"You have to know history to teach it."

Discussion in 'Politics, Religion, Social Issues' started by jnpy!$4g3cwk, Jan 12, 2014.

  1. jnpy!$4g3cwk macrumors 65816

    jnpy!$4g3cwk

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    Feb 11, 2010
    #1
    A recent Atlantic article concludes this way:

    http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2014/01/you-have-to-know-history-to-actually-teach-it/282957/

    I have a couple of questions about this:

    1) Is it still true? Back in the day, many of my history teachers were, in fact, ex-college athletes who got education degrees and then taught history. And, coached after school. I always wondered why.

    2) Is history in other countries taught by people with a love of, and, academic background in, history?

    Back in the day, in the U.S., you were much more likely to have an English teacher who loved literature, or, a math teacher who loved math and was an actual math major in college. For some reason, history always seemed to be an afterthought. Although, in fairness, I recall at least one of those athlete-coach-history-teachers actually was quite interested in history and current events.
     
  2. Sydde macrumors 68020

    Sydde

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    #2
    I think history has been pretty rote and by the book. It has not been thought a difficult subject to teach or test because it is all so straightforward and demands little thought, just memorization.

    In my view, education should focus minimally on information, more on methodology itself: we should not be teaching children what they need to learn but teach them the skills they need to go into material themselves and learn the stuff. That way, schools would be much more efficient, because the kids could grab their education instead of having it handed to them. Of course, there are some who strenuously object to the very idea of teaching critical thinking, because, OIDK, they might go out and learn the wrong things.
     
  3. decafjava macrumors 68020

    decafjava

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    #3
    Very sad to characterise history in this way. BTW I have two degrees in history and for me critical thinking is just as applicable in history as any other discipline. Sure you need to memorise the "facts" ie. what happened but more interesting is than the "what" and "when" is "why", why did these events/trends turn out this way and not another way? What consequences did they entail? Even establishing facts can be tricky, learning to use primary sources and recognising that sometimes evidence for distant or even current events can be pretty thin indeed. Just my two cents.
     
  4. Sydde macrumors 68020

    Sydde

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    #4
    I think the, ahem, historical treatment of history in our schools has been pathetic. I mean, it is a story, kids love stories, but somehow the educators have managed to make it unpleasant. Yes, critical thinking is crucial to understanding history, but I am not entirely convinced that understanding it has been the goal. Consider the year 1941: ask the average American what happened that year, they will tell you of one event that was a little over 3 weeks before 1942. Ask them why it happened, most will say something to the effect that those guys were evil. Huge gaps in knowledge and understanding of history pervade the country, to me it looks like a deliberate effort to present only part of the story (and if history was unpleasant to study, people will not be inclined to look for the other parts of the story).
     
  5. jeremy h, Jan 13, 2014
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2014

    jeremy h macrumors 6502

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    #5
    If anyone questions why the teaching of history (or what is more useful, in my opinion, the creation of an inquiring interest in the past) is essential (and again in my opinion, should be a specialism) one only needs to look back a few years. For example ... It would have been far better for everyone if Tony Blair had a passion for history rather than his more 'glamourous' interests in the performing arts and playing the guitar.

    Interestingly there's a big argument going on here at the moment as to how history should be taught in terms of the First World War in our schools. (Should it follow an official line or be more open to interpretation?) From the Guardian... (The teacher in the cartoon is our Education Minister)

    [​IMG]
     
  6. VulchR macrumors 68020

    VulchR

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    #6
    When I was taught history in secondary school in the US, it was by veterans who had experienced some of the conflicts that we focused on. However, there was a lot of content missing (e..g., ethical dilemmas in WWII like the British annihilation of the Vichy French fleet), and a great deal of boring content (land purchase agreements) that have very little to do with being a good citizen. We received no training whatsoever in actually doing history, such as examining archives or artefacts. Mind you, my kids' education is even worse - in the UK they learn mostly about WWI and little about WWII (like the myth that Czechoslovakia was helpless so that the Allies were ethically correct to abandon the country).

    Even in Scotland, there is very little teaching about the history of local conflict and the relationship with England and the UK. The end result of this neglect to teach history was inevitable: Scotland votes this fall on independence.

    One more thing - I put very little stock on formal training in education, because frankly most educational research is utter nonsense. If we ran medical trials like most educational trials, people would be dropping like flies from illness and side effects of medication. This is ironic, since education is one of the variables that is closely associated with longer life expectancy.....
     
  7. malman89 macrumors 68000

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    Michigan
    #7
    I'm fairly young the forums, so my view as a 2007 graduate of a Catholic college prep high school -

    Our school had one (football) coach (JV head coach/Varsity OC) who taught history - US History and AP US History. His class was rather boring - his lectures were pretty much paragraph by paragraph of the book. Then again, AP US History is a joke. I don't know anyone who didn't score a 4 or 5 on that test.

    I had one amazing history teacher in high school that was despised by many due to his fairly high standards and lecture style. He would always reference supplemental books and materials in his lectures that weren't fully (or sometimes ever) covered in our textbooks, so great notes were crucial. I was lucky enough to have him for AP European History, Holocaust Studies (his own creation), and AP US Politics/Gov. He had a large influence on me taking history courses in college.

    I do think that's unfortunately the case for many history classes through 100-level college courses, which is really as far as most people study any history. It's either the 300-level courses or the rare motivated professor who presents an alternative way to learn and teach history.
     
  8. Sydde macrumors 68020

    Sydde

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    #8
    That guy is a right piece of work

    (parody, no doubt)

    We had a vice-president a couple decades ago who was at least as scary, he had a family values debate with Ms. Murphy Brown, a fictional character (rather analogous to reviling Capt. Blackadder).
     
  9. sviato macrumors 68020

    sviato

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    #9
    I've never been a fan of studying history, I mean what applicable skills can you learn? I took a history course in university and found it to be pretty useless. It's all information, and now that information is readily available online such that if I'm interested in learning about something I can just look it up.
     
  10. jnpy!$4g3cwk thread starter macrumors 65816

    jnpy!$4g3cwk

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    #10
    Irony is difficult to convey online.
     
  11. Scepticalscribe Contributor

    Scepticalscribe

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    #11
    Well, once upon a time, I used to be a teacher of history. Before that, I was a student of history.

    Apart from the basic narrative (the old "who, what, where, when" questions) history also attempts address the more contentious "how and why" questions, when looking at the past.

    Okay, I loved history. I loved researching it, writing about it, and teaching it.

    However, quite apart from learning about the past, I know of few better subjects to study for teaching someone the skills and tools of critical analysis and essay writing; you learn to research, assess sources, interrogate sources, weigh competing claims in competing sources, prioritise information and analyse data in the hope of coming up with some sort of credible explanation for why something has happened, and how this may continue to influence outcomes. At its best, the study of history teaches you to use facts, material and sources to make an argument, or present a case, a skill that most employers would most certainly value.
     
  12. Sydde macrumors 68020

    Sydde

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    #12
    Actual history study is a form of sociology. To understand the material, you have to explore influences, motivations, causes, outcomes and the vectors that the historical events project into the present. The applicable skills pertain, at least in part, to trend analysis and the ability to see similar situations developing now and in the near future, perhaps to avert undesirable things from taking hold now. History taught as a tome of facts is indeed not especially useful, it needs to be a matter of exploration, which some simply do not find interesting. If you cannot connect the pieces together, you will fail to learn from history, which, well, you know the rest.
     
  13. Eraserhead macrumors G4

    Eraserhead

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    #13
    I didn't understand there was any controversy about the idea that the First World War was pretty morally dubious until Michael Gove said otherwise. It just seemed so obvious...
     

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