Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong is a 1995 book by sociologist James W. Loewen. It critically examines twelve American history textbooks and concludes that textbook authors propagate factually false, Eurocentric, and mythologized views of history. In addition to critiquing the dominant historical themes presented in textbooks, Loewen presents a number of his own historical themes that he says are ignored by traditional history textbooks. A newly revised and updated hardcover edition was released on April 1, 2008. The New Press lists Lies My Teacher Told Me as its top all-time bestseller.
In Lies My Teacher Told Me, Loewen criticizes modern American history textbooks for containing incorrect information about people and events such as Christopher Columbus, the lies and inaccuracies in the history books regarding the dealings between the Europeans and the Native Americans, and their often deceptive and inaccurate teachings told about America’s commerce in slavery. He further criticizes the texts for a tendency to avoid controversy and for their “bland” and simplistic style. He proposes that when American history textbooks elevate American historical figures to the status of heroes, they unintentionally give students the impression that these figures are superhumans who live in the irretrievable past. In other words, the history-as-myth method teaches students that America’s greatest days have already passed. Loewen asserts that the muting of past clashes and tragedies makes history boring to students, especially groups excluded from the positive histories.
The twelve textbooks Loewen examined for the first edition are:
The American Adventure (1975)
American Adventures (1987)
American History (1982)
The American Pageant (1991)
The American Tradition (1984)
The American Way (1979)
The Challenge of Freedom (1990)
Discovering American History (1974)
Land of Promise (1983)
Life and Liberty (1984)
Triumph of the American Nation (1986)
The United States: A History of the Republic (1991)
In the second edition, Loewen added six more books; including a newer edition of The American Pageant:
The American Journey (2000)
The American Pageant (2006)
The Americans (2007)
America: Pathways to the Present (2005)
A History of the United States (2005)
Holt American Nation (2003)
Lies my Teacher Told Me is the winner of the 1996 American Book Award, the Oliver Cromwell Cox Award for Distinguished Anti-Racist Scholarship, and the Critics Choice Award of the American Educational Studies Association. Sundown Towns was named one of ten Distinguished Books of 2005 by the Gustavus Myers Foundation.
Conservative activist David Horowitz has criticized some of Loewen’s assertions for their partiality and inaccuracy, in particular questioning Loewen’s claims about the relationship between American Indians and Columbus.
Lies My Teacher Told Me is mentioned in the novel Deadline by Chris Crutcher.
Lies My Teacher Told Me is mentioned in the liner notes of the Rise Against album, The Sufferer & the Witness.