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5 Stars Out Of 5
Outstanding book. Should be required reading.
December 18, 2010
As a Christian, I am struck by the fact that most of the Bible's commentary about humans and nations (including Israel) is very critical. In particular, the Old Testatment is unflinching in its reporting of people's failures, iincluding the failures of Israel's leaders and of Israel as a nation. It strikes me as the most honest history book ever written.
My fellow Christian Americans claim to love the Bible for its honest portrait of mankind's need for salvation. Yet, many of them express anger whenever anyone -- or any book -- dwells on America's sins! They want to talk only of "American exceptionalism," and eagerly boast about our "goodness." This theological disconnect when discussing ourselves and our country is downright scary.
Truth is a good thing. "Lies My Teacher Told Me" is filled with the kind of criticial truth that Christians should encourage and embrace.
This is a fascinating, enjoyable and mind-opening book. James Loewen has an attitude, but that's what makes it so fun to read. He debunks dozens of myths and makes history incredibly interesting for those who thought it was boring. Will you agree with everything he says? No. But that's the point. History isn't cut and dried. It is full of problems and opinions and debates. If you think he's wrong, he'd be delighted to have you research the point and prove it.
Professor Loewen offers a scathing critique of several standard American history high school textbooks. A basic problem, as he puts it, is "heroification, a degenerative process (much like calcification) that makes people over into heroes. Through this process, our educational media turn flesh-and-blood individuals into pious, perfect creatures without conflicts, pain, credibility, or human interest" (pg. 19). Professor Loewen's professed aim is to get behind all the usual fluff and stuff -- the distortions, half-truths, and outright lies -- so often associated with historical figures. He wants to dig down to the facts that prove them to be very real people with very real flaws who made very real mistakes. This, he hopes, will spur a very real interest in American history, which at the present time is commonly viewed with about as much excitement as a root canal. Without in any way intending to promote wrong or suppress truth, for several reasons I find myself questioning much about Loewen's approach:* Every person is a combination of good and bad. Which is one reason hero worship is so dangerous: it blinds us to our hero's faults and shortcomings. On this count, Loewen's denunciation of "heroification" is right on the mark. * History is not self-interpreting. We all view history through our own personal grid of preconceptions, preferences, and prejudices. Loewen has gone looking for dirt -- and has found quite a bit of it. On the other hand, the aim of the textbook publishers he criticizes is to highlight the good in people and the positive impact they have made on the world.* While we should not overlook our leaders' blatant shortcomings, and particularly those with far-reaching negative consequences, the truth is that every person has a blind spot (and often more than one). Which is one reason why a plurality of leadership is always preferable to a dictatorship.
Lies My Teacher Told me is a LIE! This is a book with a very strong left wing agenda. I was fooled by the description. The main argument that this book poses is that the way history is being taught in America is wrong because it paints the USA as a force of good in the world. In other words history, as it is presently being taught in American classrooms is not liberal enough. The book is an exercise in Relativism and probably is required reading in Ward Churchills classroom. This book received stellar reviews from: San Francisco Chronicle and New York Times. I have returned my copy for a refund.