Ashley Walker Mr. Scott INTD 101-18: The Art of Seduction 29 September 2011 A False History James Loewen uses his piece Lies my Teacher Told Me to reveal the flaws in America’s mainstream textbooks. Loewen points out the fact that textbooks try to “indoctrinate blind patriotism” (Loewen 6) and “keep students in the dark about the nature of history” (Loewen 8). Almost every American textbook sells history using the “soft seduction” approach, as explained in Robert Greene’s book, The Art of Seduction.
Textbooks try to seduce Americans into being proud of their country by making American historical figures look like heroes, like in the case of Helen Keller, Woodrow Wilson, and Christopher Columbus. “Heroification” (Loewen 11) has a negative effect on American textbooks because it gives students a false impression of their country’s history. A prime example of the “heroification” process is Helen Keller, is a famous historical figure that Loewen ironically claims “has been made mute by history” (Loewen 13). When college students were surveyed, very few students knew anything about Helen Keller beyond the fact that she was deaf and blind.
Loewen reveals that Helen Keller was a radical socialist who was very involved with politics. Keller conducted research revealing that blindness was concentrated in the lower class because of poor working conditions and less medical care. She also worked to help the American Civil Liberties Union and fought for woman’s suffrage. American textbooks leave out the fact that Helen Keller was a radical because most people do not agree with her socialist views. Textbook writers are following a basic technique of soft seduction by stirring basic emotions (Greene 444).
Loewen quotes an educational movie about Helen Keller’s life that states: The gift of Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan to the world is to constantly remind us of the wonder of the world around us and how much we owe those who taught us what it mean, for there is no person that is unworthy or incapable of being helped, and the greatest service any person can make us is to help another reach true potential (Loewen 12). This educational movie leaves the important details of Helen Keller’s life because its goal is to make one feel uplifted instead of truly educating them, a tactic of Robert Greene’s soft seduction.
A historical figure that has been as outstandingly misrepresented as Helen Keller is Woodrow Wilson. Like Keller, Wilson is only known for his positive contributions. When asked about Woodrow Wilson, most people can only recall his great accomplishments such as supporting Woman’s suffrage and establishing the League of Nations. It is not well known that Wilson invaded Latin America and Russia causing unnecessary violence. Loewen states that “Any accurate portrayal of the invasions could not possible show Wilson or the United States in a favorable light” (Loewen 17).
Loewen explains that all textbooks have a way of defending Wilson by suggesting he was forced to do these unjust invasions. This is a characteristic of Greene’s soft seduction because the textbooks are presenting Wilson’s violent invasions in a “soft” way by being “indirect” (Greene 441) instead of saying that Wilson wanted to invade Latin America and Russia. This “heroification” of a past president is bad for students to learn because they grow up with a false history of their own country.
A famous hero of American history with a story even more distorted than Helen Keller and Woodrow Wilson is Christopher Columbus. In almost every textbook Christopher Columbus is displayed as a hero who discovered America, when in fact the land was already occupied with about 100,00 native Americans and had many previous explorers (Loewen 46). The major concept of Columbus “discovery” that has been distorted is the fact that European settlers wiped out around ninety percent of the Native American populations (Loewen 46).
Loewen explains “Columbus claimed everything he saw right off the boat. When textbooks celebrate this process, they imply that taking the land and dominating the Indians was inevitable if not natural (44)”. By being indirect in the way textbooks present the European’s invasion they are following a soft seduction technique and tricking readers into thinking that the United States of America was honorably settled. Loewen’s Lies my Teacher Told Me unfolds the facts and characters of history and shows they are distorted by text books in an effort to seduce the reader.
The pasts of historical figures have been told incorrectly in order to present them as heroes, like in the case of Helen Keller, Woodrow Wilson, and Christopher Columbus. Heroification has a negative effect on American Textbooks because it gives students a false impression of their country’s history. Works Cited Greene, Robert. The Art of Seduction. New York: Penguin, 2001. Loewen, James W. Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2007.