James in that the stories they tell

James William Loewen’s
best known book, Lies My Teacher Told Me:
Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong was published by The
New Press in 1995. In the book, Loewen states that the students in the high
schools hate history and try to steer clear of the course although they receive
better grades in that class than in mathematics, science, or English. “When
students can, they avoid it, even though most students get higher grades in
history than in math, science, or English” (Loewen, 385). He argues that they
feel as if history is uninspiring, and that minorities such as: African-Americans,
Native Americans, and Latinos tend to do worse “slightly worse than white
students in mathematics…more worse in English and most worse in history”
(Loewen, 385). Loewen’s main argument and therefore, thesis is that there is
something essentially wrong in the teaching of history in that textbooks
dominate the course, more than in any other course. Loewen’s reasons for there
being a problem with textbooks dominating history classes in high schools is in
the next paragraph.

            The students in these high schools have a perspective
that the textbooks are monotonous in that the stories they tell are all
foreseeable and inevitable. “And students are right: the books are boring. The
stories that history textbooks tell are predictable; every problem has already
been solved or is about to be solved” (Loewen, 386). In the book, it is also
noted that the textbooks foreclose any conflict or real tension. Anything that
may cast a negative light on America is left out unless to mention that the
United States ended up breaking through their challenges. The students have
also been complaining the textbooks because “Textbooks almost never use the
present to illuminate the past” and “textbooks seldom use the past to
illuminate the present” (Loewen, 387). The examples Loewen uses for both are
that textbooks might ask the students to consider contemplate gender roles in
society to have students think about the achievements or lack thereof in the
suffrage movement for women, and be a good citizen and proud of the American
heritage, respectively (Loewen, 387). In encouraging the students to commemorate
America’s heritage, minorities such as: African Americans, Native Americans,
Latinos, women, etc. are “alienated”. Another problem with the textbooks is
that they are forcing a sense of Nationalism on the students. Loewen proves
that the titles of the books and the stories inside them tell the story. There
are title such as: The Great Republic,
The American Way, Rise of the American Nation, and history textbooks are
plastered with pictures of American flags, bald eagles, and the Statue of
Liberty on the covers. One of the biggest problems why students hate history
and the textbooks that come with them is that a lot of the information in them
are incorrect, and that point will be explained in the next paragraph.

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            James Loewen argues that even though books are filled
with an abundance of information and interesting factoids, some of the facts
presented in the textbooks are incorrect. “Some of the factoids they present
are flatly wrong or unverifiable…Errors in history textbooks often go
uncorrected, partly because the history profession does not bother to review
textbooks” (Loewen, 388). He goes on to write a section dedicated to exposing
one of the errors in the textbooks in which he writes about “The Truth About
the First Thanksgiving” (Loewen, 390). He asked many college students when the
United States was first inhabited, and many of them with the year, “1620”,
thanks to the history textbooks, which is the year when the Pilgrims came off
the Mayflower and settled in North America. It turns out that the first
non-Native settlers in North America were African slaves who were left in South
Carolina in 1526 by the Spanish. Then in the year, 1565, the Spanish decimated
the French Protestants who were living in St. Augustine, Florida. There are
many civilizations and cultures that arrived in North America before the
Pilgrims did in 1620. “Beginning the story in 1620 also omits the Dutch, who
were living in what is now Albany by 1614. Indeed, 1620 is not even the date of
the first permanent British settlement, for in 1607, the London Company sent
settlers to Jamestown, Virginia” (Loewen, 391).  The textbooks also declares that the reason
the Pilgrims left England is because the Roman Catholic Church persecuted them
for the religion, but it fails to bring up that there was a disease that nearly
wiped out the entire Indian civilization in New England. There are many errors
inside of a history textbook which begins to mar, or impair American histories
because everything was not all peaches when it comes to the stories in those

            Loewen’s main argument was that high school students hate
history, and they have good reason to. For one, professors and teachers force
the textbooks unto these students when they have the Internet in their
fingertips are boring, and they are predictable. There is no conflict in them,
and everything seems to suggest that the United States has always been the
model for the perfect civilization with the ideal citizens. The minority
students tend to do worse than the white students in every course, especially
history because it alienates when it say things like “You have a proud heritage.
Be all that you can be” (Loewen, 387). Also, the textbooks are giving out the
wrong information, and are not even bothering to correct the errors. There is
an error in who were the first settlers in North America, and why the Pilgrims
decided to come to North American in the first place. The students hate history
because it is boring, the textbooks have a nationalist inclination, and the
information is incorrect.