Please summarize Lies My Teacher Told Me, by James W. Loewen.

1 Answer

pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

Lies My Teacher Told Me is a critique of the way that American history is taught in high schools and colleges.  In the book, Loewen tries to explain why students find history boring and what can be done about it.

Loewen levels two main charges at history textbooks.  He says they are too full of facts and he says that they try to gloss over anything that smacks of conflict or controversy.  Students are asked to learn huge amounts of detail (he mentions, for example, that one text has a total of 444 main ideas at the ends of its chapters) and they are told that everything comes out perfectly in the end.  

Loewen wants less detail and more ideas about history to be taught.  He wants teachers to emphasize things like conflicts in history, both between historical people and between historians about how to interpret the past.  In the book, Loewen discusses a number of thematic issues in US history (such as how we are taught about the role of government and what we are taught about racism).  He also discusses how the process of teaching US history could be improved.

This is a book that critiques the way that history is presented to students in their books and by their teachers.  It proposes a different way of teaching the subject that would, it says, be more interesting and more honest.