Lies My Teacher Told Me

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Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong
Cover of the 1995 edition
AuthorJames W. Loewen
CountryUnited States
SubjectAmerican history, Historiography, Native American history, African American history
PublisherThe New Press
Publication date
973 20
LC ClassE175.85 .L64 1995
Followed byLies Across America: What Our Historic Sites Get Wrong 

Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong is a 1995 book by James W. Loewen that critically examines twelve popular American high school history textbooks.[1] In the book, Loewen concludes that the textbook authors propagate false, Eurocentric, and mythologized views of American history. In addition to his critique of the dominant historical themes presented in high school textbooks, Loewen presents themes from history that he believes should be presented in high school textbooks.


In Lies My Teacher Told Me, Loewen criticizes modern American high school 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 super-humans who live in the irretrievable past. Rather than highlighting both the positives and negatives of historical figures, Loewen claims textbooks cause students to perceive these figures through a single lens.[2] Loewen asserts that the muting of past clashes and tragedies makes history boring to students, especially groups excluded from the positive histories.[3]


The twelve textbooks Loewen examined for the first edition are:

In the second edition, Loewen added a newer edition of The American Pageant and six additional textbooks:


There are three distinct editions of the book. For the original 1995 edition, Loewen examined twelve textbooks. For the 2007 edition, he revised the text to address five additional textbooks and a new edition of one of the earlier textbooks examined. The 2018 edition retains the same text as the 2007 edition, adding a new preface, "The age of alternative facts".[4] In April 2019, Loewen and Rebecca Stefoff, known for her adaptation of Howard Zinn's 1980 bestseller A People's History of the United States for young readers, made Lies My Teacher Told Me accessible for younger readers in Lies My Teacher Told Me: Young Readers Edition (The New Press, 2019).[5]


Lies My Teacher Told Me is the winner of the 1996 American Book Award,[6] the Oliver Cromwell Cox Award for Distinguished Anti-Racist Scholarship, and the Critics Choice Award of the American Educational Studies Association.[7] Although well received by many, critic Jere T. Humphreys notes that Loewen's implicit bias may have caused him to fail to highlight some of the positive contributions made toward improving equality in the United States. For example, when referencing the Civil Rights Movement, Loewen falls short in crediting the efforts of the U.S. legislative and executive branches in aiding throughout the Civil Rights struggle.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Author rewrote history books: 'Lies My Teacher Told Me' challenged white, Eurocentric view of past". Toronto Star. 22 August 2021. p. A.16. ProQuest 2563270971.
  2. ^ "Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History T". Social Education. 60 (5): 317. September 1996. ProQuest 210626958.
  3. ^ Loewen, James. Interview by 12 May 2000. Web. 21 Aug 2011.
  4. ^ "Lies My Teacher Told Me". In These Times. 42 (10): 45. October 2018.
  5. ^ "Lies My Teacher Told Me: Young Readers' Edition". Zinn Education Project. April 2019. Retrieved June 6, 2019.
  6. ^ American Booksellers Association (2013). "The American Book Awards / Before Columbus Foundation [1980–2012]". BookWeb. Archived from the original on March 13, 2013. Retrieved September 25, 2013. 1996 [...] Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong, James W. Loewen
  7. ^ Shields, Zachary. "In His Own Words Archived 2012-04-02 at the Wayback Machine". Decatur Magazine. Feb/Mar 2006. Retrieved 18 Aug 2011.
  8. ^ Humphreys, Jere T. (October 2003). "Book Review: Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong". Journal of Historical Research in Music Education. 25 (1): 60–68. doi:10.1177/153660060302500107. S2CID 219974867.

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