Saturday, May 7, 2011

Why American History is More Interesting Now

First of all let me say that lately I have been listening to a lot more audiobooks than reading books, because of busy new life in Corvallis.  So my choices are often things that catch my eye at the library in the audiobook section.  One extremely interesting book is "Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong" by James W. Loewen.  This book hit home with me.  I have gotten much more interested in history at this point in my life than I ever was in school.  Mr. Loewen explains why.  He points out that the history we learn in school has been sanitized.  The text book companies collude with school boards to not present anything controversial, and particularly not show our country's history in any negative light.  So true! So it is very boring, and really does a disservice to students who might want to really know what has happened in the past.  It also contributes to poor current day decisions, by politicians who really do not understand the past.

Along these lines I want to share some books I have read that have filled in a lot of color on the history of the U.S.  These are ones I also found in the audiobook section of the library.  First - "The Hemmingses of Monticello".  This provides a fascintating view of an interracial family tree, and of Thomas Jefferson, with his strengths and weaknesses.

Another one "Founding Mothers: The Women Who Raised Our Nation" by Cokie Roberts.  I'm afraid I will overuse the word "fascinating" but it truly is.  This includes both women we've heard about and those we haven't.  Their challenges, victories, losses, and profound influence on our country.  It is not sugar coated in any way.  It would be great required reading in our schools, to help boys and girls be aware of the contributions of women.

On to "A Perfect Union: Dolley Madison and the Creation of the American Nation" by Catherine Allgor.  Before listening to this audiobook I didn't remember anything about the war of 1812.  What a mess.  But it was so interesting to see how Dolley's strengths helped James Madison with any successes he had.  And it gives food for thought on how people of differing views might find common ground.  Something we could sorely use today.

I hope teachers are finding ways to supplement those really inadequate textbooks - to help students find history interesting, and become better educated.