Essay Paper – Lies My Teacher Told Me

The problem of history teaching grips attention of many people not only in the USA. An American sociologist James W. Loewen reveals a lot of drawbacks of educational system in the USA, analyzes causes and consequences of misleading history teaching. Lies My Teacher Told Me is a valuable book for several reasons. Having read this book I understood that American education fails to provide real knowledge about important historic event, such as World Wars. Most US students graduate from schools and colleges never having learnt what happened during the Vietnam War for example. Loewen’s book reveals gaps of US educational system. It is said that the majority of authors don’t even bother to mention Vietnam War, let alone analyze it in details. As a result students remain ignorant about such valuable aspect of world history.

Speaking about this book I can’t help saying that American history textbooks not only omit certain important facts, but sometimes provides wrong information which interferes with true understanding of subject. In this way students who have to study by these books often don’t know general historic information and at the same time learn perverted facts. I should say that it’s not only the problem of American society because sometimes government prefers to hide certain information from people. Historic books are written and rewritten. And the more authors express their attitude to past events, the more contradictions they cause.

The author draws attention to US minorities and describes everything from their point of view. I find it an excellent analysis of how youth is taught. One may accuse teenagers in being lazy and indifferent to the history of own country.

This book however shows that they simply have little chance to gain proper knowledge on subject. From this side I find Loewen’s book valuable and fascinating.

What are the reasons for distortion of historic facts? The author puts racism and euro centrism in the first place. History textbooks omit violent aspects of World and Civil wars. Main point is that textbook authors hide truth and make white people think they never did anything wrong. But I dare say that Loewen would change your attitude to what is written in textbooks. Personally I became more suspicious and now give little credence to them.

On the other hand I’d like to express negative impression. I think that it is a sort of one-way book. I approve author’s intention to change the system of education and make students search for truth. Nevertheless I think that in many chapters Loewen pays too much attention to politics and racism. His approach is also known as ethnocentric. From his point of view Europeans disregarded the fact that American Indians settled in the same area much earlier.

In order to understand author’s style of writing I’d like to give an abstract from the book.


Teaching against a textbook can also be scary. Textbooks offer security. Teachers can hide behind them when principals, parents, or students challenge them to defend their work. Teaching against the text might be construed as critical of the school system Teachers could get in trouble for doing that. (Loewen, 1995, p. 284)


It made me think that although Loewen showed himself as a strict critic of historic textbooks, he doesn’t want teachers to act against the rules. He thinks that they are more likely to get into a mess. In the same chapter he points out that students should be taught history from present to past in order to understand it better. Students would see roots of present problems which come from the past. I appreciated this opinion most.

I have generally have positive impressions of the whole book, but most of all I liked the chapter where the author explains why history is taught like this. In modern US schools children gain limited amount of knowledge. Teachers make them learn a list of US Presidents but this knowledge gives no information about their social, political and military activity. Such dry facts make students indifferent to the subject. One may ask why it happens nowadays. I think that it mainly because publishers want to preserve themselves from unnecessary troubles. They wouldn’t adopt truth if it hurts someone or reveals drawbacks of political system. Most publishers strive for money and don’t bother whether books are true to life. As a result students remain blind and ignorant.

The most striking for me was that I’ve also got into a trap. The chapter The Land of Opportunity represents another vision of America. For a long time I considered America to be the country of great opportunities where people can make money and gain prosperity. This idea was drummed into my head long ago and I blindly believed it.

Loewen however admits that true situation is omitted in textbooks. They don’t show the statistics about poor and rich people in America. In fact opportunities in the USA are exaggerated. In many other countries situation appears to be much better. This book helped me to understand how textbooks may influence people’s outlook and mislead them.

The chapter 1493: The True Importance of Christopher Columbus gives an example of usual historic mistakes. All of us know that Columbus wasn’t the first to reach America. Lies My Teacher Told Me gives a step-by-step view on how people are misled by textbooks. But I still keep to the point that author has given too much wrong facts from American history which are mostly based on political affairs. But anyway the book shows the necessity of changing history teaching at schools.

In conclusion I’d like to say that I recommend reading this book to everybody who wants to form personal opinion about US history. I think that one should have independent view on everything. This book will help to compare truth and lies about historic events.

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