Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong
by James W. Loewen

Best Selling Book by a Living Sociologist!

High school students hate history. When they list their favorite subjects, history always comes in last. They consider it the most irrelevant of twenty-one school subjects; bo-o-o-oring is the adjective most often applied.

James Loewen spent two years at the Smithsonian Institute surveying twelve leading high school textbooks of American History. What he found was an embarrassing amalgam of bland optimism, blind patriotism, and misinformation pure and simple, weighing in at an average of four-and-a-half pounds and 888 pages.

In response, he has written Lies My Teacher Told Me, in part a telling critique of existing books but, more importantly, a wonderful retelling of American history as it should - and could - be taught to American students. Beginning with pre-Columbian American history and ranging over characters and events as diverse as Reconstruction, Helen Keller, the first Thanksgiving, and the My Lai massacre, Loewen supplies the conflict, suspense, unresolved drama, and connection with current-day issues so appallingly missing from textbook accounts.

A treat to read and a serious critique of American education, Lies My Teacher Told Me is for anyone who has ever fallen asleep in history class.

NEA Series On How To Teach History, for K-12 Teachers

The NEA (National Education Association) asked me to write a series of short articles for their members on how to teach difficult historical topics tied to race relations. These topics can be tough to teach because textbooks do a poor job with them, because they are sensitive issues, because current controversies (such as about Confederate monuments) mean parental emotions can run high, and for other reasons. However, glossing over these issues sends exactly the wrong message: that these topics are not important, just the opposite of the truth. I hope these essays will be useful to you.

Some of the essays are posted, in slightly different form, at the NEA's website.

Introducing the Series
Essay 2: How To Teach Slavery
Essay 3: How To Teach Secession
Essay 4: Teaching about the Confederacy and Race Relations
Essay 5: Confederate Public History
Essay 6: Reconstruction
Essay 7: Getting History Right Can Decrease Racism Toward Mexican Americans
Essay 8: Problematic Words about Native Americans
Essay 9: How and When Did the First People Get Here?
Essay 10: The Pantheon of Explorers
Essay 11: Columbus Day
Essay 12: How Thanksgiving Helps Keep Us Ethnocentric
Essay 13: American Indians as Mascots
Essay 14: How to Teach the Nadir of Race Relations
Essay 15: Teaching the Civil Rights Movement
Essay 16: Getting Students Thinking about the Future

Teaching the "Great Explorers"

In K-12, students learn the pantheon of "Great Explorers": Prince Henry the Navigator, Bartolomeu Dias, Christopher Columbus, Vasco da Gama, Ferdinand Magellan, etc. Soon most forget which explorer did what (except Columbus, who "discovered America"), but they do think of them as Great White Men, our forebears. Always, the question to be asked is, what did they do when they got there?

Lies My Teacher Told Me About Christopher Columbus

Lies My Teacher Told Me About Christopher Columbus selected as one of ten "Engaging & Informative Books About American History."

Teaching the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War and Reconstruction

Using Confederate Documents to Teach About Secession, Slavery, and the Origins of the Civil War
5 Myths about Why the South Seceded
The Confederate and Neo-Confederate Reader
Loewen Reviews an Art Exhibit that Gets it Wrong
Getting the Civil War Right
Baltimore's Real News Network Interviews Loewen about When and Why Baltimore Put Up So Many Confederate Monuments and What To Do About Them Today
Loewen Suggests Ten Questions Students Can Put To The Account Of Secession in The American Journey

Buy Lies My Teacher Told Me

Buy the book on Amazon

Buy the book on Barnes and Noble

Samples from Lies My Teacher Told Me

Read the Introduction

Read the Table of Contents

Resources For Teaching With Lies My Teacher Told Me

Someone invented a trivia game based on my research about the Nadir of Race Relations. They did a great job. Play it here!
A wiki supplement to Lies My Teacher Told Me with many good questions, videos, and other resources for teachers.
History Through Red Eyes: A Conversation with James Loewen [PDK International]
Restoring the Past Lecture by Dick Parsons, Columbia University [Lecture]
Columbus Day holiday arrives on stormy historical waters [CNN News Story]
Preface for Chinese Edition of Lies My Teacher Told Me proves too hot for Chinese publisher to handle.
Sam Wineburg, Abby Reisman, and the Stanford History Education Group: Reading Like a Historian.
Restoring the Past
Digital History
Zinn Education Project
American History Websites
Lee Formwalt's Seven Rules for Bringing Life to the History Class.

Readers and Critics Respond to Lies My Teacher Told Me

Every teacher, every student of history, every citizen should read this book." -- Howard Zinn, author, A People's History of the United States.

Read More Comments Here

Lies My Teacher Told Me inspires a movie
Lies My Teacher Told Me inspires a play
Lies My Teacher Told Me inspires a novel
Alia Wong Quotes Loewen To Critique How "History Class" Promulgates "Fictions about Race in America."

Lies My Teacher Told Me Awards

1996 American Book Award: The American Book Awards were created by the Before Columbus Foundation seventeen years ago to provide recognition for outstanding literary achievement from the entire spectrum of America's diverse literary community. The awards recognize literary excellence without limitation to categories, quotas, or other restrictions.

Oliver Cromwell Cox Award for Distinguished Anti-Racist Scholarship: The Oliver Cromwell Cox Award is made by the Section on Racial and Ethnic Relations of the American Sociological Association.

AESA Critics' Choice Award: Each year, a panel of AESA members selects a number of titles it regards as outstanding books of interest to those in educational studies, broadly defined.

Media Stories on Lies My Teacher Told Me

Maya Salam at The New York Times relies on James W. Loewen and Plimoth Plantation for her major article on Thanksgiving.

Joshua Johnson Interviews Loewen on NPR's "1a."

Alia Wong Interviews Loewen re "How History Classes Helped Create a 'Post-Truth' America."

This site was created by Matt Cheney, is maintained by Phil Huckelberry, and is copyrighted by James W. Loewen 1997-2020.