong with the history textbooks, and digs deep into the politics of the matter. He quotes one textbook author as saying, “I’m going to tell America’s youth that Thomas Jefferson didn’t believe in Jesus? You gotta be kidding me!”
And always, former Presidents are inevitably portrayed as strong leaders, men of virtue, oh no, no warts at all.

I might also add, as my commentary, it’s this ridiculous glossing that pervades our national identity to this very day. After reading this book, I look at ultra-conservatives in an entirely new light.

They’ve been brainwashed. To believe we are indeed the nadir of civilization. That Americans are and always will be several notches above the rest of the world. When we’re just people. With as many foibles, clay feet, and as error-prone as anyone else.

The author also notes, that morality and immorality are not inherited by history (paraphrased). The following words are my own:

But idiocy can be, by not learning the whole story, and taking lessons from those who have gone before.

And get this straight, here and now: I do love this country. Intensely.

But we need to shed this super-hero-of-the-world fantasy. Our government is the best and the brightest the world has yet seen.

But by no means does that elevate us to the superior moral ground. By no means does this mean we are above any and all reproach.

And by no means does that give us carte blanche to behave as we please, do what we want, or turn a blind eye to our less-than-illustrious past, or our current or past errors.

Growth means exactly that. Growing, learning from history, learning from our mistakes, and fer cryin’ out loud, folks, look other nations in the eye, not down our nose at them.

But don’t take my word for it. Read the book. Ponder.

And above all, be honest.

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say no to christ said...

I am glad you posted this thread! A friend of mine let me borrow the book a couple of years ago, but I didnt get to finish reading cuz I took up a couple of classes that did not allow me to do any learing on the side. Anyway, it just goes to show that you can NOT believe what our government and text books say. You have to dig and dig deep to find the truth on your own.
I would have never known that it was the Iroquois Nation that was the biggest influence on the womens rights and the slavery abolishment movements had I not researched on my own. Do NOT believe everything they tell you and believe only half of what they show you!

Krystalline Apostate said...

I'm reminded of a cartoon in Mad Magazine (which I read many, MANY years ago):
1 character reads this from a book -
"Believe 1/2 of what you hear, 1/2 of what you see, & 1/2 of what you read."
The other character says, "You know what you just read? DON'T BELIEVE IT!"

say no to christ said...

Who would of thought a mag like Mad was so right!? LOL

HairlessMonkeyDK said...

Well, well, well... Welcome to reality!
Looking at ANY country's (or person's) history is always rewarding. The propaganda is nice, as swill is always coated in gravy,
but the only thing that will ever fill the belly of truth is the warts... ehhh... I seem to have let go of the reins of this metaphor, but I trust you'll know what I mean.

Krystalline Apostate said...

I seem to have let go of the reins of this metaphor, but I trust you'll know what I mean.
Now on video! Metaphors gone wild! Similes stripped to their b-day suits!
Analogies anally...you supply the verbiage.
Yeah, gotcha.

exploerer said...

My only question is how do we know for a fact what James W. Loewen says is true? I mean he is teaching us history through this book, making him a teacher. Could he himself be making rash and biased assumptions based off of unreliable sources just like he says our modern day text books do? food for thought..