This is a classic example
to support Loewen's thesis of biased textbooks, inaccurate textbooks, and
textbooks that eschew controversy. In general, according to Loewen,
textbooks avoid the problems of the recent past, must to his dismay. This
will only lead to improper education of American students and thus the
Vietnam War serves as a solid example of his contentions.
I believe that most of Loewen's claims are substantiated, except that
he does have some left wing tendencies which appear to be a result of his
own biases rather than historical accuracies. He considers the "system" to
be at fault for American poor, and even somewhat criticizes those who
believe people are responsible for their own economic standing. Whether or
not he is correct is not the issue. The issue is that it appears that his
own socio-economic opinions have infiltrated his study and interpretation
of American history. It is undeterminable exactly why people are poor, or
maybe it is determinable, but either way Loewen does not present ample
evidence to cover his opinions. Furthermore, Loewen is almost universally
liberal, and this is perhaps a bias that permeates his work. I believe
that Loewen believes in change and controversy for the sake of controversy,
and while this may be a good thing, it can sometimes cloud his
interpretation of American history. For instances, textbook authors are
not part of the evil empire that he makes them out to be. They could be,
but it is unlikely that they are out to deceive the world for the numerous
reasons he presents. It would be of interest to learn of the publishers'
and authors' response to this work.
At first glance, I thought this book would be awful to read. I
thought that I do not need some Professor who knows everything to tell me I
am uneducated in American history. But after reading this work, I came to
realize the book is much more than that. It is a critique on so many
factors in our society, which only one is the student's education. But it
does not critique the American history student, and I felt this refreshing.
If a student is not original in his or her thought, it was because he or
she was not led towards originality. In truth, these problems are nobodies
fault in particular and Loewen does not point fingers at me saying I am not
a good history student or teacher. Rather he demonstrates the need and the
process to be original in thought and interpretation and study of history
and this resonated very strongly with me. "Some adults simply do not trust
children to think," Loewen writes which means that it is not the students
fault if he or she does not think originally about history (Loewen).
Therefore it is in a student's power to correct the situation and within
the adults power to help the student of American history to make progress.
I was originally also offended that Loewen would dare cast negative
light on our American heroes, predominantly the Presidents. And then he
started his critique of Helen Keller, very early in the work, and I thought
that this must be going nowhere. Then he praises her for her
accomplishments, notes her glorification in history textbooks, and more
significantly notices the absence of her adult life. At this point I
realized I am a victim to the American history education system myself.
"The truth is that Helen Keller was a radical socialist," he documents
(Loewen, 20). I had no idea about this; I was completely shocked upon
first reading it, but it made me realize that I should have a more open
mind to what Loewen had to say. From this point on, Loewen's words would
resonate with me and I would look for ways to improve my own understanding
of American history.
The reading of this book will contribute significantly to the study
of the social sciences. Not only does it shed light on American history,
but helps to perpetuate a better understanding of the historical process in
general. There is much more to history than just reading textbooks and
learning key events. Loewen challenges that notion and with great success.
Students and teachers of the social sciences must follow his lead and
learn from the original source of history. In teaching social sciences,
one must not ignore controversy, but must try to perpetuate the truth.
Most importantly, however, is the notion that teachers of the social
sciences should seek to learn their own truths, and challenge all students
to do the same. One cannot rely on simply the relaying of facts. Teaching
social sciences strictly from a book will lead to unwanted influences on
the educational process. In fact, I would argue that Loewen would be
pleased if a social science teacher or student used his book and tried to
disprove every word of it based on his or her own interpretation of
history. While Loewen would disagree with interpretation, he would be
pleased in one's ability and initiative to challenge other arguments on
what is truth in history. It is therefore critical to understand the
process which Loewen uses in his work; it is actually more important in the
work itself. Loewen intended to prove that discrepancies exist, so
education can further challenge the status quo and students and teachers of
history can thus go beyond the book to gain a true understanding of not
only history, but all social sciences.
I consider this to be an excellent work on numerous levels. The
factual evidence is intriguing as is the study of current textbooks used
within the United States. More importantly, however, is the notion that
history must be taught and learned in terms of its impact and importance on
its subjects. There is more to history than memorizing key people, dates,
and places. I agree with Loewen in this. Equally important about Loewen's
work, is that while it is a study of textbooks and how they got it all
wrong, the book is much more than that. He uses evidence to back up his
claims, but I think the most important thing to take away from this work is
that independent thought should be encouraged.
I find this to be a refreshing perspective on education. Loewen says
that "Lying to children is a slippery slope" (297). I agree with him- his
book is much more than disproving the textbooks as that surely seems an
easy task after reading this book. More important, is however the truth,
and for numerous reasons it is lost, but still it can be found. But people
must find the truth on their own, and not through someone else's
interpretation and work. Loewen's leftist anti-establishment view of the
American system is not necessarily my view, but the important point to take
from the non-fiction work is that it is important to have a view.
"Citizens who are their own historians... become a formidable force for
democracy," Loewen concludes shedding light on what truly is important in
history (318). Even Loewen admits he does not know the truth, and perhaps
it is impossible to find the truth, but only through searching for it can
we, all of us, the students of American history become closer to what is
important in our lives. Thus this is a very important book to me because
it encourages independent thought, research, interpretation, and original
ideas on the study of American history, and perhaps on all of the social
sciences and maybe all subjects of study that are quantitative.