Lies My Teacher Told Me: Chapter 1
Before chapter 1, the introduction gives plenty of background information and reasoning of the book. The author, James Loewen explains his logic. Loewen states the textbooks used in teaching high school American History are a wrong to students and the nation, the texts and courses seek to protect and inform the truth. Chapter 1’s main idea is “herofication”. He explains that American History textbooks the wrong doers seem like the perfect ones. He points out two 20th century heroes: Helen Keller and Woodrow Wilson, a so called “little person” and a famous president. Most remember the movie scene where blind and deaf Keller spells “water” on Anne Sullivan’s hand and all accept the moral that anyone can be helped to reach their potential. Few college students know that Keller graduates college, studies how blindness is statistically intense in the lower class, and uses her fame to effect change.
Keller becomes a radical socialist and supports progressive causes. Whether you agree with Keller’s positions or not, Americans should know the radical she is. Millions will never know the real truth. What most college students do not know about Wilson is even more astonishing. Events like, The Palmer Raids; his “unknown war with Russia”; and, his Latin American adventures. Wilson was dedicated to colonialism, racism, and anticommunism, Wilson rejects to recognize the Soviet Union, aids to keep it out of the peace negotiations, and refuses Vietnamese self-determination. Never mind that these actions shape later anti-Americanism, the history textbooks ignore them, throw them in a favorable light, and use the passive voice to insulate Wilson from unheroic and immoral deeds.
Wilson uses executive order to segregate the federal government; he closes the Democratic Party to blacks, and often sets the tone for racial cruelty by whites, strengthened by the release of David W. Griffith’s infamous film, Birth of a Nation. Only four of twelve textbooks recognize Wilson’s prejudice, and only one portrays it as a “black mark” on his presidency. Congress, war pressure, the “red scare”, unionism, sickness, and an attorney general run all excuse Wilson’s control of civil rights. Herofication leaves textbooks short of explaining why Wilson’s specially selected successor is trampled in the 1920 election. They assume the electorate wants a “return to normalcy”, never hinting that sixty-four percent agree with Keller. Wilson is “the greatest individual disappointment the world has ever known!” When Michael Frisch asks first-year college students to name first ten pre-Civil War non-presidents, generals, statesmen, etc., Betsy Ross typically tops the list, although her significance dates from 1876, when descendants build a tourist attraction. Frisch suggests Ross plays the Virgin Mary to Washington’s Father of the County, regularly reenacted in elementary school plays. Whether this is true or not, it shows how social stereotypes develop. Wilson’s stereotype is an idealist blocked by an isolationist Senate.
These guarantees organizations are named after him. Natural history museum curators know visitors bring archetypes with them, and some design exhibits to contradict inaccuracies. Textbook authors, teachers, and moviemakers ought to do likewise. Why should young Americans not know Wilson sends US troops to fight Russians on their soil and is a racist? Why should they not know Keller is a socialist? Since the early 1920s, the American Legion has opposed including in textbooks intended for immature students anything that suggest mistakes, faults, or weakness in heroes and patriots. Publishers see to it that blemishes are misplaced.