If you attended history class in U.S. public schools, chances are you believe Columbus discovered America, Helen Keller was an inspirational and democratic American, and you more than likely view Woodrow Wilson as a champion on human rights and world peace. All of these beliefs are either outright lies, misinformation, or are guilty of ôlies by omissionö described by James W. Loewen (1995, p. 20) in Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong. In actuality, Columbus did not discover America, Helen Keller was a ôradical socialist,ö and Woodrow Wilson was a white supremacist, according to Loewen (1995, p. 20). This analysis will discuss LoewenÆs claims and how the flaws in public education history books continue to affect the perspective of the average American student.
In his survey of the top 12 American history textbooks in U.S. public education, James Loewen finds these books seriously flawed. Loewen (1995) places a good deal of the blame to be shouldered for the omissions, distortions, and downright lies in these books on primarily white, status-quo educators who fail to provide an accurate or truthful version of American history. In his discussion of the distortions of Helen Keller and Woodrow Wilson, Loewen (1995, p. 34-35) primarily blames educators and publishers but he also suggests additional reasons why such distorted versions of U.S. history find their way onto the printed page: ôA host of other reasonsùpressure from the æruling class,Æùpressure from textbook adoption committees, the wish to avoid ambiguities, a desire to shield children from harm or conflict, the perceived need to control children and avoid classroom disharmony, [and] pressure to provide answers.ö
The impact of the forces of education, government, elites and ideas about what to reveal and what not to reveal to children trickles down into classrooms where students