American history runs with blood and the important issues of life – but in high school it is made as dull as dishwater and filled with what schoolbook authors know to be lies. Why? Loewen says it is mostly because of teachers.
It is teachers –
- who mainly sit on schoolbook adoption committees;
- who are trusted by parents to teach their children history;
- who are seen by schoolbook publishers as their main customers.
History is made dull on purpose: dull history is way easier to teach. Names, dates and facts are easy to test for, especially at the state level. And if those facts are “safe”, or seem to have little bearing on the student’s life or are lies that avoid unpleasant truths, then it makes it easier for the teacher to control the class: because they avoid heated, open-ended questions, like about race relations, religion or divorce. But even dull high school history takes 55 hours a week to teach.
But there is more:
In the eyes of most teachers, parents, school boards and even the historians who take part the creation of schoolbooks, the aim of high school history is not to understand the nation’s past but to create citizens who respect authority and have pride in America.
Thus all those eagles and flags on the cover and words like “triumph” and “freedom” in the title. Thus the feel-good history built on lies and silence about the country’s ugly past. What 16-year-old could be proud of America, the thinking goes, if we told him the truth?
The books are not even thoroughly fact-checked – because truth has never been their selling point.
In America the ugly truth is saved for university history courses. But for eight out of ten Americans – and even six out of ten history teachers – high school history is as far as they ever go. And these people have the vote!
There are two main kinds of history books printed in America:
- those written for schoolchildren whose aim is to make them proud of their country
- those written for historians whose aim is to understand the past and make a name for the author as a historian.
Publishers are ideological whores: they will gladly print both kinds even though one shows up the lies of the other. Most publishing companies are owned by rich white people, but have little trouble with printing books that make rich white people look bad – so long as they turn a profit. They are far more interested in making money selling books than in pushing a particular message.
But publishers are to blame to a degree: there are plenty of school boards that want, say, more space given to blacks, and publishers could make money doing it, but they are not interested because that is not where the big money is.