Rainer Maria Rilke

"Live a while in these books, learn from them what seems to you worth learning, but above all love them. This love will be repaid you a thousand and a thousand times, and however your life may turn,-it will, I am certain of it, run through the fabric of your growth as one of the most important threads among all the threads of your experiences, disappointments, and joys."--Rainer Maia Rilke

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Friday, April 10, 2015

Does What a Book Should: Makes You Think

Lies My Teacher Told Me About Christopher Columbus:  What Your History Books Got Wrong by James Loewen


The whole time I read this book, I could only think of the recent (February 2015) movement by Oklahoma lawmakers that banned certain AP history courses because they didn't teach "American' exceptionalism".  If there were ever a case of needing a book in American classrooms, this is it and Oklahoma just proved it.  I feel this book should most certainly be required for ALL history teachers (and probably for all Oklahoma lawmakers!).  The fact that, according to the book, so many teachers of history are ignorant on this subject is frightening.  As a teacher (although not of history), I know this to be true.  Many teacher's programs do not focus on giving teachers relevant information so much as indoctrinating them into whatever current educational philosophy is in swing.  For the past fifteen years, testing has been in vogue and true academic thought and research have gone out the window as American teachers strive to teach kids to bubble in the right answer.  This book does what a book should:  makes you think and question and argue and rage.  And, then think some more.

This is NOT a book of revisionist history, but rather a book of actual history.  While many of the stories were old news to me (heinous Christopher Columbus and the genocide of American Indians, for example), many of the items in the book were new for me to read about.  That scared me quite a bit.  I like to think of myself as an armchair historian, but clearly I've not been getting the full story.  It was so disappointing and disheartening to read about the Vietnam War, a topic I have never been taught and only know about from the news.  The beauty of the book isn't that it necessarily rewrites American history; rather, it is the questioning the book causes.  I had to stop at several points and go look up and read about some of these topics.  Surely, some of the facts must be wrong, right?  Unfortunately, no. What I found only mirrors what we see on TV everyday:  the same event told in completely different versions by members of opposing political natures that eventually comes out not resembling truth in the least.  It fascinates me to see how we change our version of history to make ourselves (Americans) look better.  I'm still a bit perplexed by many items in the book and have added several new titles to my list of books to read later. 

Overall, this is probably a book most fascinating to teachers, especially teachers of history, and anyone interested in history.  It isn't a book to pick up if you want inspiring stories of heroism or general knowledge, but that makes it all the more important and relevant.

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