I have learned that both Howard Zinn and James Loewen have provided a lot more facts about
our American history than did my teachers in grade school. Much of what I was taught back
then was quite skewed too. All the way from how the land we now know as the United States
was founded and how our Constitution was formed, to how media still treats women today.
As children we learned the Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492 to discover
America. But he didn’t really discover anything new at all. Native Indians were already
established on this land. Columbus proved this to be true when writing about his first impression
of the land. On October 13, 1492 in his journal he wrote “at daybreak great multitudes of men
came to the shore. All young and of fine shapes, and very handsome. Their hair was not curly
but loos and course like horse-hair.” (Loewen 54) He goes on to talk about how beautiful they
were and then talks about how he planned to find out if they had gold. He ended up kidnapping
about 10-25 Indians and took them back to Spain. And from there the King and Queen gave him
the 17 ships, attack dogs and about 12 to 15 hundred armed men to go on a second voyage.
What he did was use weapons to assert domination over others in order to gain wealth.
I was to read that typically after “discovering” and island and encountering a tribe of American
Indians, the Spaniards would read aloud a passage that came to be called “the Requirement”
(Loewen 36). This passage basically states they had to convert to Christianity and that with the
help of God they would take over, making women and children slaves and any and all deaths will
be their own fault. This is something that just stuck with me from the moment I read it and just
confirms why I feel the way I do about Christianity. Many, not all, seem to be quite hypocritical
and follow “the book” as it works for them.
I learned that the Civil War was one of the most destructive wars in the Western World, fought
in 10,000 places, from west to east coast. 2% of the population died in it! And in the end, the
salves won freedom although I don’t believe it was exactly what they had expected. Thousands
of blacks wondered the roads, trying to find their family or work or food. Thousands more stayed
on the plantation as hired hands. (class notes)
I now know that most of the makers of the Constitution had some direct economic interest in
establishing a strong federal government. The manufacturers needed protective tariffs, the
moneylenders wanted to stop the use of paper money to pay off debts, the land speculators
wanted protection as they invaded Indian lands, slave owners needed federal security against
slave revolts and runaways, bondholders wanted a government able to raise money by
nationwide taxation, to pay off those bonds. (Zinn, Ch. 5) Clearly their goal here was to create a
national, a symbol, a legal unity called the United States, so that they could take over land,
profits, and political power from favorites of the British Empire, which would allow them to hold
back potential rebellions and create a consensus of popular support for the rule of a new,
I really enjoyed the excerpt in Zinns book about Benjamin Banneker, a black man who taught
himself math and astronomy, accurately predicted a solar eclipse and was appointed to plan the
new city of Washington, wrote to Thomas Jefferson. He goes on a rant to say that blacks are a
race of human beings, who have long labored under the abuse and censure of the world and have
been long looked upon with an eye of contempt. But the following words were what most caught
my attention. He said that “one universal Father hath given being to us all; and that he hath not
only made us all of one flesh, but that he hath also, without partiality, afforded us all the same
sensations and endowed us all the same facilities…” He goes on to ask Jefferson to wean
themselves from those narrow prejudices in which they have absorbed. But of course, Jefferson
couldn’t change anything as he himself owned slaves.
Learning that we still have slavery happening today was so disheartening. Although for the most part
it is not the old slavery, it's doesn’t make it any less awful. Now slavery has no race and the common denominator
is poverty. How can we LET this happen? I had no idea that pretty much everything I own comes from slaves. I
want to do more to actively put a stop to this. And chocolate… dark chocolate and wine has always been one of my
favorite things. Watching that movie, “Slavery A Global Investigation” literally brought me to tears and makes me
not want to ever eat chocolate again.
And let’s look at what has happened to women! The exclusions of women in history has created
a trickle effect of this belief that men, specifically white men it seems, are the almighty most
powerful, smartest and strongest in leadership. Men grew very concerned with women learning
and being “too intelligent”. They tried hard to suppress the knowledge women could gain. A
male dominant system is of course going to be only one sided and try to put women in the home,
be a child bearer, cook and clean. The government has forced this one-sided perspective of how
things should be run. But how can we get more women in leadership positions? We first as a
society need to break through the old beliefs of what a woman should be and see women for their
intelligence and their talents. Our little girls need to see this so that they are empowered and
strive to be more than just a pretty face.
The media treats women terribly and has affected our confidence and self-worth. It promotes
men to look at us as a sex object, not as an equal intellectual. Media creates this fantasy of this
perfect woman. One who has a perfect body, hair, face, teeth, etc. It creates anxiety for women
on how they should be, instead of allowing us to accept and love ourselves for who we are.
Women spend more money on beauty products than on their education and this totally
disempowers them! There is a movie called “Miss Represented” that I highly recommend all the
time to everyone, but specifically women, in hopes it will open their eyes. I went back to watch
that movie after reading this chapter. Their statistics state that 53% of 13-year-old girls are
unhappy with their bodies. 78% for those of age 17. 65% of women and girls have an eating
disorder. Rates of depression doubled between 2000-2010. This speaks volumes on what media
is teaching to our young girls. We can’t turn our back on how the media does so much harm
women AND men.
When we fail to present the truth, we end up creating lies of what really happened. Why not
confront our young people with issues of our past? Teenagers discuss racism, sex, drugs and
violence with their friends. They play it in video games and listen to it in their music. So why not
tell them the gruesome details of our past? They are our future! I believe that if we all can get
the full picture of our past, from all angles, we then are able to go forth into today’s world and
effectively act for our future. I hope that these textbooks fall into more hands at the educational
level for our younger generation as we most definitely need a new perspective for this country to
change. This semester I was constantly reminded of the saying that there are three sides to every
story. This falls true in that we need to hear the story from white, blacks and Indians in order to
get a better picture and form our own opinions on the past. We need change in the classroom
learning curriculum if we want to see change in our society. It begins there. After this semester
I am left feeling embarrassed of what our country was founded on, with the lack of ethics and
good morals. I am sad to know there are so many women out there being forced to do things
against their will and nobody seems to do anything about it. I am shocked to learn that slaver is
still very much a thing today. And I will continue to read more on this subject to see what I can
do to help stop it.
Final Written Exercise
This class has been such an eye-opener since I have gotten to understand quite a lot of
things about history and why they are important. Having a proper understanding of the history is
quite important, this way a person cannot be misled with wrong facts. One of the things that have
resulted in this change has been the change in the way the teaching is taking place. For instance,
when I was in school, I had to learn and understand the text so that I could even pass my exams.
The teachers were then very strict about the learning. Because I remember I had to answer about
85% of my questions correctly for me even to pass my class. A couple of years down the line and
this has changed. The teachers have relaxed, and the students are no longer putting in much
effort. The students have now gotten a way in which they can easily manipulate the teachers by
avoiding to do much of the reading (Loewen, 293). Learning has lost the value that it used to
have in the past. This has been detrimental because the students are now just reading to pass the
exams and not even to understand. Immediately after the test, they completely forget what they
One of the things that I have learned is that emotions are very important when it comes to
an understanding of American history. Emotions are good because they help to understand the
history and a person can have a feeling about it. For instance, learning about the death of
someone prominent in the politics of a country should make a person sad since they understand
the value of that person and they are aware of how much the country has lost. However, this used
to be the case in the past which has now changed. Students now do not place much value and
emotions on whatever they are learning, mainly because they are doing it to pass the course. You
will find that most of them only go through the next two days to the exam and try to cram as
much as they can. In such cases are not able to apply the past to the current issues. Failure to do
this bring in a disconnect where the past is just the past, and it does not matter in the present
I have learned the importance of being able to connect the past with the present. This
helps to understand why some of the things are happening the way they are. The past in some of
the cases is the roots of the future. For instance, only a person who knows John F. Kennedy can
be able to understand the role he played and how he shaped the present country. Understanding
the role that these people played in history is the only way to have emotions. The textbooks and
the teachers have also contributed to this kind of ignorance that the students have. The textbooks
present the history in just a plain manner so are the teachers. This makes it boring, and the
student does not understand why they have to learn about things that happened in the past even at
a time when they were not even born.
One of the things that can be done to make the students better understand history is to
know how it relates to them and how it affects them, for instance, racism. Racism is something
that is still very prevalent to date. Loewen gives a good example of this in the text “To show
students how racism affects African Americans, a teacher in Iowa discriminated by eye color
among members of her all-white class of third-graders for two days.” By understanding the
history one can know why it is happening to date. A person can be able to understand why such
kind of treatment exists. Another good example. Is understanding why the minority groups are
the minority groups. This will also bring in the emotional aspect which is important when it
comes to an understanding (Loewen, 295).
As a learner, I have come to have a better understanding of myself. This is because I
understand my roots and know why some of the things are the way they are now. For instance, I
can understand why the constitution is the way it is and what led to its formation. I can connect
the past and the present. Most of the things in the current political systems are things that have
been borrowed in the past. This has been one way in which I can connect the past and the
present. I have come to understand why some people despite having had good education support
some causes, for instance, those people that supported the Vietnam war despite all of the
negative effects that it had. Loewen, 299 in the text states that “The most popular revamped
theory asserts that since working-class young men bore the real cost of the war, "naturally" they
and their families opposed it. This explanation seems reasonable, for it does credit the working
class with opposing the war and with a certain brute rationality. But it reduces the thinking of the
working class to a crude personal cost-benefit analysis, implicitly denying that the less educated
might take society as a whole into consideration”
As I conclude, one of the things that stood out for me is that the history seems to be
eroding and if people are not careful, it is not going to amount to much in the future. There is a
need to change how learning is being done. The students have to change their mindsets, and they
have to embrace history and stop seeing it as just dead facts. Having a new mindset will help
them to understand better what they are learning. He teachers and the textbooks that have been
used in schools have a lot of play when it comes to this. The teachers have to change their
teaching skills and stop compromising with the students. This will make the students see the
need to change. The textbooks also have to present the information in a way that the students
find more comfortable to learn. Emotions are a big part of the learning process. The textbooks
have to change the way in which information has been presented (Loewen, 303). This has been
one of the things that have resulted in the disconnect. It has to be done in a way that makes the
history seem more fun and make the students understand it better.
GIVEN EVERYTHING YOU HAVE
SEEN, HEARD, FELT, EXPERIENCED, DISCUSSED
AND READ THIS SEMESTER, ANSWER THE FOLLOWING QUESTION:
WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED THIS SEMESTER?
MORE SPECIFICALLY, WHAT LESSONS HAVE YOU DRAWN FROM YOUR STUDIES AND DISCUSSIONS (BOTH IN AND OUTSIDE OF THIS COURSE) ABOUT THE HISTORY YOU HAVE LEARNED
THIS SEMESTER, AND WHAT ETHICAL DILEMMAS HAVE ARISEN FOR YOU AS A RESULT OF
THIS NEW INFORMATION?
COMPREHENSION DOES NOT MEAN DENYING THE OUTRAGEOUS, DEDUCING THE UNPRECEDENTED FROM PRECEDENCE, OR EXPLAINING PHENOMENA BY SUCH ANALOGIES AND GENERALITIES THAT THE IMPACT OF REALITY AND
THE SHOCK OF EXPERIENCE ARE NO LONGER FELT. IT MEANS, RATHER, EXAMINING AND BEARING CONSCIOUSLY
THE BURDEN WHICH OUR CENTURY HAS PLACED ON US – NEITHER DENYING ITS EXISTENCE NOR SUBMITTING
MEEKLY TO ITS WEIGHT.”
~ HANNAH ARENDT
Your response to the question must be typed—twelve point font, double-spaced,
one-inch margins. In writing your answer, please do not exceed five pages.
In your response, use your assigned text(s), the instructor’s handouts, class notes
taken from discussions, and any other SCHOLARLY sources you may want.
Your generalizations must be supported by direct citations from the text, class
notes, or instructor’s handouts.
Citations should be made in MLA format. For readings, class notes or presentations, you might use: (Zinn, 26) or (Loewen, 3) or (class notes) or (Powerpoint,
Note: You must cite parenthetically throughout your narrative. Please follow this
format. There should be many citations throughout your response taken from the
sources noted above because assumptions and interpretations must be bolstered by
citations. The strength of your response is dependent largely upon the number of
citations from the assigned sources.
Do not include a bibliography.
You may consult with your classmates in formulating an answer to this question.
However, you must write your own, unique, independent answer to this question.
“HISTORY IS FICTION, EXCEPT FOR THE PARTS THAT I LIKE, WHICH ARE, OF COURSE,
~ JIM CORDER
Lies My Teacher Told Me:
Everything Your American History
Textbook Got Wrong by James
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