2.14.2007

each one, teach one

More reasons for hope, courtesy of AW1L's subscription to The Economist. Check out #5!
AMERICANS are worried about God, globalisation and their place in the world. That, at least, is the conclusion to be drawn from the global sale of history books through Amazon.com.

A new edition of Thomas Friedman's 2005 bestseller, "The World is Flat", is there, along with Newt Gingrich on the role of religious faith in America and Michael Oren and Mark Steyn (interestingly, both outsiders) on the consequences of American behaviour abroad, especially in the Middle East.

These books all came out within the past six months. Big names and big subjects tend to generate big publicity around publication time, but it takes an additional, often indefinable something for a book to continue selling. James Loewen's "Lies My History Teacher Told Me" is nearly a decade old, and still sells hundreds of copies each week.

In an easy, readable style, the author vets ten topics (from Christopher Columbus to the Vietnam war) and bewails how American textbooks distort them. Although he sometimes adopts a tone of high political correctness, he often proves the textbooks and teachers wrong. For readers who are children at heart, what could be more appealing?

1. The World Is Flat [Updated And Expanded]: A Brief History Of The Twenty-First Century - By Thomas L. Friedman

2. Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid - By Jimmy Carter

3. Power, Faith, And Fantasy: America In The Middle East, 1776 To The Present - By Michael B. Oren

4. America Alone: The End Of The World As We Know It - By Mark Steyn

5. A People's History Of The United States: 1492-Present - By Howard Zinn

6. Medical Apartheid: The Dark History Of Medical Experimentation On Black Americans From Colonial Times To The Present - By Harriet A. Washington

7. Rediscovering God In America: Reflections On The Role Of Faith In Our Nation's History And Future - By Newt Gingrich

8. Six Frigates: The Epic History Of The Founding Of The U.S. Navy - By Ian W. Toll

9. Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong - by James W. Loewen

10. The Cartoon History Of The Modern World Part 1: From Columbus To The U.S. Constitution - By Larry Gonick

There's an old activist saying: "Each one, reach one. Each one, teach one." I love that, because it emphasizes the ability of each of us to work for justice, and it emphasizes the need to educate.

All positive change begins with education. People can't fight against what they don't know and don't understand. So while I'm sorry to see flatworlder Tom Friedman's book at the top of the list, I'm confident his book will be collecting dust in the remainder bin while People's History and Lies My Teacher Told Me is still educating the world.

5 comments:

M@ said...

I like that saying. Jello Biafra said something similar when he advised people to "become the media" -- be well-informed, know what's going on, and if someone is obviously misinformed or wrong about an issue, speak up. It's true grassroots stuff, and I try to do my part.

Friedman's book is trivial nonsense, and its inclusion on the list neither surprises nor upsets me (okay, I sighed, but that's it). However, #4 is a pretty awful little volume, from what little I've read of it, and its author is a racist blowhard. Somehow, the meme that Steyn is an excellent writer has pervaded right-wing bloggers, too. (I trust that when someone calls an idiot like Steyn a great writer, they actually mean "he confirms my worldview", of course.)

I'm glad to see that Americans are beginning to care about the rest of the world. Next, let's see them elect a president who is actually aware that the rest of the world exists. Let's see them have a presidential campaign where concern for the opinions of the rest of the world is not held up for ridicule. (That was a low point in a campaign with a lot of low points.)

L-girl said...

I'm glad to see that Americans are beginning to care about the rest of the world.

Honestly, I don't know whether or not more Americans care about the world or not. Millions always have. Many more millions barely know there is a rest of the world. And so many more are too busy trying to scrape by to focus on anything but their own suffering.

However, #4 is a pretty awful little volume, from what little I've read of it, and its author is a racist blowhard.

That's my impression too.

(I trust that when someone calls an idiot like Steyn a great writer, they actually mean "he confirms my worldview", of course.)

Indeed.

Do you read right-wing blogs to keep up with what they're saying? You're very brave. I don't have the stomach for it.

M@ said...

Honestly, I don't know whether or not more Americans care about the world or not.

Fair enough. But just like in Canada, there's a proportion of the country that is politically engaged, and it's important to have some intellectual freedom and tolerance in framing the discussions that proportion has. Ideas that challenge the ideas like American exceptionalism can only be good for everyone.

Again, though, I understand that the politically engaged -- the ones who go out and protest wars, for example -- are not exactly given centre stage in the US media.

Do you read right-wing blogs to keep up with what they're saying? You're very brave. I don't have the stomach for it.

Occasionally. Usually through links on combative left-wing blogs, but I like to read the source material from time to time. Helps remind me of how not to think, I guess.

L-girl said...

Canadian Cynic is a great blog. I haven't been there in ages. Truth be told, I'm not a big blog reader, I usually go straight to magazines and columns, often reprinted in Common Dreams or Truthout.

Re political engagement and non-US-centric thinking, I couldn't agree more.

James said...

Yay, Larry Gonick! One of the best writers of introductory science and history books out there, but often overlooked 'cause he's a cartoonist.