Using Lies My Teacher Told Me and Teaching What Really Happened
One high school U.S. history teacher in CA became well-known (and popular) because on the first day of class, he held up the huge textbook his district had chosen from the state-approved list and said, “Here is the textbook the State of CA mandates that we use for our course in U.S. history this year.” Then he heaved the book the length of his room, where it hit the back wall with a bang and fell to the floor with a clatter. Then he held up Lies My Teacher Told Me. “And this is the book we’re going to use instead.”
A fun story, especially if you wrote Lies My Teacher Told Me. But actually I suggest that teachers assign parts of both books. That way, students will have to think for themselves. Here are some additional ideas for ways to use Lies My Teacher Told Me. Also, here are ways to use Loewen’s book written especially for K-12 teachers, Teaching What Really Happened.
Using Lies My Teacher Told Me to Promote Better History
- Students in grades 5-12 students have read the book and then asked so many questions of their teachers and pointed out so many mistakes in their textbooks that their teachers have been forced to get their own copy in self-defense. Now that a “young readers edition” is out, this may happen even more.
- Some K-12 students have given the book to their teachers at Christmas or at the end of the school year. Some say, “You’ll really like this book, Ms. Jones!” Some say, “Why didn’t you ever teach us any of this stuff, Ms. Jones?”
- Make sure all middle schools in your district have copies of Lies My Teacher Told Me, young readers edition, and all high schools have copies of the regular edition.
- Many school districts require all teachers of U.S. history, social studies, and civics to read Lies My Teacher Told Me. Does yours? If not, suggest it or Teaching What Really Happened.
- Does your district participate in National History Day (particularly the exhibit and website contests)?
- Your own idea, better than ours! And … let us know about it at our Teachers’ Corner.
Using Teaching What Really Happened
Using Lies My Teacher Told Me about Christopher Columbus
- Make sure middle schools in your district have copies of Lies My Teacher Told Me About Christopher Columbus in their school libraries. Then call the book to the attention of whoever teaches U.S. history or social studies in September, so they might use it around Columbus Day.
- The book has a poster in it, to put up around October 1. It pairs textbook platitudes with primary sources that show the textbooks to be wrong. Teachers can get students to research the terms “primary sources” and “secondary sources.” Both have their place, but if textbooks contradict primary sources, that’s a problem!
- Teachers can ask their classes to compare their U.S. history textbook’s treatment of Columbus to the textbooks discussed in Lies My Teacher Told Me about Christopher Columbus.
- Be sure to discuss the question, “What did ______ do on his second voyage?” Note what Vasco da Gama did. Should such material be kept secret from students?