I just finished the book, Lies My Teacher Told Me by James W. Loewen. Lent to me by my friend's daughter who had to read it for her American History class, I admit that I felt a bit silly reading it. I shamefully admitted to her that I don't know a lot about recent history (Vietnam to present) and she recommended it. Boy, am I glad she did!
The first 10 chapters are a revisionist historian's take on some of our most prized national heroes. Columbus, the Pilgrims, Woodrow Wilson, and Helen Keller, are all blatantly heroized in the top 12 history textbooks, according to the author. He devotes these chapters to tell, not the "true" story of these characters, but the controversy that each historical event entails. He asserts that history is not just facts and faces, but involves complex stories that compelled these heroes to act as they did. He fills the reader in on some of those details, as well as presenting some of the conflicting accounts of how they really behaved. One of his biggest complaints about our nation's textbooks is that they present only one side of every story and then call it "fact." They never divulge the conflicting historical accounts of why or how exactly situations came about, and thus strip all the controversy, and consequently the excitement, out of history, causing students to disregard the subject all-together.
He speaks to the Euro centric bent in all the textbooks that effectively disenfranchises students of color and how most books present every action the USA makes as honorable and good, and how we, as a nation, are always doing things for the good of the world, instead of showing the human depravity (he doesn't call it that!) of every government, our great one included. One caveat, the author is probably agnostic at best, as evidenced by his addition of "[sic]" to every reference to God as "He." In understanding this, any discerning reader will see some of the author's own preconceptions as he deals with slavery, race, and social class.
I must admit, I learned a lot from this book, and would recommend it to anyone who feels shortchanged in their American history education. I don't endorse all the author's viewpoint, of course, but the book made me think and definitely made me consider the wrongs that were done to the American Indian and to the African Americans during slavery and the civil rights movement. It educated me more on the Vietnam war than I ever learned in school and prompted some great discussions between Dan and I as I shared what I was reading. If you enjoy history, you will benefit from this book.
***As a side note, if you are familiar with SonLight homeschool curriculum, this book is included in their Core for highschool American History.