Hero Journey

January 18, 2009 at 12:54 am 4 comments

Lately I’ve been reading Lies My Teaher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong. I highly recommend it, and I’ll have more thorough coverage in my next What I’ve Been Reading Post. For now, though, I’d like to focus on just the first chapter–Handicapped by History: The Process of Hero-Making.

Loewen makes a lot of sense to me. The overriding theme in this first chapter is that textbooks present us with one-dimensional American heroes–figures without controversy, without question, who stand tall in our own little pantheon of the greats. We’re taught only of their virtues, never of their blemishes.

I thought of this chapter today when I stumbled across this list: Inspirational Activists You Won’t Learn About In School. Now, I’d heard of three from the list–but none of them in school, at least not without doing some digging myself. And when I really think about it, I learned very little about some of the remarkable figures in our history. I don’t remember ever hearing Malcolm X’s name, for instance, or Betty Friedan’s. Why didn’t my textbooks cover second wave feminism, the Black Panthers, Margaret Sanger, the Weather Underground… the list goes on and on.

I don’t want to say that any of those figures were beyond criticism. Absolutely not. But why don’t we even have a dialogue? Why are we so afraid of the conclusions high schoolers might draw if we let them see all the sides to the creators of our history?


Entry filed under: Education. Tags: , , , , , , , .

What I’ve Been Reading What I’ve Been Reading

4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. mzbitca  |  January 18, 2009 at 8:25 pm

    I remember when I spent a month in Greece and got into a conversation at like two in the morning at a bar about America’s concept of history. We talked about how here it is portrayed like we won WWII where as he said that he was taught it was the Russians and that as far as his class was concerned America was inconsequential.

  • 2. pandanose  |  January 18, 2009 at 8:32 pm

    Yeah, I’ve always wondered how, say, the English teach our Revolutionary War…

  • 3. Jesurgislac  |  January 20, 2009 at 7:48 am

    I’ve always wondered how, say, the English teach our Revolutionary War…

    Simple answer: We don’t. It’s not a war that most kids ever learn about in school. Our own Civil War is, and to a certain extent the early British settlements in the US may be, and of course the Napoleonic Wars, but the British wars in America just tend not to get mentioned – neither one.

  • 4. pandanose  |  January 20, 2009 at 8:41 am

    Huh. I find that fascinating. Are your textbooks anywhere near as atrocious as ours?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Trackback this post  |  Subscribe to the comments via RSS Feed

Blasts from the Past

%d bloggers like this: