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Education Reporter

33 Questions About American History You're Not Supposed to Ask, Thomas E. Woods Jr., Crown Publishing Group 2007, 308 pages, $25.95

In this book, Thomas E. Woods, Jr., author of the popular Politically Incorrect Guide to American History, debunks 33 culturally powerful myths about our nation's history. As Woods proves, we can't hope to shape the future wisely if we fundamentally misunderstand what happened in the past, and why. Unfortunately, a generation of public high school students does fundamentally misunderstand the past, because of what they are taught in U.S history classes.

"No matter where in the country they live, American public school students learn one and the same perspective on topics as diverse as the Constitution, labor unions, Franklin Roosevelt, states' rights, and capitalism," writes Woods.

For example, they learn that FDR's New Deal saved the U.S. from the Great Depression; but Woods shows that massive public sector projects arbitrarily seized capital and jobs from the private sector, interfering with normal growth and recovery and the creation of wealth. Woods also shows how the government's artificial manipulation of interest rates contributed to the Depression, although the average U.S. history student probably concludes that the free market's inherent flaws were to blame. Similar themes tie together many of the myths that Woods confronts. "The conclusion that students are expected to draw isn't terribly subtle," writes Woods: "the private sector is the realm of exploitation and greed, and we should seek relief from the government sector, which is populated by idealistic crusaders for justice."

On the subject of the Constitution, Woods clarifies such important issues as the meaning of the "general welfare" clause, whether the commerce clause allows the federal government to regulate all gainful activity, and whether the founders intended the Constitution to change with the times.

Woods examines the changing role of the American president, the accomplishments or lack thereof of foreign aid programs, President Bill Clinton's legacy in the Balkans, and other fascinating topics.

33 Questions argues convincingly that we need to know the truth about these chapters in America's past; and that the truth sometimes requires searching out. It is unfortunate that "the same group of people who hold a monopoly on the power to tax and the power to initiate force also wield an effective monopoly on the power to educate future generations of Americans." Woods's book helps to challenge the monopoly that these 33 myths have held over the American story.

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