Book Review:Lies My Teacher Told Me, by James W. Loewen


This ophot has nothing to do with the book. It is a rainbow over  Izmir, Turkey. However, is our knowledge of history based on  pretty images?

This photo has nothing to do with the book. It is a rainbow over Izmir, Turkey. However, is our knowledge of history based on pretty images?

I found this book. published in 1995, and subtitled Everything Your American  History Textbook Got Wrong, and I had to check it out.    I am naturally cynical and skeptical. I was in high school when the Viet Nam war was raging. There were rumors—which turned out to be facts well documented, that  Diem, a Catholic, with ties via Cardinal Spellman to President Kennedy (another Catholic—no coincidence) wanted American assistance not only to control the majority Buddhist population, but  to sell drugs–heroin, marijuana, mostly.  We delivered  a waiting populace for those drugs in the form of soldiers who  could not get  real jobs, who were patriotic, but had no clue what they were fighting for—but were told they were fighting against communism.  Recently, as I write this, the movie, Kill the Messenger, about CIA involvement in the  ‘covert’  war in Nicaragua in the 1980s      ( many don’t recall—Reagan did not send soldiers, he sent a boatload of money and weapons to a bunch of right wingers the CIA put together—the CONTRAS—to fight the Sandanistas, whose basic platform (making them socialist) was UNIVERSAL PRIMARY EDUCATION!  There is evidence that to finance this, the CIA  covertly was involved in the distribution of crack cocaine (for the CONTRAS)  in American black communities.  The movie wasn’t around for long, but you  can get it on Netflix.  Also, now in release, CITZENFOUR, a documentary thatEdward Snowden wisely  participated in, with the help of journalists,  regarding  the National Security  Agency (NSA—the CIA and the FBI  are not the only spy agencies spying on citizens) collecting communications data from private companies.  Will any of this ever be in American history textbooks?

One reason all this  interests me is because, when I was in high school, I used to sit in the library before school and read the  hardcover magazine, American Heritage.   It was published  four times a year. There  was an article about the Yoruba of West Africa,and their drama  culture.  This was about 1970, and  while I don’t remember  much about the article, what I DO remember is  that it was about African Culture.  It had been several years since  I had learned about slavery, but  my teachers had always taught that the Africans had no language, no culture.  They were savages living in trees, and white people had done them a favor by enslaving them and civilizing them!  Of course, this  was not true…but there was no internet, you had to go out and search for books, and few were available at that time to primary and high school  students.  It just opened up a world to me, but my parents would have none of it.  It being going to college and studying African Studies. So, I didn’t go to college at all (well, not for  about 12 years).  I learned to groom dogs.

That is neither hear nor there.  Loewen starts out with  Columbus and how  brutal he was  to the native Americans he met in the West Indies.  I knew they had been terrorized, but I did not know most died of disease and even suicide.

He goes on to  early settlements, and the myth of Thanksgiving (and how European diseases wiped out many native American communities  along the Eastern Seaboard), social stratification, labor history, the civil rights movement, and all the  myths we believe as facts.  I knewe Helen Keller was a socialist.  In fact, she was a member of the Industrial Workers of the World. I did not know that Woodrow Wilson was an extreme racist and anti-semite, and that he was the one who segregated the armed forces by race.

I don’t have  children…but  think about this:  we have teachers teaching a history that is a bunch of lies:  stuff that really never happened, while ignoring what did happen because our government policy is controlled by elites.  On the one hand,  this is why  we have public education:  we all  should know the same stuff as ‘true and factual’…but instead of learning math or real history, it’s a system  of teaching how to remember ‘facts’ and act on those ‘facts’, and make decisions based on those ‘facts’.

I urge you to look for this book at used bookstores (ans support local small businesses), but if you can’t you will probably be able to find it on Amazon—and it is worth the read.

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