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Quite possibly, the biggest gap in students’ knowledge of U.S. history, deals with their ignorance of the Vietnam War. On average, history textbooks devote the same amount of space to the Vietnam War as they do to the War of 1812—even though Vietnam lasted far longer than the War of 1812, profoundly changed the U.S. in ways still apparent today, and, of course, did occur far more recently. Using a number of iconic photographs that have come to be symbolic of the war, Chapter 9 examines how our history textbooks handle, or mishandle, the war in Vietnam. The war itself was, beyond question, quite controversial, not only because many Americans misunderstood our nation’s purposes for being there, but also because our government systematically lied to the public. There are many facets to this ugly war, all of which only help to confuse our understanding even more. Loewen examines just how little we understand from our textbooks and suggests what could be done better.

For this essay, you will be doing something just a little differently. First, read Chapter 9 in James Loewen’s Lies My Teacher Told Me. Once you have completed your reading for the assignment, please develop a five-paragraph academic essay, consisting of a minimum of 1½- to 2-pages, in which you will discuss:

  • Why students and the general public get Vietnam wrong and what they don’t understand. Explain the complications Loewen lays out in his chapter.
  • Assess the images in the chapter. What emotions do they evoke? Why does Loewen use them in this chapter?
  • How Loewen’s chapter may or may not have influenced your understanding of the Vietnam War.

As always, when directly quoting material from Loewen’s chapter, or using any outside sources, you must correctly cite these using the current MLA rules of writing and style.  The Purdue OWL website is linked here:

Purdue OWL – MLA Formatting and Style Guide, 8th Edition

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