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Lies My Teacher Told Me

Lies My Teacher Told Me

Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong

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  • customer reviews
  • freshman reading
This updated and revised edition of the American Book Award-winner and national bestseller revitalizes the truth of America’s history, explores how myths continue to be perpetrated, and includes a new chapter on 9/11 and the Iraq War.

Americans have lost touch with their history, and in Lies My Teacher Told Me Professor James Loewen shows why. After surveying eighteen leading high school American history texts, he has concluded that not one does a decent job of making history interesting or memorable. Marred by an embarrassing combination of blind patriotism, mindless optimism, sheer misinformation, and outright lies, these books omit almost all the ambiguity, passion, conflict, and drama from our past.

In this revised edition, packed with updated material, Loewen explores how historical myths continue to be perpetuated in today's climate and adds an eye-opening chapter on the lies surrounding 9/11 and the Iraq War. From the truth about Columbus's historic voyages to an honest evaluation of our national leaders, Loewen revives our history, restoring the vitality and relevance it truly possesses.

Thought provoking, nonpartisan, and often shocking, Loewen unveils the real America in this iconoclastic classic beloved by high school teachers, history buffs, and enlightened citizens across the country.
Choose a format:
  • Touchstone | 
  • 464 pages | 
  • ISBN 9780743296281 | 
  • October 2007
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Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

Handicapped by History

The Process of Hero-making


What passes for identity in America is a series of myths about one's heroic ancestors.

James Baldwin

One is astonished in the study of history at the recurrence of the idea that evil must be forgotten, distorted, skimmed over. We must not remember that Daniel Webster got drunk but only remember that he was a splendid constitutional lawyer. We must forget that George Washington was a slave owner.., and simply remember the things we regard as creditable and inspiring. The difficulty, of course, with this philosophy is that history loses its... see more

Reading Group Guide

Lies My Teacher Told Me
James W. Loewen

Questions and Topics For Discussion:

  1. Loewen identifies herofication as a key practice of textbook scholarship. What does he mean by herofication? What are the key elements of the herofication process?
  2. What are the aims and purposes of herofication? Do you agree? Why or why not?
  3. What is a social archetype? How are they constructed? How are social archetypes related to the herofication process? Can one exist without the other? Why or why not?
  4. What does Loewen mean when he says that herofication is a “degenerative process”?
  5. How does Loewen redress Wilson’s and Keller’s herofication? What do you believe is gained or lost in his redress?
  6. Identify the five significant developments that Loewen credits with paving the way for Europeans to dominate the world in the beginning of the 15th century.
  7. What is cognitive dissonance? What part does it play in the US’s evolving conceptions of Indians?
  8. What are the social archetypes present in most history textbooks’ retelling of the Christopher Columbus story? What purpose do these archetypes serve?
  9. What do anthropologists mean by the term syncretism? What does syncretism reveal about the nature of cultures? How does it impact our understanding of the developments that made
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