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Teaching What Really Happened: How to Avoid the Tyranny of Textbooks and Get Students Excited About Doing History

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In this follow-up to his landmark bestseller, Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong, Loewen once again takes history textbooks to task for their perpetuations of myth and their lack of awareness of todays multicultural student audience (not to mention the astonishing number of facts they just got plain wrong). How did people get here? In this follow-up to his landmark bestseller, Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong, Loewen once again takes history textbooks to task for their perpetuations of myth and their lack of awareness of todays multicultural student audience (not to mention the astonishing number of facts they just got plain wrong). How did people get here? Why did Europe win? In Teaching What Really Happened, Loewen goes beyond the usual textbook-dominated social studies course to illuminate a wealth of intriguing, often hidden facts about Americas past. Calling for a new way to teach history, this book will help teachers move beyond traditional textbooks to tackle difficult but important topics like conflicts with Native Americans, slavery, and racial oppression. Throughout, Loewen shows time and again how teaching what really happened not only connects better with all kinds of students, it better prepares those students to be tomorrows citizens.


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In this follow-up to his landmark bestseller, Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong, Loewen once again takes history textbooks to task for their perpetuations of myth and their lack of awareness of todays multicultural student audience (not to mention the astonishing number of facts they just got plain wrong). How did people get here? In this follow-up to his landmark bestseller, Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong, Loewen once again takes history textbooks to task for their perpetuations of myth and their lack of awareness of todays multicultural student audience (not to mention the astonishing number of facts they just got plain wrong). How did people get here? Why did Europe win? In Teaching What Really Happened, Loewen goes beyond the usual textbook-dominated social studies course to illuminate a wealth of intriguing, often hidden facts about Americas past. Calling for a new way to teach history, this book will help teachers move beyond traditional textbooks to tackle difficult but important topics like conflicts with Native Americans, slavery, and racial oppression. Throughout, Loewen shows time and again how teaching what really happened not only connects better with all kinds of students, it better prepares those students to be tomorrows citizens.

30 review for Teaching What Really Happened: How to Avoid the Tyranny of Textbooks and Get Students Excited About Doing History

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jack Clonan

    I'm not gonna lie, I really was not looking forward to reading another book for my teaching class. However, James Loewen had some interesting points to make about the history education system. He blatantly stated that textbooks especially in history class discouraged critical thinking skills, and wrongly got kids to believe memorization was the main focus of learning. He also showed that many history books such as The American Pageant, usually present information incorrectly. This is why many st I'm not gonna lie, I really was not looking forward to reading another book for my teaching class. However, James Loewen had some interesting points to make about the history education system. He blatantly stated that textbooks especially in history class discouraged critical thinking skills, and wrongly got kids to believe memorization was the main focus of learning. He also showed that many history books such as The American Pageant, usually present information incorrectly. This is why many students believe that famous presidents such as George Washington were never slave owners. I had never considered the flaws in history textbooks, and this book really opened my eyes. I might go read his other book, Lies My Teacher Told Me, if I have some extra time because of how much I enjoyed this book.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Shomeret

    Sometimes it's omissions that are the textbook issue. Loewen mentions that high school history textbooks didn't include the fact that in the 18th century Wall Street was where slave owners went to sell the labor of their slaves, and others hired their labor. Since I lived in New York when I was in high school, learning this aspect of the history of Wall Street would have been a way for me to understand how slavery was integrated into urban New York society. Like most high school students, I thou Sometimes it's omissions that are the textbook issue. Loewen mentions that high school history textbooks didn't include the fact that in the 18th century Wall Street was where slave owners went to sell the labor of their slaves, and others hired their labor. Since I lived in New York when I was in high school, learning this aspect of the history of Wall Street would have been a way for me to understand how slavery was integrated into urban New York society. Like most high school students, I thought at the time that slavery was something that happened on Southern plantations. I didn't know about slavery in New York. Even if textbooks aren't localized, I think there should be a local element in the teaching of history. As a high school and college student I found it easy to relate to local history. After reading this book, I'm willing to declare myself a fan of James W. Loewen. It may be difficult to uncover historical truth in some cases, but I applaud Loewen for prioritizing it and showing the importance of historical truth for all of us. For the blog version of this review see http://shomeretmasked.blogspot.com/20...

  3. 5 out of 5

    Dennis

    This book is probably better for new or preservice teachers, not for veterans. Loewen makes a lot of assumptions about what teachers, students, and the public know and don’t know about history. But, he does offer some good teaching strategies.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Diz

    This is an excellent guide on how to change history lessons from boring lectures into exciting discussion and projects that actually require students to think. A big focus is put on critically analyzing the received wisdom that we get in textbooks and history classes. The author challenges us to really think about what happened. With just a little though, you'll be surprised at how your thinking about American history will change. This is a must-read for teachers and parents.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Courtney

    I preface my review by saying that there should be two separate ratings for this book. When it comes to challenging pedagogy and ideology on having a textbook at the heart of a history class, this book is very good. However, I found it weak in providing new ideas and methods of teaching history. Read the book to shift your perspective, not to find “ready to use” ideas to implement in your class.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Julie

    An excellent starter book for teachers of American history.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Christina Potter Bieloh

    Fascinating book. I really like history and this book gave me lots to think about.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Alexandra

    Overall, I think this was a solid four-star book for various reasons. I still find the flaw that Loewen mentions in his other work too many times because it took away from the point of this book. I also have issues with his stereotyping of teachers as women and always using the pronouns ‘her’ for a teacher. Teachers can be of any gender and using the pronoun ‘they’ would have been more inclusive. While Loewen has an understanding of racial discrimination, he needs education on gender discriminat Overall, I think this was a solid four-star book for various reasons. I still find the flaw that Loewen mentions in his other work too many times because it took away from the point of this book. I also have issues with his stereotyping of teachers as women and always using the pronouns ‘her’ for a teacher. Teachers can be of any gender and using the pronoun ‘they’ would have been more inclusive. While Loewen has an understanding of racial discrimination, he needs education on gender discrimination. I do see this book particularly useful for US history teachers, but it would be nice to have tips for World History teachers as well (yes I am aware this was written targeted towards the US History curriculum but why does US History matter more than World History, shouldn’t they both get equal frameworks and tips for improvement).

  9. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    Well written, as I’ve come to expect from him. I loved the good suggestions on how to teach these topics - it made me wish I taught history in a larger class, but it’ll also come in handy with my children. The examples he gave of students who have truly engaged with history and the present were inspiring. I can only hope I can help others engage with our history and present so well. If only everyone did, imagine how much we would all benefit our country!

  10. 5 out of 5

    Adam Gutschenritter

    Great explanations and great classroom conversations to be had and teaching ideas to be used on some of the toughest topics I teach to middle schoolers. His idea for the 30-50 main ideas I feel needs to be taught has clarified the "what" I teach during the year as there never seems to be enough time. Great book, strongly recommended.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Patrick

    Good book on education for social studies teachers. Loewen is at times a bit over the top, and is as biased as those he criticizes, however, there are some thoughtful questions throughout th e book. I read this with my social studies department, and it was the cause of several discussions regarding methods, philosophy of education, as well as bias. I would caution many a reader, as Loewen is not a historian and it shows on several of his foci, however, his arguments are well worth reading and an Good book on education for social studies teachers. Loewen is at times a bit over the top, and is as biased as those he criticizes, however, there are some thoughtful questions throughout th e book. I read this with my social studies department, and it was the cause of several discussions regarding methods, philosophy of education, as well as bias. I would caution many a reader, as Loewen is not a historian and it shows on several of his foci, however, his arguments are well worth reading and analyzing. One theme I especially enjoyed what the discussion of our historic myths and how they play out in misinforming citizens.

  12. 5 out of 5

    fj baggins

    I read this after reading Loewen's "Lies" earlier this year. I found after reading "Teaching" that my US History course hits many of the topics described in this book, which made me feel good about where I am a teacher of US History. There are some excellent ideas for projects in this book, which I am excited to try out in the coming school year. Only four stars because I found Loewen's explanations for historical trends in race relations at times too simplistic. Still, I would recommend this bo I read this after reading Loewen's "Lies" earlier this year. I found after reading "Teaching" that my US History course hits many of the topics described in this book, which made me feel good about where I am a teacher of US History. There are some excellent ideas for projects in this book, which I am excited to try out in the coming school year. Only four stars because I found Loewen's explanations for historical trends in race relations at times too simplistic. Still, I would recommend this book to any high school history teacher. For those outside of teaching, I would recommend Loewen's "Lies My Teacher Taught Me" which has been updated and reissued just last month!

  13. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    My circumstances have changed considerably since I began reading this book in 2010. I realized as I finished reading this that I will likely never use the wonderful advice detailed here. Loewen is great about stating the problem and explaining why its a problem while at the same time, guiding the reader to several possible corrective practices. While some of the book focuses on high school students, it is still applicable to first and second year students. I highly recommend this book for Histor My circumstances have changed considerably since I began reading this book in 2010. I realized as I finished reading this that I will likely never use the wonderful advice detailed here. Loewen is great about stating the problem and explaining why its a problem while at the same time, guiding the reader to several possible corrective practices. While some of the book focuses on high school students, it is still applicable to first and second year students. I highly recommend this book for History teachers looking for new, better methods for improving student retention of historical content.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Scott Rushing

    Every history teacher should read Teaching What Really Happened. I also recommend this book to anyone who has even a passing interest in history. I do not think there is anything scandalous in suggesting that teachers should assign more interesting work than the textbook. Loewen explains not only the limits of textbooks, but also how most of them just plain get history wrong. He also provides suggestions for assignments that help teachers expect more from their students than merely memorizing dat Every history teacher should read Teaching What Really Happened. I also recommend this book to anyone who has even a passing interest in history. I do not think there is anything scandalous in suggesting that teachers should assign more interesting work than the textbook. Loewen explains not only the limits of textbooks, but also how most of them just plain get history wrong. He also provides suggestions for assignments that help teachers expect more from their students than merely memorizing data.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Yveva

    Snappy, to the point, engaging and immediately useful! Encouraging to see that many things I do are already on the right track and helpful to get some ideas for stretching myself and my students. Also some good arguments to use with resistant parents. Biggest surprise, loewen mentions the idea of having an advanced and regular stream within the same class! I am not alone in thinking this can be beneficial and worthwhile!!

  16. 4 out of 5

    Miroku Nemeth

    James Loewen's "Lies My Teacher Told Me" is perhaps one of the most important books that people of conscious could read today and have in their library (next to Howard Zinn's "A People's History of the United States"). In this book, Loewen gives us more material to fight in these culture wars that are becoming so important today in the midst of the fear mongering and regressive politics of fear that is gripping some very vocal and very angry segments of American society.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Whitney

    Similar in content to Lies My Teacher Told Me, but with some helpful ideas for getting students to analyze sources, uncover bias, and see history as interpretation that changes over time. My biggest criticism is that he doesn't discuss ways of teaching anything after 1940 and half of his content chapters are about events before the founding of the U.S. Most helpful to me was his advice for choosing what to teach and how to not get stymied trying to teach it all.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jen

    Oh James Loewen, how I wish I could actually sit in one of your classes. His books actually get me excited about teaching history, because they make you feel like you can actually teach history the way its meant to be taught within the confines of the current public school education system...and that you can actually get middle and high school kids excited about history.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    Loewen provides some good information in this text. He does reuse a bit more of his material from his earlier volumes than I would have lied to see, but it was useful to his point in most cases. He really seems to find Woodrow Wilson to have been a terrible person if an ok president. I find that an interesting point of view and one with which I generally agree.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Mr. Locker

    This book is part a great history lesson for me and part inspiration for teaching history how I consider the right way. It is not bogged down in methodology and sample lessons etc..., but rather about an approach to how history can best be done.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Harley

    this book was great, it really shed some light on the issues involved in history and who/what is recorded/taught. I think that any teacher should read this book, because it may just change the way you perceive your youth and your profession!

  22. 4 out of 5

    Zerthimon

    Like his previous work, Lies My Teacher Told Me, this is a wonderfully uncompromising look at how history is and should be taught. However, it's almost entirely focused on the US context. I wish there was a version for Canadian teachers.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Cathy

    I loved the history parts of this. Although, as a retired teacher, I was in agreement with his ideas for going beyond the textbooks and teaching students how to study history, I'm thankful to not have to read pedagogy anymore. This book made me want to go back and read his other history books.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Sara

    Great for history teachers to read and just another reason why American history textbooks push a myth instead of reality.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Allison

    Not as good as "Lies my Teacher Told Me."

  26. 4 out of 5

    Dave Senderoff

    To all of those who think a standardized testing environment has anything to do with actually teaching someone something, please read this book.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Tikifire

    Excellent book, good resource for teachers. There is some bias, but he makes some good points.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Don

    It's good... Better than "Lies my Teacher Told Me."

  29. 5 out of 5

    Beckie

    Moving to DNF simply because I don't feel the content in this book is giving me any valuable information that I don't already know.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Casey

    Good reading for history teachers.

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