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Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Teaching What Really Happened


I finished reading Teaching What Really Happened by James Loewen a few weeks ago. I wanted to write about the book but I like I things when you have twins and a marathon on the calendar it can wait.
Much like Lies My Teacher told me he shows how most textbooks are too afraid of teaching what really happened because they are controversial and if they are controversial no one will adopt them and isn't that just the entire point of a text book.
Going in to this I was already a fan. Most of the book I had already been doing on my own or had wanted to do. As a high school U.S. history teacher who hated history class in high school but loves history I don't like to bore my students. That is the main point of this book.
There were a few good suggestions I am going to try out.
I really think teaching about racism in America is so important and as Mr. Loewen points out that a lot us teachers don't teach it. I am guilty of that. I know I cover it much more than most but I don't do it justice. Racism is still a huge problem in this country and I need to address the causes and consequences with my students.
He suggested purchasing old textbooks and have the students compare them to their own. I bought two on Amazon for less than $5 each. They are from the late 70s which is the oldest I could find but just skimming through them made me laugh. One thing my husband pointed out about them is that they both, at the end, list all of the current problems of the U.S. This is 1970s we are talking about and the problems are almost exactly the same. They both mention the environment, energy, and the national debt.
He suggests limiting your self to 30-50 critical topics that are RELEVANT TO TODAY. I could not agree more.
I could go on forever about what I took from the book. I just want to say that this is another reminder that teachers, especially U.S. history teachers need to stop boring their students. We are only making them hate history. We need to have them DO HISTORY as Mr. Loewen suggests.
I shall end with one of my favorite lines in the book, "when we find a topic that our textbooks hide or distort, probably that signifies a continuing injustice in the present." Showing students these distortions, having them research them, and then think about the cause and consequences of them is the way to get students loving and learning history.

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