The distortion of American history in textbooks
In his book “Lies My Teacher Told Me,” James Lowen presents a comprehensive critical analysis of 12 American history textbooks. He examines how these books misrepresent or omit important events and people, thereby giving rise to a distorted view of American history.
2. A comprehensive critical analysis of 12 American history textbooks
Lowen’s analysis shows that the 12 American history textbooks surveyed contain several major distortions. These include the omission of Helen Keller, President Woodrow Wilson, the Russian civil war, and the administrative policies of Wilson. Furthermore, the Thanksgiving celebration is presented in a way that promotes national pride and identity, while downplaying the role of Native Americans. Young Americans are also shown to be more patriotic and nationalistic than their older counterparts.
3. Helen Keller
One of the most notable omissions from the American history textbooks is Helen Keller. Keller was a deaf-blind American author, political activist, and lecturer who fought for the rights of disabled people. Despite her significance, she is completely absent from all 12 of the textbooks surveyed by Lowen.
4. President Woodrow Wilson
Another individual who is conspicuously absent from the history books is President Woodrow Wilson. Wilson was the 28th president of the United States and served two terms in office from 1913 to 1921. During his presidency, he oversaw many momentous events such as World War I and the Russian Revolution. However, none of these events are mentioned in any of the textbooks analyzed by Lowen.
5. The Russian civil war
The Russian civil war is another event that is completely absent from the American history textbooks surveyed by Lowen. This war was fought between the Bolshevik Red Army and the White Army from 1918 to 1921. It resulted in the deaths of millions of people and had a profound impact on world affairs. Nevertheless, none of the textbooks examined by Lowen even mention this war, let alone provide any information about it.
6. The administrative policies of Wilson
Some of the most serious distortions in the American history textbooks occur in their treatment of President Woodrow Wilson’s administrative policies. These policies included segregation, Jim Crow laws, and restriction of civil liberties. All 12 textbook portray these policies in a positive light, presenting them as necessary measures to maintain order and stability in society. In reality, however, these policies were highly controversial and resulted in widespread opposition from African Americans and other minority groups.
The distortion of President Woodrow Wilson’s policies highlights one of the major problems with the history books examined by Lowen: they present a highly idealized version of America that whitewashes its dark past. This version of history does not reflect reality and fails to provide students with an accurate understanding of their country’s past.
Another example of historical distortion can be found in the way Thanksgiving is portrayed in the American history textbooks surveyed by Lowen. This holiday is presented as a time when Americans come together to give thanks for their blessings, when in reality it commemorates the genocide of Native Americans by European settlers. The texts fail to mention this brutal history, instead portraying Thanksgiving as a time of peace and harmony between different cultures.
This distortion seriously misrepresented America’s past and present, and it is deeply troubling that such a distorted view of history is being taught to young people in schools.
8. National identity
One of the most significant themes in the American history textbooks is national identity. These books promote a strong sense of pride and national identity among young Americans. They present America as a great country with a rich history and a bright future. This positive portrayal of America is intended to instill a sense of patriotism in young people, but it does so at the expense of accuracy and historical transparency.
The American history textbooks surveyed by Lowen also contain many instances of historical distortion that are meant to instill pride in young Americans. For example, the textbook “Our Country’s Story” contains a chapter on the Lewis and Clark expedition that paints a highly idealized picture of America. The chapter fails to mention the hardships faced by the expedition, instead presenting it as a great adventure that ended in success. This distortion is meant to make young people feel proud of their country, but it does so at the expense of historical accuracy.
10. National identity among young Americans
Another theme that runs throughout the American history textbooks is national identity. These books present America as a great nation with a rich history and a bright future. This positive portrayal of America is intended to instill a sense of patriotism in young people, but it does so at the expense of accuracy and historical transparency.
11. History is written by people who win the war
One of the most troubling aspects of the American history textbooks surveyed by Lowen is their treatment ofhistory as if it were written by the victors of wars. This distorted view of history fails to acknowledge the experiences and perspectives of those who lost wars or were on the losing side of conflicts. It also downplays the role of civilian casualties in war, presenting them as necessaryCollateral damage" (Lowen, 107). This distorted view of history is deeply troubling because it perpetuates a cycle of violence by justifying war and its associated suffering.
12. Historical distortion
The American history textbooks surveyed by Lowen are rife with distortions that misrepresent or omit important events and people. These distortions give rise to a distorted view of American history that fails to provide students with an accurate understanding of their country’s past. This is deeply troubling because it perpetuates a cycle of ignorance and misinformation about America’s past, present, and future.
13. Transparency and information disclosure
One way to counter the cycle of ignorance and misinformation perpetuated by the distorted view of American history presented in the textbooks surveyed by Lowen is to promote transparency and information disclosure. This can be done by ensuring that all history textbooks contain accurate information about all events and people, regardless of whether they are deemed “positive” or “negative.” Only by providing students with an accurate and complete picture of American history can we hope to foster a more informed and critical citizenry.