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How should history be taught?

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How should history be taught?

Post by Shirina on Sat Dec 31, 2011 6:48 pm

Well, this could have gone in the "Health and Education" section, but given that that section is more health than education, here it is.

I woke up today and read this:
A California law will add gays and lesbians and people with disabilities to the list of social and ethnic groups whose contributions must be taught in history lessons in public schools. The law also bans teaching materials that reflect poorly on gays or particular religions.

What the hell? Okay, rant inbound.

This really peeves me on many levels because, as a former history teacher, I know how hard this subject is to teach. Even when I was in high school during the 90's, the teaching of history was like spreading too little butter over too much bread. There is simply too much history to cover in a two year period. I say "two years" because in the US, American history is covered in a two year course. There were things I had vague notions of and even more things I knew nothing about. For instance, I never knew or understood what Watergate was all about. So I patiently but eagerly awaited the time when we would be taught all about Watergate, our involvement in Vietnam, the Iran hostage crisis, the end of the Cold War, etc. But we never got that far. The 1960's was all about the Civil Rights movement, MLK, racial equality, and the hippy counter-culture. Oh, we were taught about the protests against the Vietnam War, but we were never taught just what the Vietnam War actually was.

And then the school year was over. Done. And I still knew nothing about Vietnam, Watergate, Nixon's presidency ... or Carter's ... or even Reagan's. I can't help but think: If teachers couldn't cover anything beyond the 60's, how are they going to find the time to teach the 70's, the 80's, the 90's, and the first 12 years of the 21st Century? What happens when we hit the year 2100? Will teachers still be teaching up to 1960 and then nothing?

History is a peculiar subject because it never sits still. Every year that passes adds another year's worth of information that will someday need to be taught. Our present will be the next generation's history. In just four more years, students will be entering junior high who have no memory of 9/11. It will be history to them, not a memory. How will teachers ever get to 9/11 if they can't even get to Vietnam before the school year is over? Yet here comes California asking our schools to make room for gays and the disabled when we don't even have room for Nixon, Carter, Reagan, Bush Sr., Clinton, Bush Jr. and Obama.

California demands that teachers shoehorn into the curriculum the achievements of gays and the disabled. How? And at what cost? If there isn't enough time to teach the facts of history as they currently stand (never mind 20 years from now), teachers will have to include gays and the disabled as a focus point regardless of whether their particular contributions were truly historically significant. And how will that change how FDR's presidency is taught? Sure, FDR was disabled, but will the lessons focus on Roosevelt the disabled man with polio or will it focus on Roosevelt the president and war leader? Which, historically speaking, is the most important? If we have to focus on Frank Jones, the inventor of the bubblegum wrapper, even for just one class period, simply because Frank Jones was gay, what or who is bumped out of history in exchange? Will Thomas Jefferson then take a back seat to Frank Jones, the gay bubblegum wrapper inventor? And just what, precisely, will kids take away from that lesson? Will Frank Jones be "significant" because of his invention? Or because he was gay? Will FDR be significant because he was a president and war leader? Or because he was disabled?

But it doesn't end there. Now it bans teaching any history that reflects poorly on gays or a particular religion. Really? So here's a sample lesson on 9/11 in the year 2050 (assuming it even gets taught):

Teacher: "On September 11th, 2001, a group of terrorists flew planes into the World Trade Center and killed over 2,000 people."
Student: "Why?"
Teacher: "Well, they were bad men."
Student: "Okay, but what actually made them decide to fly planes into the buildings?"
Student 2: "Yeah who were these bad men?"
Teacher: "They were, ah, from Saudi Arabia and, ah, they didn't like America."
Student: "Okay, but why didn't they like America?"
Teacher: "Because, uhm ...
Student 2: "If they were from Saudi Arabia, were they Muslims?"
Teacher: "No! Yes! Well ... sort of. I really can't talk about 9/11's connection with Islamic terrorists, even if that is the root cause of the issue, because that would reflect poorly on Islam. In fact, kids, contrary to what you may have heard, terrorism never actually happened. Don't believe everything you see on the internet. The Saudi men who flew those planes were atheists - because atheism isn't a religion - and they were angry that someone had set up a Nativity Scene in one of the break rooms ..."
Student: "But my grandfather said they were radical Islamic terrorists."
Teacher: "No, they weren't. They were just disgruntled airline workers going bonkers because their pay had been cut. Kids, 9/11 had nothing to do with religion at all. Nothing. And your grandfather is senile. Wait, your grandfather is white, male, straight, and atheist, right? Good, then I can call him "senile" without losing my job."

It's positively nonsense. How in bloody hell can we teach our kids an accurate portrayal of history if we can't teach any event that "reflects poorly" on a particular religion? Does that mean the Inquisition, the Crusades, international terrorism, the Holocaust, the Conquistadors, etc. etc. will disappear from history in this country - or at least in the state of California?

And how can we teach kids a complete version of history if we're constantly bogged down with triviality just to make sure gays, the disabled, and every other subset of American life feels included? The cold, harsh reality is that much of Western history was created by white, straight, non-disabled men. It's that simple. Re-writing history to make other groups more important than they are is merely teaching kids a big, fat lie. I am so glad I got out of the teaching business early because I could never stomach the thought of teaching this trashy version of "history." One may as well substitute a history textbook with transcripts from the effing Oprah Winfrey Show. Yep, this really pisses me off.

And now we're going to have generations of kids with horrendous gaps in their historical knowledge. Yeah, just what we need. And then people wonder why our schools are failing.

Maybe I should have written this in my blog, instead. *shrug*
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Re: How should history be taught?

Post by astra on Sat Dec 31, 2011 8:24 pm

Glad you got that off of yer chest! Very Happy


I often wonder what is going through the legislators head/brain cell when ideas like this are converted to law. Is there no judge, magistrate, lawer - hell, leagal beagal that can kick this over the touch line?

How is it going to be enforced, use the pupils exam papers to envigilate the teachers? Sounds like Nazi Germany and Kristal Nacht to me!

Have a single malt Shirina and enjoy New Year

Sláinte mhath!


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Re: How should history be taught?

Post by Stox 16 on Sun Jan 01, 2012 3:58 am

Shirina wrote:Well, this could have gone in the "Health and Education" section, but given that that section is more health than education, here it is.

I woke up today and read this:
A California law will add gays and lesbians and people with disabilities to the list of social and ethnic groups whose contributions must be taught in history lessons in public schools. The law also bans teaching materials that reflect poorly on gays or particular religions.

What the hell? Okay, rant inbound.

This really peeves me on many levels because, as a former history teacher, I know how hard this subject is to teach. Even when I was in high school during the 90's, the teaching of history was like spreading too little butter over too much bread. There is simply too much history to cover in a two year period. I say "two years" because in the US, American history is covered in a two year course. There were things I had vague notions of and even more things I knew nothing about. For instance, I never knew or understood what Watergate was all about. So I patiently but eagerly awaited the time when we would be taught all about Watergate, our involvement in Vietnam, the Iran hostage crisis, the end of the Cold War, etc. But we never got that far. The 1960's was all about the Civil Rights movement, MLK, racial equality, and the hippy counter-culture. Oh, we were taught about the protests against the Vietnam War, but we were never taught just what the Vietnam War actually was.

And then the school year was over. Done. And I still knew nothing about Vietnam, Watergate, Nixon's presidency ... or Carter's ... or even Reagan's. I can't help but think: If teachers couldn't cover anything beyond the 60's, how are they going to find the time to teach the 70's, the 80's, the 90's, and the first 12 years of the 21st Century? What happens when we hit the year 2100? Will teachers still be teaching up to 1960 and then nothing?

History is a peculiar subject because it never sits still. Every year that passes adds another year's worth of information that will someday need to be taught. Our present will be the next generation's history. In just four more years, students will be entering junior high who have no memory of 9/11. It will be history to them, not a memory. How will teachers ever get to 9/11 if they can't even get to Vietnam before the school year is over? Yet here comes California asking our schools to make room for gays and the disabled when we don't even have room for Nixon, Carter, Reagan, Bush Sr., Clinton, Bush Jr. and Obama.

California demands that teachers shoehorn into the curriculum the achievements of gays and the disabled. How? And at what cost? If there isn't enough time to teach the facts of history as they currently stand (never mind 20 years from now), teachers will have to include gays and the disabled as a focus point regardless of whether their particular contributions were truly historically significant. And how will that change how FDR's presidency is taught? Sure, FDR was disabled, but will the lessons focus on Roosevelt the disabled man with polio or will it focus on Roosevelt the president and war leader? Which, historically speaking, is the most important? If we have to focus on Frank Jones, the inventor of the bubblegum wrapper, even for just one class period, simply because Frank Jones was gay, what or who is bumped out of history in exchange? Will Thomas Jefferson then take a back seat to Frank Jones, the gay bubblegum wrapper inventor? And just what, precisely, will kids take away from that lesson? Will Frank Jones be "significant" because of his invention? Or because he was gay? Will FDR be significant because he was a president and war leader? Or because he was disabled?

But it doesn't end there. Now it bans teaching any history that reflects poorly on gays or a particular religion. Really? So here's a sample lesson on 9/11 in the year 2050 (assuming it even gets taught):

Teacher: "On September 11th, 2001, a group of terrorists flew planes into the World Trade Center and killed over 2,000 people."
Student: "Why?"
Teacher: "Well, they were bad men."
Student: "Okay, but what actually made them decide to fly planes into the buildings?"
Student 2: "Yeah who were these bad men?"
Teacher: "They were, ah, from Saudi Arabia and, ah, they didn't like America."
Student: "Okay, but why didn't they like America?"
Teacher: "Because, uhm ...
Student 2: "If they were from Saudi Arabia, were they Muslims?"
Teacher: "No! Yes! Well ... sort of. I really can't talk about 9/11's connection with Islamic terrorists, even if that is the root cause of the issue, because that would reflect poorly on Islam. In fact, kids, contrary to what you may have heard, terrorism never actually happened. Don't believe everything you see on the internet. The Saudi men who flew those planes were atheists - because atheism isn't a religion - and they were angry that someone had set up a Nativity Scene in one of the break rooms ..."
Student: "But my grandfather said they were radical Islamic terrorists."
Teacher: "No, they weren't. They were just disgruntled airline workers going bonkers because their pay had been cut. Kids, 9/11 had nothing to do with religion at all. Nothing. And your grandfather is senile. Wait, your grandfather is white, male, straight, and atheist, right? Good, then I can call him "senile" without losing my job."

It's positively nonsense. How in bloody hell can we teach our kids an accurate portrayal of history if we can't teach any event that "reflects poorly" on a particular religion? Does that mean the Inquisition, the Crusades, international terrorism, the Holocaust, the Conquistadors, etc. etc. will disappear from history in this country - or at least in the state of California?

And how can we teach kids a complete version of history if we're constantly bogged down with triviality just to make sure gays, the disabled, and every other subset of American life feels included? The cold, harsh reality is that much of Western history was created by white, straight, non-disabled men. It's that simple. Re-writing history to make other groups more important than they are is merely teaching kids a big, fat lie. I am so glad I got out of the teaching business early because I could never stomach the thought of teaching this trashy version of "history." One may as well substitute a history textbook with transcripts from the effing Oprah Winfrey Show. Yep, this really pisses me off.

And now we're going to have generations of kids with horrendous gaps in their historical knowledge. Yeah, just what we need. And then people wonder why our schools are failing.

Maybe I should have written this in my blog, instead. *shrug*

Well I am very pleased you did write it here for one. Can I just say I can fully understand your feelings on this issue. as I am not at all sure if Gay's and Lesbians or people with disabilities has any real relevance in History. as I do not think of say FDR as a person with disabilities at all. I think of FDR as one of the greatest presidents in US History. To me Roosevelt firmly established the United States' leadership role on the world stage, with his role in shaping and financing World War II. while His isolationist critics faded away, and even the Republicans joined in his overall policies. which brought the United States through the Great Depression and World War II to a prosperous future.

Now I served with the US Army in the UN in the Lebanon in the 1980s and even remember digging them out after the bombing of there HQ. but what always amazed me was how little the average American knew about world History in general. Now this is not a criticism of American's at all nor their education system as a whole. as in many areas its far better then here in the UK. here in the UK we are taught about 1066 and what king happened to be on the throne at the time. So I would guess that most countries study there own History the most. yet the danger in this is we become very in would looking and for get about the world has a history too. Something FDR never did and what made him a true great president in my eyes.

Now you ask a very good question......will kids take away from that lesson? Well not a great deal unless the focus is on Historical events rather than what the person looked like. as that is not history at all is it? nor can it be. That is why your statement..... teach kids a complete version of history if we're constantly bogged down with triviality is so right.

However, your point about terrorists acts is a hard one lesson to be taught without people adding there personal thoughts into this. as before i set foot in the Lebanon I had many set views on radical Islamic terrorists groups. only to find that Christian Phalages Army under Bachir Gemayel Killed 300 muslims from old men to young children to even a new born baby. only to find next few days saw Shi'ite factions, Amal Movement and Hezbollah kill 156 Christian phalages. Then you have the Druze sect, strategically and dangerously seated on the Chouf in central Lebanon, had no natural allies, and so were compelled to put much effort into building alliances and killing for both sides or who paid the most money or land in return for there service. Then you have the Lebanese Communist Party (LCP) and the more radical and independent Communist Action Organization (COA). Another notable example was the pan-Syrian Syrian Social Nationalist Party (SSNP), which promoted the concept of Greater Syria. They are quite happy to kill US or UN or anyone else who will pay them. they even had allies in both Christian phalages groups as well as Lebanese Alawites, followers of a sect of Shia Islam, were represented by the Red Knights Militia of the Arab Democratic Party. Then you have Armenian Marxist-Leninist militia ASALA was founded in PLO-controlled territory of West Beirut with Baath party factions were also involved in the early stages of the war: a nationalist one known as "pro-Iraqi" headed by Dr. 'Abdul-Majeed Al-Rafei (Sunni) and Nicola Y. Ferzli (Greek Orthodox Christian), and a Marxist one known as "pro-Syrian" headed by Assem Qanso (Shiite).

It took me 18 months to find out that no one side was better than any other side. as they would all kill you without even thinking about it. it did not matter at all if you was a Christian or Muslim or Druze. as they where all very happy to carry out acts of terrorist killings.

Now how can anyone teach this subject and end up being fair to all the Religions who have these acts carried out in there name. Which by the way is just a cover for the real issue which is traditional political families in Lebanon fighting for power and land. it had nothing to do with religion in my view. So I guess you would need to give an accurate portrayal of history no matter how it reflects on any particular religion. but then is this not what History is about in the end? as it has no sides does it?

anyway a very interesting posts and thanks for posting it.
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Re: How should history be taught?

Post by Shirina on Sun Jan 01, 2012 5:49 am

Hello, Stox:
Now how can anyone teach this subject and end up being fair to all the Religions who have these acts carried out in there name.
What I was getting at is that people and organizations sometimes do bad things. It's inevitable where people are involved. History in high school is very much a superficial endeavor. Nothing is studied in depth or in any great detail (which is another reason why I bailed on teaching high school - it bored me). I have found, as I'm sure you have, that if you want to know history, you have to teach yourself. Just get books and start reading. The point, though, is that a lesson on 9/11 in a high school classroom would not delve into the complicated politics and religious beliefs of those involved. Nor would it attempt to deliberately disparage one religion or promote another. Yet it is a fact that Al-Qaeda, a radical Muslim sect, caused 9/11, and teaching that fact would violate the California law - materials that reflect poorly on a particular religion are banned. How could a discussion on 9/11 even be held without including Al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, the Taliban, and Muslim extremism?

Some kids are actually pretty aware, and others actually want to know what's going on. Not many, but they're out there. Islamic terrorism was the driving force behind American politics for nearly a decade; it spawned the Office of Homeland Security, it created the Patriot Act, it was the catalyst for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. We can go back 30 years and still find it. For instance, re-flagging oil tankers in the Persian Gulf due to mine and missile attacks by Islamic terrorists. There is the attack on Libya in 1986. There is Marine barracks bombing in Lebanon and the peacekeeping mission that took place there. And then there's the Achille Lauro incident in 1985, the Lockerbie incident in 1985, etc. etc. None of this can really be talked about in school because it might make Islam look bad. Of course, that's assuming that somehow teachers ever get to the 80's and 90's considering they couldn't get through the 60's when I was in school.
but what always amazed me was how little the average American knew about world History in general.
Because far too many people find it "boring" ... I have no idea why. It is far more exciting than algebra equations or physics formulas! But yes, most countries teach their own histories, and barely do an adequate job doing that much. Teaching world history is a daunting task - and usually "world history" is a euphemism for "ancient history" in schools, even at the collegiate level. This is where you learn about the Classical Era (Rome and Greece), Sumaria and Hammurabi's Code of Laws, the Egyptian pharaohs, and Phoenicians. There really isn't a "modern" world history course.

One has to go to college to get that kind of education. Fortunately I've been fortunate enough to take courses in British history, Chinese history, Aztec history, Indian history, Islamic history, and Napoleonic history. Those who do not attend college will not get this on a formal level - and I find being in a classroom environment is far better than learning on your own, at least if the professor stimulates discussion and debate. Most of them do. Yet far, far too many people go to college as a means to make more money, and if the subject isn't directly related to making money, the information goes in one ear and out the other.

Best wishes and Happy New Year!
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Re: How should history be taught?

Post by Guest on Sun Jan 01, 2012 6:47 am

Shirina wrote:
California demands that teachers shoehorn into the curriculum the achievements of gays and the disabled. How? And at what cost?

Will Frank Jones be "significant" because of his invention? Or because he was gay? Will FDR be significant because he was a president and war leader? Or because he was disabled?

Exactly!

I’ve mentioned this before on Cutting Edge. In the early 1970s, an imperious Professor of Latin American History, a Giant (all uppercase initial letters intentional), who, by the way, happened to be homosexual (more on that on request), who I will call “Dr. Loreno Johnson”, profoundly and permanently influenced my world view and my life.

Dr. Johnson’s personal life, which he kept to himself, had absolutely no bearing on his excellence as a scholar. He never mentioned with whom he did or did not sleep during the school year in which I saw him three times per week. He did, however, mention the “People of the Shadows”, who were immortalized in stone by mezzo-Americans circa 300 BC.

If future students of Latin American history become aware of Dr. Loreno Johnson, I hope is due to his contribution to the study of mezzo-American history, sub-Saharan African history, and the confluence of the two prior to the birth of Jesus. If that happens, any accolades accruing the Dr. Jonson would be entirely appropriate.

Shirina wrote:
But it doesn't end there. Now it bans teaching any history that reflects poorly on gays or a particular religion. Really? So here's a sample lesson on 9/11 in the year 2050 (assuming it even gets taught):

Teacher: "On September 11th, 2001, a group of terrorists flew planes into the World Trade Center and killed over 2,000 people."

Student: "Why?"

Teacher: "Well, they were bad men."

Student: "Okay, but what actually made them decide to fly planes into the buildings?"

Student 2: "Yeah who were these bad men?"

Teacher: "They were, ah, from Saudi Arabia and, ah, they didn't like America."

Student: "Okay, but why didn't they like America?"

Teacher: "Because, uhm ...

Student 2: "If they were from Saudi Arabia, were they Muslims?"

Teacher: "No! Yes! Well ... sort of. I really can't talk about 9/11's connection with Islamic terrorists, even if that is the root cause of the issue, because that would reflect poorly on Islam. In fact, kids, contrary to what you may have heard, terrorism never actually happened. Don't believe everything you see on the internet. The Saudi men who flew those planes were atheists - because atheism isn't a religion - and they were angry that someone had set up a Nativity Scene in one of the break rooms ..."

Student: "But my grandfather said they were radical Islamic terrorists."

Teacher: "No, they weren't. They were just disgruntled airline workers going bonkers because their pay had been cut. Kids, 9/11 had nothing to do with religion at all. Nothing. And your grandfather is senile. Wait, your grandfather is white, male, straight, and atheist, right? Good, then I can call him 'senile' without losing my job."

It's positively nonsense.

Well said.
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Re: How should history be taught?

Post by witchfinder on Mon Jan 02, 2012 9:54 pm

I believe in devils advocate, just like a BBC news item, some bad economic news is announced, the BBC gets the reaction of a government minister, but then it gets the opposing view of an opposition shadow minister, and I am sure its the same in the United States ( apart from Fox ).

People, children, students should not simply be told ( dictated to ) about what happened, why it happened, who caused it to happen, who s fault it was, who the good guys were, who the evil people were.

They ought to be given an opposing viewpoint of history, or at least told that there are other viewpoints.

Going back to the typical BBC News report, it always leaves you in a position whereby you have to make your own mind up, read between the lines, decide for yourself.



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Re: How should history be taught?

Post by Phil Hornby on Mon Jan 02, 2012 10:02 pm

The government will tell you that the BBC is biased - and their propaganda machine The Sun supports that view. After all , we simply cannot tolerate the broadcasting of any inconveniently bad news or comment which might suggest that Cameron and his Clique are a bunch of shifty and corrupt reptiles who shouldn't be let within a thousand miles of political power - can we? Shocked
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Re: How should history be taught?

Post by sickchip on Mon Jan 02, 2012 10:15 pm

History is like a painting that is painted over periodically to suit the current views/beliefs/interests of those presiding over us. We get to a point when we don't like the picture any more so paint over it to appease taste.

Those genuinely interested need to peel away the layers to get somewhere close to the truth.
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Re: How should history be taught?

Post by oftenwrong on Mon Jan 02, 2012 10:31 pm

Sanity comes from KNOWING that the bastards are lying to us.
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Re: How should history be taught?

Post by witchfinder on Tue Jan 03, 2012 10:51 am

Phil Hornby

THere are some things which are common knowledge, even though it is denied, like for instance the unwritten, unsaid Conservative aim of destroying the BBC, which along with the NHS are the two most cherished institutions in Britain, and in the case of the BBC around the world too.

The government is taking funding away from the BBC, as a result the quality WILL suffer, it is allready begining to happen, my local BBC radio stations are contemplating merging and sharing programming, if or when this happens my BBC local radio station will no longer be "local".

Much of the tory ideology is unwritten, unsaid, never uttered, but its that quite knowledge that anything and everything which is state run or state owned must be destroyed, taken apart or handed over to profiteers.

Teaching history without biass is as important as telling the news without biass, doing both objectively and impartialy is vital.
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Re: How should history be taught?

Post by Phil Hornby on Tue Jan 03, 2012 1:21 pm

Witchy - in case it was not clear : I agree entirely with you...
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Re: How should history be taught?

Post by Ivan on Tue Jan 03, 2012 2:08 pm

Sorry witchfinder, but there's no such thing as impartiality when it comes to the written word. Even writing the date as 3 January 2012 shows a bias in favour of the Christian system of chronology.

History books fifty years ago were mostly just about "kings and things", and schoolchildren learned about one reign and then the next, along with the British Empire. Once the 60s took hold, and the Empire had gone, there was greater emphasis on social history and the past lives of millions of ordinary people. History books, as always, reflect the prejudices of the age in which they are written.

In the same way, as it's impossible to put everything in a news bulletin, somebody has to make a judgement on what to put in and leave out, and which stories are the most important and should be mentioned first. That's why I've been particularly incensed by the ridiculous prominence given to the story of a 90-year old man being taken ill just before Christmas, where he sat in a car when he came out of hospital, and how far he walked to church. That rubbish was deemed more important than Iran's nuclear threat, repression in Syria, churches being burned in Nigeria and the Tube strike on Boxing Day. That's bias for you, blatant bias in favour of a system that allows one family to be deemed so important that they provide our head of state in perpetuity, regardless of how mad, bad or utterly dull and useless they might be.
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Re: How should history be taught?

Post by Shirina on Tue Jan 03, 2012 4:54 pm

THere are some things which are common knowledge, even though it is denied, like for instance the unwritten, unsaid Conservative aim of destroying the BBC
Interesting, given that the conservatives in this country are on a crusade to defund National Public Radio (NPR) which is the closest thing we have to the BBC. It would seem that conservatism in both our countries have quite a large number of common threads. It almost makes one wonder if they're not all receiving their information from one central source.
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Re: How should history be taught?

Post by oftenwrong on Tue Jan 03, 2012 5:27 pm

In the 1920s, the BBC was not originally intended to be anything more than a conduit for Government "information" leavened by some light entertainment. The formidable Lord Reith ensured that the Corporation operated in total independence, some of which remains.
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Re: How should history be taught?

Post by witchfinder on Tue Jan 03, 2012 9:37 pm

I often argue elsewhere on the net with Indians ( not the north American variety ), in a recent discussion several Indians accused the British of murder due to the famine which happened during the Second World War in Bengal.

I argued the point that "the authorities" which at the time were ultimately controled by the British, but in actual fact consisted mostly of Indian civil servants, would never have stood by and let such a natural disaster happen without attempting to stop it or render help and assistance.

But the story or timeline of what happened, and how things played out is complex, and could be open to different conclusions or interpretations.

The conclusion in our on-line discussion was that though "the authorities" did not cause the famine or stand by and do nothing, they probably did make mistakes.

Part of my defence of the authorities was the "famine biscuit" a high energy biscuit developed by the British and distributed in large quantities all accross Bengal, the same biscuit was used again by the army after liberating Bergen Belsen concentration camp a couple of years later.

History is great because it excercises the mind, makes you think, broadens your horizons, makes you learn new things, and if your a realy clever person you sometimes change your mind or your opinion.










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Re: How should history be taught?

Post by astra on Tue Jan 03, 2012 9:49 pm

Part of my defence of the authorities was the "famine biscuit" a high energy biscuit




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Re: How should history be taught?

Post by oftenwrong on Tue Jan 03, 2012 11:15 pm

"....would never have stood by and let such a natural disaster happen without attempting to stop it or render help and assistance."

Just for a moment there, I thought you were talking about the Irish Potato Famine.
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Re: How should history be taught?

Post by Ivan on Wed Jan 04, 2012 4:06 pm

far too many people find it "boring".....I have no idea why.....the teaching of history was like spreading too little butter over too much bread........What happens when we hit the year 2100? Will teachers still be teaching up to 1960 and then nothing?.....if you want to know history, you have to teach yourself.
Shirina. Perhaps the question before how history should be taught ought to be why it should be taught. I’m sure that the question “what’s the point of learning about the past, it’s over and done with?” has been asked many times by students. The simplest answer I've found came from the historian Arthur Marwick in his book ‘The Nature of History’: “History is to society what a memory is to an individual”. Ask the students if it would matter if they couldn’t remember what they did yesterday and the day before. That might help to counter the "boring” response.

One false assumption with many people is that history is ‘the past’, when of course it’s the record of the past, just as prehistory is that part of the past before written records were kept.

On the subject of spreading butter thinly, I once attended a 90-minute lecture on the history of Christianity. In those days, people were allowed to smoke in lectures, and on the way out, one elderly gentleman said to me: “Jeez, what a whirlwind, I stopped to light my pipe and missed three popes!”

I remember one historian, Derek Heater (who amusingly wrote a book called ‘The Cold War’) arguing that history should be taught by a ‘knotted string’ approach. He believed that students should be given a very general outline of history to put everything in context (rather like my history of Christianity lecture), but that certain topics along the way should be covered in much more detail. The difficulty arises when choosing which topics are significant enough to justify in-depth treatment.

History teaching is something of a hot potato, with accusations of bias from those who think you should be pandering to their prejudices never far away. For that reason, I suspect that contemporary history has often been avoided when constructing a curriculum, and that’s probably why your teachers taught you nothing after 1960.

I like history because I had a brilliant history teacher at school who encouraged his pupils to think and made the subject interesting. If you’re fortunate enough to get that, you will want to know more history and you will teach yourself.


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Re: How should history be taught?

Post by Stox 16 on Sun Jan 15, 2012 2:40 am

Shirina wrote:
THere are some things which are common knowledge, even though it is denied, like for instance the unwritten, unsaid Conservative aim of destroying the BBC
Interesting, given that the conservatives in this country are on a crusade to defund National Public Radio (NPR) which is the closest thing we have to the BBC. It would seem that conservatism in both our countries have quite a large number of common threads. It almost makes one wonder if they're not all receiving their information from one central source.

The UK Tory party follows quite a bit of the US Rep parties policy. not all but quite a bit of it. as they do in fact share quite a lot in the views on the economy for one. many top right wing Tories will hold drinks parties on the night of the US election. hopping to see a Rep win. the same happens with the left who with be backing A Dem win as I will be doing. both main UK parties meet leaders within the two US parties in the hope of seeking ideas. so you are quite right there are many common threads.
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Re: How should history be taught?

Post by Shirina on Sun Jan 15, 2012 6:34 am

Hello, Ivan. I'm not sure how I missed your post, but fortunately Stox wrote a response and lit up the new post icon here.
The simplest answer I've found came from the historian Arthur Marwick in his book ‘The Nature of History’: “History is to society what a memory is to an individual”. Ask the students if it would matter if they couldn’t remember what they did yesterday and the day before. That might help to counter the "boring” response.
I've been asked the question myself when I taught, and I gave a response similar to Arthur Marwick. In my scenario, this is how I explained it.

Imagine walking into a theater halfway through a movie. Chances are, you're going to be asking - or at least thinking about - certain questions. Who are the characters? What are their names? What are they doing? Why are they doing it? As well as a host of questions specific to the movie itself. The only way - the ONLY way - to know those answers is to learn the "history" of the previous hour of the movie that you missed. Learning history is like being "brought up to speed" on what's been going on in the world before you were born, and through history, we can figure out why things are the way they are, why people do what they do, and also to decide what YOU will do. It's all about patterns - history comes in cycles. It never truly "ends." If you know where you've been, it helps in knowing where you're going - just like a movie.

As to the "boring" part, that's all in the presentation. Too many teachers - especially at the collegiate level - are not good speakers or presenters. Even offline, I'm a big blabbermouth when it comes to history. If someone asks me a historical question, I'll launch into this lecture and fall into teacher mode. But you know what? People don't mind! Many (and I do mean a lot) of friends and acquaintances have said to me, "I hated history in school, but if you had been my teacher, I would have loved it." Yes, I'm patting my own back a bit here, but it's to make the point that if you're passionate about the subject, you know your subject, and can present it from memory in a more conversational way, I've found that people often warm to history. It's the repetitious memorization of names and dates and blah blah that they don't like.
The difficulty arises when choosing which topics are significant enough to justify in-depth treatment.
Yes, that is very true. One of the reasons why I departed the teaching field was that the curriculum has moved far afield of what I personally find to be worthy of in-depth treatment. It's more about multiculturalism than it is history these days, a futile attempt to include every possible ethnicity, culture, religion, creed, sexual orientation, or skin color. History is being used as a tool - at least in the US - to foster White Guilt and to point to non-whites and say, "See? Look what they did! They are worthy of respect." It's not that I disagree with the philosophy, per se, but history should be history, not social studies. There should be separate classes for this and it shouldn't be crammed into what I consider to be "mainstream" history.
For that reason, I suspect that contemporary history has often been avoided when constructing a curriculum, and that’s probably why your teachers taught you nothing after 1960.
Honestly, I just don't think they had the time. Looking at the "knotted string" approach, some knots where significantly larger than others. Slavery, for instance, is pounded into our brains for weeks, perhaps as long as a month, but the Civil War itself is given a brief nod and then its into the Reconstruction era - a time rife with Jim Crow Laws against freed slaves. Fertile ground for more multiculturalism. So you have a really BIG knot with slavery, barely a bump on the string for the Civil War, and another BIG knot for Reconstruction. I still meet people in adulthood who have to stop and really think about who won the Civil War.

But because things in our more distant history often receive more focus than recent history, there isn't enough time. Some teachers try to bypass this by setting aside some class time each day to discuss current events. I did this, as well, but through that, I had them research root causes of current events - and that got them into recent history without actually having to teach it.
I like history because I had a brilliant history teacher at school who encouraged his pupils to think and made the subject interesting.
I didn't have a good history teacher until college where I had several. The collegiate environment is much more open to debate and interpretation than high school where you are TOLD what to believe.
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Re: How should history be taught?

Post by oftenwrong on Sun Jan 15, 2012 12:24 pm

History is never "boring" if the teacher can explain its relevance to the way we live today. Few British-educated children realise how responsible we are for the number of Afro-Americans, or why Britain has such a wealth of Chinese and Indian restaurants.
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Re: How should history be taught?

Post by Ivan on Fri Jan 27, 2012 12:20 pm

‘The New Statesman’ has published a fascinating article by Richard J. Evans, a Cambridge University History professor. Apparently, our odious Education Secretary, Michael Gove, claims that “most parents would rather their children had a traditional education, with children sitting in rows, learning the kings and queens of England”. David Cameron also laments the “shift away from learning actual knowledge, such as facts and dates”, echoing the view of Thatcher thirty years ago, who wanted history teaching to be a vehicle for the creation of a unified sense of national identity. Just as the Nazis saw history teaching as a tool for their propaganda and indoctrination, so it seems do the Tories.

Professor Evans reminds us the spread of thematic and social history approaches pioneered by the Schools Council History Project led to an increase in its popularity and GCSE history entries reached 40% by 1995. Evans takes exception to the assertion by the right-wing historian David Starkey that “the skills-based teaching of history is a catastrophe”, saying that history in schools should not have modelled itself on university research. Evans replies: “Physics, biology and every other subject in schools is taught along lines that reflect research in the universities. One wouldn't expect physics teachers to ignore Stephen Hawking's ideas about black holes, or biology teachers to keep quiet about the discovery of DNA. So what makes history so different? Chemistry devotes a large amount of time to transmitting skills to students; why shouldn't history?

What the right-wingers want to shove down pupils’ throats is called ‘the Whig theory of history’, which involves telling a story of British history over a long period of time, stressing the development of parliamentary democracy in a narrative that culminates in a present viewed in self-congratulatory terms. ‘The Daily Telegraph’ and the right-wing think tank Civitas even campaigned to get H E Marshall's textbook ‘Our Island Story’ put on the National Curriculum, a book which argues that the British brought freedom and justice to the Maoris of New Zealand and many other lucky peoples across the world, and which has rightly been described as "imperialist propaganda masquerading as history". As Evans says: “It's all very well demanding that the curriculum should be filled with facts, but what facts you choose depends on what vision you have of British national identity…..History at every level, not just in the universities, is endlessly contentious and argumentative.”

Rote learning of any sort suppresses critical thought, and offers no scope for learning the skill of critical analysis. Furthermore, learning lists of kings and queens is sheer indoctrination and would lead to students in their thousands being put off history as a subject. As one reader of Evans’ article commented: “If we go back to thinking of history as a succession of great men and women (usually great men), and not as the stories of ordinary people, then we are truly regressing. More than that, we would be adopting a highly politicised reading that at a time of Tory government conveniently seeks to subvert the role of working class people in manufacturing their own conditions.”

http://www.newstatesman.com/education/2012/01/british-history-schools

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Re: How should history be taught?

Post by oftenwrong on Fri Jan 27, 2012 12:49 pm

Every time there is a change of Administration, there are changes to the Education System. They can't leave it alone. Clever teachers and the brighter pupils can adjust to that, but it does explain why so many children just drop out when they become painfully aware in their mid-teens that their only hope of success lies in winning a TV contest.
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Re: How should history be taught?

Post by True Blue on Tue Jan 31, 2012 5:51 am

Ivan wrote:If we go back to thinking of history as a succession of great men and women (usually great men), and not as the stories of ordinary people, then we are truly regressing. More than that, we would be adopting a highly politicised reading that at a time of Tory government conveniently seeks to subvert the role of working class people in manufacturing their own conditions.”

http://www.newstatesman.com/education/2012/01/british-history-schools

History has always been political... yes? What seems to be suggested by that quote above is that rather than teach history, we should be focused more on modern anthropology instead.
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Re: How should history be taught?

Post by oftenwrong on Tue Jan 31, 2012 10:17 am

Don't mention The War!
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Re: How should history be taught?

Post by True Blue on Tue Jan 31, 2012 10:55 am

oftenwrong wrote:Don't mention The War!

LoL... isn't war entailed to the politics of power?
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Re: How should history be taught?

Post by Guest on Sun Feb 05, 2012 5:53 am


Taught: U.S. Histoy (in U.S.), Canadian History (in Canada), Latin American History, World History.

Not taught: North American History (north of the "Rio Grande").
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What sort of history should we teach in English schools?

Post by jamesdhobsonuk on Fri Feb 10, 2012 8:35 pm

As a newcomer to the blog, but having seen a lot of them, I intend to adopt a very defensive approach. There is a temptation to be very wide ranging (Papal  Infallibility one week and the South Downs National Park the next) but I intend to stick to a subject I know a lot about. A lot!  It doesn't guarantee either a good read or mean that I am always correct, but I would like to think that the discussion will break away from the simplistic stuff you sometimes get.
 
I intend to do this is sections. The first section will be called "Time".
 
If this works I will treat you to my views about the Pope and our National Park.
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Re: How should history be taught?

Post by Guest on Sun Feb 12, 2012 10:26 am


Comments on the non-attentiveness given post-1791 North American history?


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Re: How should history be taught?

Post by oftenwrong on Sun Feb 12, 2012 1:08 pm

Comment?

Infelicitous sentence construction after only four hours' sleep.
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What sort of History should we teach in English schools? The problem of time.

Post by jamesdhobsonuk on Mon Feb 13, 2012 3:12 pm




The teaching of History is English schools- secondary schools mostly- is imbued by politicians with almost supernatural powers. It creates thoughtful citizens; it creates a sense of nationhood and a love of democracy. If certain content is not included in the National Curriculum- the actual choice lies at the whim of the individual, but it usually includes Churchill and Nelson- then unspecified bad things happen to the morale of the nation. However, do not press for details, as they will be unforthcoming. Riddle that one for yourselves

If this assertion were true then you would expect the country to go into administrative overdrive.

“Right, how much History shall we teach? Clearly this boon to mankind and to the character of young people should be available to all. Nobody should have a short ration”


However, this does not happen. The variation in time spent on History is huge, and getting bigger.
There is a National Curriculum to spread the magic but the wand waves over some people more than others. Some schools will devote 2 hour per week over three years of 39 weeks plus homework. That’s 234 hours while some schools may have 50 minutes per week over three years. That’s less than half of the time. Either politicians are lying to us about History as a magic cure, in the tradition of the snake oil merchants of the Wild West, or more plausibly, their love their disjointed and fragmented education system more than a fair distribution of time for the subject.

This analysis does not include the woeful record of academies, the use of non specialist teachers and the two year Key Stage 3, that altar on which children’s education has been sacrificed for grown ups' school performance tables

So, even on the simplest of tests, the politicians fail. They think they know what History is “for”.
They think, in their naivety, that it is they decide how it is taught. However, they do not even bother to pretend that they control the time allocation. The fragmented system, designed to set school against school, makes coherence in my subject impossible. And it every other subject, I am sure.



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Re: How should history be taught?

Post by Ivan on Fri Feb 17, 2012 10:49 am

What is a historian? Some thoughts from Professor Paul Lockhart of Wright State University in Ohio:-

http://pastinthepresent.com/2012/02/11/history-the-everyman-discipline/
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Re: How should history be taught?

Post by Guest on Thu Feb 23, 2012 2:15 am


No one has picked up the fact that universities offer European history classes, Latin American history classes, but no North American history aka British American history classes.

I’m sorry, y’all, but my political cultural ancestors (one set) were not Spanish. They were the same cultural ancestors that imparted their mark on Canada.
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Re: How should history be taught?

Post by oftenwrong on Thu Feb 23, 2012 1:32 pm

"I’m sorry, y’all, but my political cultural ancestors (one set) were not Spanish."

That's hardly surprising, since Spanish and Portuguese colonisation largely took place in Central and Southern (Latin) America. The Treaty of Tordesillas, apportioned The Americas as the Spanish-born Pope Alexander VI decreed in the bull Inter caetera that all lands west and south of a pole-to-pole line 100 leagues west and south of any of the islands of the Azores or the Cape Verde Islands should belong to Spain.

They had little interest in much north of the Rio Grande.
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Re: How should history be taught?

Post by Guest on Thu Feb 23, 2012 4:44 pm


True. And yet, in America USV, there is no history curricula focus upon the common political cultural heritage shared with Canada. What I know of Canadian history I learned outside the classroom.

Meanwhile, elementary schoolchildren are taught, and even celebrate, Cinco de Mayo, but no mention whatsoever is made of 29 March 1867.
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Re: How should history be taught?

Post by Shirina on Fri Feb 24, 2012 4:36 pm

Meanwhile, elementary schoolchildren are taught, and even celebrate, Cinco de Mayo, but no mention whatsoever is made of 29 March 1867.
Well, to be fair, this has to do with the huge number of American citizens of Latino descent. I can kind of understand why Cinco de Mayo is well known and taught. We just don't have that many citizens of Canadian ancestry.

Generally, though, I agree that there isn't much to be found about Canada within our curriculum. Even in college, I've never heard of a History of Canada course ... but neither is there a History of Australia, History of New Zealand ... or even a History of Egypt (aside from Egyptology) or History of India. However, I, myself, have taken courses in Chinese history, Mayan/Aztec history, Medieval European history, Napoleonic history, British history, Military history, WWII history, and, of course, American history. What I can say is that, because so much of Canadian history revolves around being a colony and/or protectorate of Great Britain, you have to take in-depth courses in British history to learn about the Commonwealth.
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Re: How should history be taught?

Post by astra on Fri Feb 24, 2012 4:53 pm

Canadian History was not taught at all in Perth Scotland. We picked up about RCMP, Bears and vast parks and plains.

I mention this because even going through Perth's famous sons ie David Douglas - Douglas Fir which abounds around the city, but John Buchan, His Excellency the Right Honourable the Lord Tweedsmuir
PC, GCMG, GCVO, CH (Thirty Nine Steps) was 15th Governor General of Canada! was never mentioned!

I only found out about all this when looking at the history of my native city not so long ago!

The school I went to - The Robert Douglas Memorial Shool, I just took the name to be a relative of David, but no! I just found NOW about this fellah 45 years after leaving that school!


http://www.robertdouglas.pkc.sch.uk/robert_douglas.html
"Robert made a lot of money in America. He discovered "pectin" which is a setting agent used in the making of jam."
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Re: How should history be taught?

Post by Guest on Fri Feb 24, 2012 7:05 pm


Shirina,

We have huge numbers of German immigrants’ descendents (as an example), yet we don’t focus upon relatively minor German historical events in our elementary schools’ curricula. In this country, our political cultural core is so similar to that of Canada that a US-trained lawyer, once she/he masters the wig thing, can function competently in a Canadian court.

I watched the TV series True Stories of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police back in the late 1990s. When arresting a suspect, RCMP Constables recite a speech almost identical to our Miranda rights speech, differing only in terminology, and perfectly understandable to me the first time I heard it. Same rights, slightly different terminology.

Going to the other end of the continuum, universities in the US seem always to offer Latin American history, looking at the histories of countries from Mexico to Chile as an inter-related whole, but I’ve never seen a course that looks at the histories of North American countries, i.e., the US and Canada, as an integrated whole. That doesn’t make sense to me.

And just what does Cinco de Mayo really commemorate that is of importance to my countrymen and me, given the fact that Mexico still hasn’t mastered democracy? I bold that 29 March 1867 is far more relevant to the development of democracy in the Weston Hemisphere than 5 May 1862.


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Re: How should history be taught?

Post by oftenwrong on Fri Feb 24, 2012 10:33 pm

From an admittedly unscientific poll of Americans, the common attitude is surprise that Canadians might WANT to be different from the USA.

Ferrwhat?
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Re: How should history be taught?

Post by astradt1 on Fri Feb 24, 2012 10:53 pm

How about teaching History in a truthful way..........
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Re: How should history be taught?

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