Teaching What Really Happened: How to Avoid the Tyranny of Textbooks and Get Students Excited About Doing Historyby James Loewen
Pub. Date: 09/28/2009
Publisher: Teachers College Press
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 today's 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 America's 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 tomorrow's citizens.
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This is a great book for current or aspiring teachers. The overall message of the book is that teachers should get away from the practice of teaching from the textbook. Loewen describes the many fallacies and even lies that many textbooks continue to perpetuate, including their obvious lack of awareness of the multicultural student audience that makes up our schools in America today. Making the point that social studies teachers should take responsibility for their students' learning by teaching the important topics in U.S. history without the crutch of a textbook, he suggests that teachers choose 30-50 topics from the curriculum that have meaning to both the teacher's and the students' lives. By selecting larger topics, or "trees" as he calls them, students can grasp the importance of historical events and how they are relevant to each other and present day events. The obvious implication from this book for educators is that we as teachers should not be content to take textbooks at their word and should instead create our own curriculum that excites us and that is relevant to the students. The importance of teachers being excited about the content they are teaching should not be underestimated, as Loewen describes the role model effect that a teacher has on a student who is learning about history. Another suggestion he makes is that history teachers should not be afraid to tackle the difficult topics like slavery, race relations and the American Indian experience. Instead, teachers should work to educate students as much as possible about those topics, so that they can make better informed decisions in their own lives with a more complete and accurate understanding of what happened in the past to create the world we know today.
Standardized testing requires the myth for the correct answer. As a teacher, I hate to perpetuate lies...guess we'll have to address fiction vs. non-fiction again.