When I was a student in the University of Edinburgh in Scotland I was fascinated by lectures by Professor John Baillie who made the points
· that progress was inevitable;
· that history written without that admission, including much of the history of the Christian Church, written mostly to inspire instead of being written to record history as truth, was a modern Christian heresy;
· that failure and disappointment by Christian “heroes” was a vital part of history, sometimes postponing inevitable progress;
· that “Ever Onward, Ever Upward, Conquer and Prevail” usually does not happen without some missteps along the way; and
· “missteps” are part of the truth which needs to be recorded in written history.
Those lectures were over 50 years ago. They made me think. They fascinated me. I have never forgotten those lectures that he called
“The Christian Heresy of Inevitable Progress”.
I think about those lectures often and realize that series of lectures has influenced books of history I have written. Man's failure rules out inevitability. I am thankful for research that has revealed the humanity of the participants in history, “true history”, history recorded as truth.
I have just finished the audio book
LIES MY TEACHER TOLD ME
Everything Your History Textbook Got Wrong
By James W. Loewen, sociology professor at
The University of Vermont
A Recorded Book narrated by Brian Keeler for http://www.recordedbooks.com/.
This book had the same fascination for me, as did my lectures in Scotland over 50 years ago. I feel this book, Lies My Teacher Told Me, is one of the most important books written in well over a century and possibly has even more significance than any that exists today in any library in the world. Having said that let me explain why I believe this statement to be true.
The author begins with the historical account of the Columbus myth. He has written on the subject of Columbus before. He believes himself deeply fascinated by the historical record of the navigator, Columbus. Every time we celebrate Columbus Day with Columbus Day Sales and a day off for postal workers, I think of the “Columbus Myth” as “lies my teacher told me” as they used “History Textbooks that got it wrong”.
· Could it be true that nothing about Columbus really concerns the three ships, the three vessels that were involved in the story I learned in school: "In 1492 Columbus sailed the Ocean Blue: The Nina, the Pińta, and the Santa Maria?"
· Could what I was told as a child in school by both my teachers and their textbooks have told less than the truth about the Pilgrim story?
· Could they have told the stories of early Presidents differently than they did? What was the primary story, the first story, I was told about George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and others whose birthdays we learned as we celebrated in school?
· What about the statements I was taught about the bill of rights of every man? Will history I write, (books about Mirabeau Lamar, Cynthia Ann Parker, George S. Cook, Jean Laffite, Jane Long: the stories people expect to be about the “brave and the free”) reveal the truth? Was every person in history about whom I was taught, or now write, a person who inevitably lived up to the Bill of Rights, the principles taught as what now seems to me to be the right to become a “hero” with no flaws?
· What did my textbooks and teachers tell about the failure of Thomas Jefferson to free his slaves? Did they fail to tell me about the lack of consistency between those who talk about freedom and those who would practice it?
· What did I learn about The American Civil War?
James W. Loewen in Lies My Teachers Told Me continues his line of thinking through the nation’s Two World Wars and into the years of the Viet Nam experience.
On this note he concludes, indicating that, as a nation, we have failed to live up to the principles, which we proclaim and teach as our “Bill of Rights”. He notes that he has examined twelve widely used history textbooks and has concluded that none of these provide honest accounts of what our nation stands for and professes to believe. In his concluding chapter he suggests five areas, which any teacher of history who wants to revive the genuine teaching of the subject of history can follow. His consideration of American history goes far beyond a mere set of rules for the classrooms. His philosophy has ramifications for a total reconsideration of our major goal as a nation. This is a book that needs to be considered as essential reading not only by teachers, but also by educators across the nation. I would highly recommend that everyone that has any concern for reviving our democratic values in this age read it.
- Jack C. Ramsay, Jr., March 2, 2007
Note from a caregiver: Dr. Ramsay’s experiences as a student graduating from the University of Edinburgh are covered in considerable detail in Angel Kisses And My Beating Heart. His account of his early days of sudden blindness are found in his new book, I Can Feel the Sunshine by One Suddenly Blind Patient, One Caregiver and One Little Dog. The fact that he wrote the above review of a book he has read on March 2, 2007, is further proof that he is enjoying “feeling the sunshine” as he makes progress from his sudden blindness on Dec. 7, 2006.
- Karin Ramsay, Caregiver
for One Suddenly Blind Patient
I Can Feel the Sunshine
by One Suddenly Blind Patient,
One Caregiver and One Little Dog