In Lies My Teacher Told Me, Loewen sites the U.S. invasion of Bolshevik Russian 1919-20 and how history textbooks do not mention it. Such omissions make it hard to understand Soviet attitudes toward us. Did the omission, common to all textbooks, have an effect?
You bet it did. In 1968, I mentioned the invasion to my colleagues in the welfare department and they expressed not just incredulity but scorn that the young radical whipper snapper who doesn’t have enough sense to vote Republican is off on one of those Liberal rants about the evil U.S.
In the same way, because we do not teach the CIA’s intervention in Iran in 1953, deposing Mosadegh, Americans have a hard time understanding the Iranian reaction in 1979. To this day, no mention is made of the role Iranian culture plays in American perceptions, based on Evangelical Christianity’s horror of the Devil, that Iranian’s calling us the Great Satan is a grievous insult when in that culture the devil or Satan is seen as a buffoon, not evil in the way we think of the devil.
Maybe after reading this book I should make a new category: What History Teachers Don’t Know.
Here’s a paragraph from the book, p. 37, that sums up the state of high school history teaching:
“Why don’t textbooks mention arms as a facilitator of exploration and domination? Why do they omit most of the foregoing factors? If crude factors such as military power or religiously sanctioned greed are perceived as reflecting badly on us, who exactly is “us”? Who are the textbooks written for (and by)? Plainly, descendants of the Europeans.”
This also sums up the frustration some of us have felt a long time: how do we get through to the fish that he is in the water? Americans have been given such a eurocentric view of the world, they take it as natural, the point of so much of Loewen’s book.