The author takes the usual textbooks to task for their omissions and outright lies. He makes the point that having teachers smooth and gloss over what really happened in our country's past not only gives a false sense of past events, but it also leeches out any of the drama of history and creates the disinterest in our classrooms. He takes familiar things, throws in some new information and puts the whole in thing in context. He manages to make history interesting.
This book horrified me, but I liked it. I already knew that I need to be involved in my son's education, but this made me so much more aware of how our school system is often lacking. (I also learned a lot of new things!)
"Every teacher, every student of history, every citizen should read this book. It is both a refreshing antidote to what has passed for history in our educational system and a one-volume education in itself." -Howard Zinn, author of "A people's History of the United States"
While this book is slightly dated (copyright 1995) and I graduated high school more than a dozen years before that, I have a feeling the issues that Mr Loewen discusses in his book are still issues in high school American history coursework today.
A well-written book that covers the many errors (yes, completely wrong information) and omissions that are common in most books used to teach American history in our classrooms. And, how the misinterpretation of our countries history is detrimental to many of the students that learn this history especially Native American and African-American students.
The authors main issue with how American history is taught is that it must be taught that one view is the right view. There is never a presentation that choices that were made may not have been the best option or how the choices affected the lives of Americans going forward. Our high school American history books present our history in black and white and not the many shades of gray that it truly is.
I felt he hit on one of the main problems in how American history is taught in our schools and sadly, it is the result of influence from the American Legion (a good organization) that came up with these four goals for the ideal textbook for teaching American history in 1925:
Must inspire the children with patriotism
Must be careful to tell the truth optimistically
Must dwell on failure only for its value as a moral lesson, must speak chiefly of success . . .
Must give each State and SEctin full space and value for the achievements of each
The problem with these four goals is that they force the history book writers to gloss over the bad parts of American history and put too much emphasis on what went well.
For me, his book points out that, in addition to falling behind in math and science, American students are falling behind in the critical thinking that is needed to make decisions about our world going forward based on what really did or did not happen in the past.
As our education system is set up today (assuming it is still the same model as 1995), we are doomed to repeat history, over and over again.
Both copies of this book that I have have the same or similar quote from a review on the cover: "...every citizen...SHOULD read this book..." That sort of preachy attitude seems to be shared by the author. To me, he seems to be faulting the textbooks' authors for not writing 5,000 page tomes, and including what he thinks is important.
The introduction is well worth reading, emphasizing there is not one view of history, as well as several other points. Loewen criticizes US History textbooks for poor coverage of the most recent twenty years (15). High school history books also smooth too much past controversies and employ 'God-like tones (16),' leaving students prone to not question or analyze the text. Of course, the authors of American History textbooks are not held in high esteem in the profession.
In fact, this book would be useful in an eighth or eleventh grade history class that emphasizes reading, with the Intro being read and discussed by the whole class, followed by Chapter 2 The First Thanksgiving. Squanto traveled widely, to Newfoundland, England, and Spain. Chapter 4 Indians, Chapter 5 Racism in our US History textbooks, Chapter 6 John Brown (argues that antiracism is poorly covered in US History textbooks), Chapter 7 America as the land of opportunity, Chapter 8 Federal government involvement.