"Lies My Teacher Told Me" is a 1995 book by sociologist James W. Loewen. The book won the American Book Award in 1996 as well as several other awards. The main point of the book is to deconstruct the usage of textbooks in American high schools and colleges. Loewen explores the topics that history textbooks often leave … [Read more...] about Lies My Teacher Told Me
James W. Loewen
James William Loewen was born on February 6th, 1942 in Decatur, Illinois. The son of a doctor and a librarian, Loewen was a good student from an early age and graduated as a National Merit Scholar from his high school in 1960. He went on to attend Carleton College. In 1963, he spent one semester in Mississippi where he was exposed to a different culture that led him to wonder if what he had been taught in school about US history was entirely accurate. He was particularly intrigued by the Chinese immigrants in Mississippi and their descendants.
Loewen later attended Harvard University where he received a Ph.D. in sociology. Loewen then went on to teach at different colleges, including Tougaloo College in Mississippi. Tugaloo is a historically black college that was founded after the Civil War. At the University of Vermont, Loewen taught about racism for 20 years. He was also a professor at the Catholic University of America in Washington DC.
In 1974, Loewen coauthored a history textbook called "Mississippi: Conflict and Change." Though the book won an award for Nonfiction, it was rejected for usage in public schools on the grounds that it was too controversial and focused too much on racism. Loewen sued the Mississippi Textbook Purchasing Board, and the judge ruled that the textbook was not banned on "justifiable grounds." The case is considered historic in terms of the protection of the First Amendment to this day.
In the late 80's, Loewen studied twelve textbooks at the Smithsonian Institution and compared them. His findings were released in the book "Lies My Teacher Told Me" in 1995 where he concluded that the textbooks propagate Euro centric views on US history.
Loewen published "Sundown Towns" in 2005. The book is a history of the so-called "sundown towns" or towns where African Americans were encouraged to leave town before sundown in order to avoid racist violence. Loewen later followed up the success of "Lies" with another book, "Teaching What Really Happened" in 2010. The book lays out Loewen's idea that history should be taught at the elementary and secondary school levels. Loewen also published several more novels and is currently working on a new book about inaccurate historical markers across the US.