James Loewen: Textbooks are still repeating lies

Historians in the News

I have just finished my end of a new second edition of LIES MY TEACHER TOLD ME. By the end of calendar 2007, LIES will reach approx. 1,000,000 in sales. While the new Harry Potter book will reach this milestone about 4 hours after it comes out, later this summer, nevertheless, I'm happy and hope to get my publishers (the New Press and Simon & Schuster) to celebrate with some kind of event around Xmas.

Besides, I have invented a new index, called the"scholarly bestseller index," which takes the number of footnotes and multiplies by copies sold. By that measure, LIES scores 819,000,000 (yes, I counted the footnotes, just for this email!), while H. Potter scores 0.

Despite its success, LIES gets disparaged by some readers who feel it is out of date, textbooks must have improved. Therefore the new edition rests not only on my original research, based on twelve textbooks published mostly in the late 1980s, but also on my careful study of six new books published between 2000 and 2007. Every chapter has been revised in light of these new books and also to reflect ongoing scholarship about, say, Columbus, or John Brown, or ... In addition, I have added a chapter on what textbooks say, don't say, and should say about 9/11 and the War in Iraq. While researching this chapter last summer, I discovered that two of the six new textbooks were identical or nearly identical for paragraph after paragraph! The resulting scandal became a front-page NEW YORK TIMES story in late July, 2006.

A thousand details attend the publication of a substantial book like LIES, even though it is"only" a second edition, and I have just finished dealing with most of them. Today I ship to Simon & Schuster via overnight mail the corrected galley proofs, which have occupied me for some time. I now hope to attend to backed-up emails, etc. In addition to the new second edition of LIES MY TEACHER TOLD ME, Simon & Schuster will also bring out a revised version of LIES ACROSS AMERICA: WHAT OUR HISTORIC SITES GET WRONG.

Recently I signed a contract with Teachers College Press to write a short book for teachers of social studies/history, to be titled TEACHING WHAT HAPPENED. Although I have enjoyed working with The New Press and Simon & Schuster, I was asked by James Banks,"guru" of the multicultural education movement, to write this volume for his series, and I concluded I would enjoy the experience. It will be especially useful for teachers who attend my workshops, which I continue to give around the U.S.

SUNDOWN TOWNS continues to make a splash. Reviews of Elliot Jaspin's new book, BURIED IN THE BITTER WATERS, have mentioned SUNDOWN TOWNS as the more general study; Jaspin focuses on a dozen sundown towns or counties and treats them in depth. State agencies concerned with human rights in Illinois and Indiana have asked for work specific to sundown towns in those states. The Unitarian/Universalist Church nationally engaged me to do two workshops on the topic, and now some congregations and an anti-racist group within that denomination appear to be taking up the call to"out" and change sundown towns that remain overwhelmingly white to this day.

comments powered by Disqus