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Is Liberal Bias in Your History Book?

What did you learn in history class? That the Rosenbergs were innocent? Gorbachev, not Reagan, ended the Cold War? That FDR knew the Japanese were going to bomb Pearl Harbor but did nothing to stop it? Neither did I, which is why I am skeptical about the market for 48 Liberal Lies About American History (That You Probably Learned in School).

The author, a US history professor, reviewed 15 to 20 of the bestselling college US history textbooks and The People’s History of the United States and set out to prove that history books have become too politically correct and anti-American. What lies did he find? To find out,


  • Columbus killed millions of Indians: Not so. He attributes this to bad statistics. So thousands?
  • Separation of church and state: The Founding Fathers did not want the "wall of separation" that history tells us.
  • A disproportionate number of anti-American pictures: Too many KKK pictures, not enough landing on the moon.
  • Lee Harvey Oswald shot Kennedy because he was a marine: Oswald did not shoot Kennedy because of his "marine-ness" but because he was a Communist who disliked Kennedy’s hard line against the Cubans and the Soviets. I could believe that!

A lot of these are worthwhile counterpoints, but others — Columbus killing millions, the Rosenbergs' innocence — are not things I learned in school as much as grumblings I've heard since leaving.

I always heard history class was too pro-American — looks like the backlash of the backlash has begun! Is history class a time to be critical of the US, or a time to celebrate its achievements? Will we ever find a balance?

Join The Conversation
PeachyKeen19 PeachyKeen19 8 years
I think history in high school is undoubtedly slanted conservative if anything, maybe once in blue moon the teachers will mention that there are other viewpoints. Mostly, they just teach the book and corresponding lesson plans. Even if at the beginning of the year they say they're not going to do that and make it interesting or cover lots more and go in depth, it doesn't happen. Basically, I agree with Jude C, Stephley, beavis667, Taadie, and LaLaLaurie06. I have similar stance and experiences. I still remember writing a paper and saying something different about the bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima and my teacher failed me or tried to fail me and accused me of cheating because what I had written had not appeared in the textbook that we use. Granted this was 5+ yrs ago and maybe I did the assignment wrong, maybe I wasn't supposed to use outside sources or make it an opinion piece (which I did). But it really hurt and scared me too, I wasn't the type of student (or even now) to intentionally cheat or plagiarize and I couldn't help but wonder if it was because he didn't like the tone of my paper. It was after Sept 11th... I feel like I (all of us, or anyone taking US history that year) really came of age in an interesting time when I look back at it. And some students were the Lisa Ling types (like me), willing and curious and rational enough to ask questions but not Anti American but with strict or conservative history teacher and a White man at that, I don't know if he could open himself to the idea that he or the textbook wasn't truly objective.
Jessiebanana Jessiebanana 8 years
Oh Wack and I love the Qur'an, the quality of writing is excellent. It is also clearer and more concise than the Bible.
Jessiebanana Jessiebanana 8 years
Wackdoodle I said primary textbook. We did use others and my teacher brought in as many original copies of legal documents as possible. History is always written with bias and perspective, any good teacher/professor knows this.
UnDave35 UnDave35 8 years
Wack - You do realize that the Bible contains the Torah, right?
wackdoodle wackdoodle 8 years
Howard Zinn's book 'The People's history of the United States' is terrific but in no way have I accepted as the absolute definitive book on American history. I cannot believe that anyone would be so silly as to believe what they read in one book, then again people believe the bible while avoiding reading the Torah and Quran or other religious texts. And I did learn in US History class in High School and College that Mr and Mrs Rosenberg were guilty. There is evidence and testimony to that fact.
Jessiebanana Jessiebanana 8 years
Wow this dude would have really hated my US History class. We used Zinn's "A People's History of the United States" as our main text. Though frankly I wasn't taught half of the crap he brings up. I'm not sure what textbook he is getting these "liberal lies" from.
g-lish369458 g-lish369458 8 years
This is an interesting book... Being Canadian, I learned my American history in the Canadian school system and am now a history major at a Canadian university. I find it disturbing that these incidences are being purported as "Liberal bias" when really, history is just simply not as straight-forward as we would all like to believe. In all of the cases he lists, there is certainly evidence for and against his positions, it's just that the strongest evidence lays behind that which has made it into our history books. I was under the impression, also, that history has been written strongly pro-American. I recently took an American history class, taught by a British professor. He had also taught in the USA, and joked that when teaching American history to Canadians he had to convince us that Americans weren't as bad as we thought, and when teaching American history to Americans he had to convince them that they were a little worse than they thought. In short, this book disappoints me by making even history partisan. Sad
bluesarahlou bluesarahlou 8 years
I have two friends who are history teachers. One is super conservative and the other is a liberal, and they teach essentially the same curriculum. I would assume it's because they keep their personal beliefs separate from their professional responsibilities.
kikidawn kikidawn 8 years
Regarding the idea that history teachers are conservative. Very interesting, I've never seen it that way. In my high school 2 out of 3 of my history teachers were conservative ... but 2 out of 3 people in the school were conservative came with the territory --small town in OK. (And actually I'm just making an educated guess about them being conservative b/c neither one brought their personal views into the classroom --- I'm going on what I knew of them outside of the class) If I had ever actually given it the thought I would have seen history teachers as liberal for the most part. My FIL-to-be is a history teacher and he is pretty liberal (in fact he is that 1 of 3 mentioned above). I am in school right now for Social Studies Ed. I want to teach American History and I am very liberal. "It's sad to me because I love history and I think it's interesting how historical events are looked a differently through the filter of current events and how easy it is for 2 people to come up with 2 completely opposite interpretations. But I guess I'm a nerd, lol." -I agree MM ... and I'm a nerd too ;)
UnDave35 UnDave35 8 years
Yeah, like this year's election. I think we can safely say that the GOP battled hard and finished second, while the Democratic Party squandered their chances and finished 2nd to last. *Note* This is assuming a two party system, and it's a joke. ;)
Great-Sommelier Great-Sommelier 8 years
I must say, I don't think it is a partisan issue. I think it is an issue about certain things wanting to be painted in a rosier light.
Great-Sommelier Great-Sommelier 8 years
Katrina, agreed. The civil war is taught with just twinges of truth and whole stories.
Meike Meike 8 years
Heh, I went to a DODD school in Okinawa, Japan. As far as U.S. history goes, I don't remember most of the 'liberal lies' being taught. It was rather pro-America and heavily WWII-oriented since most of the far east war between Americans and Japanese were fought on my island. I only encountered the 'liberal lies' when I attended U.S. history at the university level in the U.S.
snowbunny11 snowbunny11 8 years
This book makes me sad.
kastarte2 kastarte2 8 years
I was never taught any of these things so I'm not sure what his complaint is. If you go to, it gets even more ridiculous. "Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation only because he needed black soldiers" Yeah. Not what I was taught. "Truman ordered the bombing of Hiroshima to intimidate the Soviets with “atomic diplomacy”" Again, not what I was taught. I don't think anybody has been consistently taught to hate America the way this man seems to believe we all have been. I think he may have manipulated passages in those history books so that he could write his book.
MarinerMandy MarinerMandy 8 years
I guess my whole point is that if someone is trying to find the "real truth" about history they will be looking for a long time because it doesn't exist. I agree with Stephley that this is just a ploy to get on Fox News.
MarinerMandy MarinerMandy 8 years
I remember learning in elementary school that Lincoln fought the Civil War to free the slaves and Columbus was a hero and we made the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria every year out of paper. Of course at that age it's tough to teach nuance and gray areas, but I honestly think most high school students really lack the ability to look at different perspectives and see history as constantly open to interpretation. My high school US history teacher used to bemoan how no one in the class would think. He once told us that NATO stood for North Across the Ocean as a joke and about half the class wrote that down! I think most kids don't care and teacher go the path of least resistance. It's sad to me because I love history and I think it's interesting how historical events are looked a differently through the filter of current events and how easy it is for 2 people to come up with 2 completely opposite interpretations. But I guess I'm a nerd, lol.
bastylefilegirl bastylefilegirl 8 years
sorry didn't finishe my thought.... What part of His Story don't people get. History is told from the persepective of "man" and can't be absent of any bias. Which would then require the reader to question what they are reading, and the teacher to encourage open discussion of the reading materials. Anyone who believes everything they read even at school age may be lacking in some skills they will need later on in life.
bastylefilegirl bastylefilegirl 8 years
What part of His Story don't people get. History is told from the persepective of "man" and can't be absent of any bias.
geebers geebers 8 years
I never heard most of these so I can't say much. I was lucky to learn history for the most part, as unbiased and objectively as my teachers were able- as a matter of fact our teachers made sure to show us pros and cons of each side. We also did two years of global history (which still was not enough for me but 2 out of 4 years is pretty darn good compared to others I am guessing?).
LaLaLaurie06 LaLaLaurie06 8 years
I agree. U.S. History classes are too pro-America and cheat students (like myself) of a real education. Not sure about this guy's book, though. If you want a good book that talks about this (and counters some "historical" myths), I would suggest reading "Lies My Teacher Told Me." It was written in 1994, but is still pretty relevant today, I think.
nicachica nicachica 8 years
Funny that i never learned any "liberal" theories about history until i took college classes on HOW history has been taught (and the seedy side of it!). Anyway, i never learned about any American history past the Civil Rights movement in school and i went to both public and private schools. I always hated how i didn't know anything past 1965.
Michelann Michelann 8 years
I think there is a lot of bias in how they teach history (for example: FDR was a hero who pulled us out of the Great Depression with his New Deal!), but I'm not sure this book does the best job of displaying that bias. Some of the things listed here are either things I never heard, or come off as nit-picky. I do think there is too much effort to drill certain things into our heads, while other things are completely ignored.
lilkimbo lilkimbo 8 years
I am mad at myself for not taking his classes in college! It was extremely difficult to find conservative professors at UD (like at every college, I'm sure). And I had one at my disposal and never took his classes. I'm going to look up what he teaches.
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