Nathan (vovat) wrote,

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This is nothing but dead white male bashing from a PC thug!

As I mentioned in my last post, I finished reading James W. Loewen's book Lies My Teacher Told Me yesterday. Overall, I liked the book a lot. It's mostly an exploration as to what's wrong with American history textbooks, and why high school students are bored by history. Mind you, I LIKED history in high school, but I'm pretty weird. Besides, I always enjoyed international history more than American. But I digress. There were a few themes that kept coming up in the book, including:

  • Hero worship. Rather than presenting both the good and bad aspects of historical figures' actions and beliefs, American history classes and textbooks present these people as larger-than-life, too-good-to-be-true, godlike figures.
  • Lack of context for events. There are references to war "breaking out," without any indication as to what actually causes these wars.
  • Overzealous patriotism. The desire to portray the United States positively at all times means whitewashing the negative actions perpetrated by the government and citizens, and perpetuating myths (like those surrounding Christopher Columbus and the first Thanksgiving).
  • No presentation of historical controversies. Textbooks tend to present everything as The Truth, rather than exploring different viewpoints and theories.

I've read many of the Amazon reviews for this book. A fair amount of negative reviews mention that the author has a left-wing slant, which does seem to be true. I think a lot of them miss the point, though. One guy says that Loewen is "a Reagon/Bush/Republican/America HATER" and "[v]ery far left-wing Socialist/Communist/Marxist/Useful Idiot 'Hatemonger.'" Did he just list every political philosophy he didn't like, and assume that Loewen must subscribe to one of them? And, really, if he loves Reagan so much, shouldn't he learn how to spell the former president's name? Along the same lines is another review that says the author has "Marxist/hippie/socialist/anti-American/anti-Christian beliefs." One frequent criticism is that the book bashes white males, which makes me wonder whether these critics ever read to the end of a chapter. On page 70, after mentioning that many textbook writers promote a "Columbus was good and so are we" viewpoint, adds, "I am not proposing the breast-beating alternative: that Columbus was bad and so are we. On the contrary, textbooks should show us that neither morality nor immorality can simply be conferred upon us by history." And on page 133, he writes, "Telling Indian history as a parade of white villains might be feel-good history for those who want to wallow in the inference that America or whites are bad. What happened is more complex than that, however, so the history we tell must be more complex." It's true that a lot of the information on historical figures is negative, but when the history books give such an unrealistically positive portrayal, doesn't this make sense? I did find it kind of odd that Abraham Lincoln, who is generally portrayed positively by history books, is given a treatment by Loewen that's...generally positive. I guess it's difficult to dislike Lincoln. {g} Besides, the information on Lincoln is probably more nuanced than usual. Other reviewers criticize a certain sentence on page 274 ("Perhaps we are all dupes, manipulated by elite white male capitalists who orchestrate how history is written as part of their scheme to perpetuate their own power and privilege at the expense of the rest of us."), without bothering to point out that Loewen himself offers doubt on this theory a few pages later. How apt that critics of a book that stresses the need for context ignore Loewen's own context.

A few of the negative reviews make some decent points. It's certainly possible that the twelve textbooks Loewen examines in his book don't comprise a representative sample. And I do agree that Loewen complaining that the state of Mississippi wouldn't adopt the textbook that he co-wrote might be a little unprofessional. But these are fairly minor points.

I end this semi-review with one of the most interesting facts I learned from the book. I quote from page 122:

"When students are informed that the Dutch bought Manhattan for $24 worth of trade goods, presumably they are meant to smile indulgently...Not one book points out that the Dutch paid the wrong tribe for Manhattan. Doubtless the Canarsees, native to Brooklyn, were quite pleased with the deal. The Weckquaesgeeks, who lived on Manhattan and really owned the land, weren't so happy."

Wow, that was longer than I had originally intended, and probably nobody will read it. Anyway, on to other matters.

I got this from 3x1minus1. It's similar to a meme I did a few months or so ago, but there are some different questions.

1. What's my mood like right now?
Love Is Eternity - They Might Be Giants

2. How's tomorrow going to be for me?
Pico & Sepulveda - Felix Figuero and His Orchestra

3. What kind of person am I?
Live In Spain (Reprise) - The Young Fresh Fellows

4. Am I loved?
The Great Society - Elf Power

5. How can I achieve my highest potential?
Hangover - Gomez

6. What should I do with my life?
Grass - Maplewood (Loser's Lounge Tribute to XTC)
(Does that mean I should have some outdoor sex?)

7. Is everything really going to be alright in the end?
Space Suit - TMBG

8. What is my best quality?
You Curse At Girls - Fountains of Wayne
(Wait, that's a GOOD quality?)

9. How does my sex Social life look?
Chocolate Cake - Corn Mo

10. What's the meaning of life?
Johnny Feelgood - Liz Phair

11. What do people think of me?
Take Care - Ken Stringfellow

12. Would I make a good lover?
Metroid Intro

13. How crazy am I?
Imaginary Friend - Mono Puff
(That's pretty crazy, huh? What's even crazier is that sarah also got this for one of her answers, albeit for a different question.)

14. Will I have a good life in general?
"Away To Zanarkand" from Final Fantasy X - The Video Game Pianist
(Maybe I'd understand that better if I'd ever played that game.)

15. Can (insert name here) ever really love me?
Randy Scouse Git - The Monkees

16. Can me and (insert name here) ever be more than friends?
When The Cows Come Home - Blur

17. What's going to happen to me this week?
Token Back To Brooklyn - TMBG

18. Where will I be a year from now?
Ooh La La - The Ditty Bops

19. What is my fondest wish?
Angry White Boy Polka - "Weird Al" Yankovic

20. What is the love of my life doing at this very moment?
Guilt - Paul Bellini

21. How did my parents meet?
A Christmas Carol - Tom Lehrer

22. How will I die?
Mr. E. Leon Rauis - Rasputina

23. What song will be played at my funeral?
Early Years - Laura Cantrell
(Coincidentally enough, bethje and I heard the tail end of Simple Minds' "Don't You Forget About Me" on the radio this morning, and she mentioned how she wanted it played at her funeral. I don't have that song on my computer, though. Anyway, I think "Early Years" is a pretty sad song, but not in a funeral way.)

24. What will happen after I die?
Wonderful And Sad - Hawksley Workman

25. What will I dream about tonight?
Unfortunate Threnody - Ken Stringfellow
(Awww, why does it have to be unfortunate?)

26. How does my media player feel about me?
Flint Jack - The Monks of Doom

And this survey is from countblastula and zimbra1006:

1. Movie theater usher
2. Grocery store bagger
3. Cashier at a toy store
4. Library cataloger

1. UHF
2. The Big Lebowski
3. The Wizard of Oz
4. Back to the Future

1. The Simpsons
2. Futurama
3. Family Guy
4. Mr. Show

1. Maine
2. North Carolina
3. Montreal
4. Albuquerque

4. (okay, usually only every OTHER day for that one)

1. The Olive Garden
2. Red Lobster
3. Chick-fil-A
4. Just about any place that will serve eggs at dinnertime

1. Elephant (later modified to be Kabumpo specifically)
2. Stegosaurus
3. Knight
4. Pirate

1. Indiana University of Pennsylvania
2. Drexel University
3. Junior high
4. High school

1. Mushrooms
2. Pepperoni
3. Extra Cheese
4. Ham

I can't think of four things most people don't know about me, so I'm going to skip that question and move on to this thing from lozenger8, where I list five weird habits I have:
1. I sometimes repeat what I just said under my breath.
2. I'll come up with weird routines, and then have trouble deviating from them.
3. I check things like the alarm clock and door locks numerous times.
4. I'll often check my e-mail first thing when I get up.
5. I have a tendency to walk with my head down (although I think I'm getting better in that respect).

Yeah, I'm a freak, aren't I? {g}

Wow, the new Minus 5 album is going to have guest appearances by Kelly Hogan and Colin Meloy (the latter being the lead singer of the Decemberists, for those of you who don't know). That's pretty cool.

I looked at the Ditty Bops' website to find out the actual name of the song that came up while I was doing that meme (for some reason, the CD Database lists it as "Ohh La La," but the site says it's "Ooh La La"; but don't get me started on the CDDB), and I noticed the advertisement for this calendar. I actually think it looks pretty cool, but I wouldn't pay any $20 for it.
Tags: books, memes, music, surveys
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