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History will teach us nothing!
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Goofy Beast
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Picture of Thirith & His Enormous Tibia
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Yeah, yeah, yeah... Shut up, Mr Sumner.

Anyway, I just found this article on the BBC website about a new report on the teaching of history.

History, and the teaching of it, is a topic that's close to my heart. I always get frustrated when talking to people who say that "history sucks, man!" because they had a bad teacher (or, perhaps more likely, a teacher frustrated by curricula designed by administrators and influenced by politicians, with little understanding of the subject). As a pretentious pinko wannabe neo-Marxist I think it's essential that pupils have an understanding of history, but I have issues both with an approach that is about the Greatest Hits, with no notion of how these connect or how they relate to the present, as with an all-breadth, no-depth, let's cover thousands of years in a few dozen lessons.

In my ideal world, history would be taught much more extensively than it is now. There'd be lots of time for discussions, looking at sources, listening to different views, showing that history is made up of histories etc. In the real world I know that's not different, so I've been wondering: what would I want to teach and what would I be willing to give up? Right now I'm thinking whether starting in earnest with 19th century imperialism (and a quick survey of what came before) and a focus on how the 20th century shaped the present day might be better than trying to cover everything and going back to Queen Boudica at the expense of depth and understanding (well, as much as is feasible). Ask me again in five minutes and you'll probably get a completely different answer.

So, if you had a say in it, what should be taught in history classes?


P.S.: Gratuitous posting of Horrible Histories clips is obviously encouraged.


__________
We scraped along like rats, but now we will soar like eagles... eagles on pogo sticks!
 
Posts: 10887 | Location: Switzerland | Registered: September 05, 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
is imperfectly illuminated
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The major thing that needs to be taught is the status, rights and daily experience of the 'common man'.

Talk about health, life expectancy, rights, status, criminality and so on. Thinking that in my great-great-grandparents lifetime slavery still existed on a mass scale, that in my great-grandparents lifetime there was nothing we would recognise as a medical system, that in my grandparents lifetimes women didn't have the vote, that in my parents lifetime being gay was illegal in the UK, and that in my lifetime apartheid still existed.

This context, not that of "my country beat yours up", or "this king was a 'good' king", is what I would want people to understand as being their context. I don't oppose learnig about battles and so forth, but just I want everyone to know the basic state of people like them over the past 200 years.


---------------
*is currently impressed*
 
Posts: 8147 | Location: London, England | Registered: July 25, 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
mutant hedgehog worm
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Thirith have you seen Crash Course World History on youtube?

I found them entertaining and a brief dip into the history of the world over 40 15min episodes.

I never took history but independently studied ancient history (oh wait i did take classics). But yeah I didn't get into the recentish stuff until i travelled to those places etc.
 
Posts: 9896 | Location: The heart of gold | Registered: July 30, 2003Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Dane Cook's Final Horcrux
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I think one of the important things to teach, which is taught in the UK at least, is how to *do* history. The UK education system is based on people who are going to University, so the history curriculum is less about learning the history of the country (a lot of it isn't British) and more about learning how to study it.

So you analyse sources, learn to spot bias and the difference between someone who was there and someone writing 100 years later and so on. A lot of the questions are things like "Why does X think [one side or the other] were in the right?" or "Which sources is more reliable". Obviously this is also usefully transferable as a skill!

There's obviously an attempt to cover a range of topics - when I was at school we did everything from the Ancient Egyptians to Frederick the Great, to the Second World War, and included a mixture of political and social history depending on the topic at hand.



____________________________________________________
I'm thinking that a lot of my internal conflict and malaise comes from the tension between the life I ACTUALLY want to live, and the stories I'd love to be able to tell? - T-Rex, qwantz.com
 
Posts: 20852 | Registered: November 11, 2006Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Administrator/Colporteur
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quote:
Originally posted by Domitella:
I think one of the important things to teach, which is taught in the UK at least, is how to *do* history. The UK education system is based on people who are going to University, so the history curriculum is less about learning the history of the country (a lot of it isn't British) and more about learning how to study it.

So you analyse sources, learn to spot bias and the difference between someone who was there and someone writing 100 years later and so on. A lot of the questions are things like "Why does X think [one side or the other] were in the right?" or "Which sources is more reliable". Obviously this is also usefully transferable as a skill!

There's obviously an attempt to cover a range of topics - when I was at school we did everything from the Ancient Egyptians to Frederick the Great, to the Second World War, and included a mixture of political and social history depending on the topic at hand.

This, and what Murphy said - learn how to learn history, and learn the context of history. The events themselves will come on fairly quickly after that.


__________
AJGraeme
"Why are there ghosts in the kitchen punching each other in the balls?" - Aidan, "Being Human"
"Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried."
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Posts: 48716 | Location: Concord, NH, USA | Registered: July 20, 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Great wyrm of Toronto
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I think that history should be taught in a way that is relatable to the student and the society which they come from. This can be done by showing parallels, preceding ideas, and an examination of how someone might have lived during those times.

So I agree with Murphy and I also agree with Domitella in that students should also be taught to question sources, look at how the writing of something makes it more accessible, or more limited to a specialized audience, and so. I would definitely tackle history in a very interdisciplinary fashion if I had to.

But mainly, keeping the humanity in it is the most paramount thing. Facts, dates, places, and famous people all come second to this.


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Posts: 6059 | Location: Canada | Registered: July 11, 2004Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Dane Cook's Final Horcrux
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I disagree that teaching social history should be the paramount thing. You cannot, at least not properly, teach social history without knowing the political and economic history which affects it. People often talk about the division between social and political history as if what's happening in the latest war with France or whatever had no real effect on people, but it really does. Look at the Corn Laws for example. If you just teach that bread was super expensive and then it wasn't, you're missing Very Important Things. Also you miss why Peel was the most awesome and why the Duke of Wellington was the least awesome.

Political history is also incredibly important to understand the state of the world today. For example if you want people to understand why we have a European Union, or why Africa has so many suspiciously straight borders.

It should be a real and even mix of the study-skills of history (which takes care of itself as it's in the way you teach everything else), the political and economic, AND the social history.

My teachers managed to do this very well, which is possibly why I went on to do a History degree. When we did the Normans (our first history topic in secondary school), we looked at the relationship between England and France, 1066 and all that, what different tactics everyone used, and what it meant for most of the people actually living there when some French guy comes along and starts building a castle next door.

You can't teach history starting with the social history, because otherwise you'd have no idea what was going on or why anything was happening. And I'm speaking as someone who's specialism, such as it is, is in social history.

There is also always ALWAYS the danger when you want to look at 'normal people' that there's this really irritating idea that, and I've heard people say these words so many times "people in the past were either very rich or very poor". Bollocks. The idea that the middle-classes only sprang into being in the Industrial Revolution is bollocks. So what people mean when they talk about the 'common man' is so often either a misunderstanding that there were only lords and peasants (so only looking at peasants and ignoring everyone else), or such a huge variety of people at such various positions economically and socially that it's impossible to study at school. You get a lot of this. "The peasants couldn't read or write!" The kings couldn't read or write, until relatively late. You need to look at society as a whole, rather than picking your favourite strata, or you get a distorted picture.



____________________________________________________
I'm thinking that a lot of my internal conflict and malaise comes from the tension between the life I ACTUALLY want to live, and the stories I'd love to be able to tell? - T-Rex, qwantz.com
 
Posts: 20852 | Registered: November 11, 2006Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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quote:
Originally posted by Thirith & His Enormous Tibia:

So, if you had a say in it, what should be taught in history classes?


History of science. Other things were happening while Darwin, Newton, Einstein were alive, there were wars and scandals of course, but evolution, mechanics, and relativity are real milestones in the progress of humanity. The rest shrinks to trivia.

Ideas, like humans rights or the Pythagorean theorem, and mankind's fumbling attempts to figure things out: malaria, stars, longitude, that's the real story.

So, I want history taught as Neal Stephenson writes it in The Baroque Cycle. :\
 
Posts: 2627 | Location: Manila | Registered: October 15, 2002Reply With QuoteReport This Post
waggish jackanape
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I think history was probably the worst taught subject in my schools (which were pretty decent for public schools). In primary education, we seemed to spend insane amounts of time learning the different explorers. I still know where Balboa went. Thanks for that. I wonder if they focused so much on that stuff because it's easy to teach, and, ironically, relatively uncontroversial at the time. I think they also may have timed it so that we got Pilgrims at Thanksgiving. So that meant we got a week or so in September about Aztecs and such, then two months of explorers, then a month or so of colonial times, leading to, probably in January, the Revolutionary War. It always felt padded to me.

We didn't even talk about sources until high school, and even then, that just meant using two textbooks instead of one. Most of what we learned pretty watered-down, so as not to introduce controversy. It made everything extremely boring, and, in its own stepford way, pretty inaccurate.


A little aside here, awhile back I was playing a trivia game with a few friends. I forget what it was called, but it was all about giving and betting on estimates of things. And one of the questions was what year the Boston Tea Party was. I was the only person playing who put it in the right century. (I did get it wrong, though.)

Now, I'm not big on memorizing lots of dates, but maaaaaaaaaaan. That's a little scary.


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Posts: 6919 | Location: Chicago | Registered: October 24, 2004Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Vampiric Scottie-bat trainer

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quote:
Originally posted by Royko:
A little aside here, awhile back I was playing a trivia game with a few friends. I forget what it was called, but it was all about giving and betting on estimates of things.


Wits & Wagers?
 
Posts: 8222 | Location: Bärlin | Registered: October 28, 2005Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Dane Cook's Final Horcrux
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To anyone who would find it interesting History Lessons looks at how US history is portrayed and taught in schools around the world.
It basically paraphrases large parts of textbooks from the various countries (taking each period of history in order and examining one country at a time), and as well as obviously providing some interesting insight into how some states view America, it also shows the ways history is taught and what's included or not. They make special mention of the British ones using lots of extracts from letters and diaries! It also doesn't take the line I was afraid of, of wailing at how MEAN everyone is about America.



____________________________________________________
I'm thinking that a lot of my internal conflict and malaise comes from the tension between the life I ACTUALLY want to live, and the stories I'd love to be able to tell? - T-Rex, qwantz.com
 
Posts: 20852 | Registered: November 11, 2006Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Melittosphex sapiens
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I don't think you can teach history effectively unless you also teach political geography effectively, too.


***********************
"bring on the be-tentacled oppressors" - fluffyllama
 
Posts: 15845 | Registered: April 12, 2006Reply With QuoteReport This Post
is imperfectly illuminated
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quote:
Originally posted by Domitella:
I disagree that teaching social history should be the paramount thing. You cannot, at least not properly, teach social history without knowing the political and economic history which affects it. People often talk about the division between social and political history as if what's happening in the latest war with France or whatever had no real effect on people, but it really does. Look at the Corn Laws for example. If you just teach that bread was super expensive and then it wasn't, you're missing Very Important Things. Also you miss why Peel was the most awesome and why the Duke of Wellington was the least awesome

...

There is also always ALWAYS the danger when you want to look at 'normal people' that there's this really irritating idea that, and I've heard people say these words so many times "people in the past were either very rich or very poor". Bollocks. The idea that the middle-classes only sprang into being in the Industrial Revolution is bollocks. So what people mean when they talk about the 'common man' is so often either a misunderstanding that there were only lords and peasants (so only looking at peasants and ignoring everyone else), or such a huge variety of people at such various positions economically and socially that it's impossible to study at school. You get a lot of this. "The peasants couldn't read or write!" The kings couldn't read or write, until relatively late. You need to look at society as a whole, rather than picking your favourite strata, or you get a distorted picture.

You seem to think that I think they should only teach social history. Quite the contrary. Why I put Common Man in quotes was because I know it's a kind of false concept.

But I'm talking about a change in emphasis. I spent plenty of time learning about the charges and battles and kings and queens. And that's ok to a point. But instead of finding out about what the right wing of the Army did at Eddington, I would prefer to have it taught that as the war pushed north and south it caused a crop failure, meaning ... blah blah etc.

Or what the industrial wars of the 20th century did.

I was never suggesting you remove social history from it's context, just that my experience of history was more kings and battles and knowing little about the unwashed masses.

I just think that learning about 'people like us' - a broader based look at society - is much more important than the precise role of the archers at Crecy.


---------------
*is currently impressed*
 
Posts: 8147 | Location: London, England | Registered: July 25, 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Goofy Beast
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I have to say, Murphy, your ideas sound like they're pretty close to the history teaching we had at grammar school (one of the reasons why I later did a degree in Modern History). Perhaps that's also easier to do in a small(ish) country that didn't play a major part in world history.

It's probably changed in recent years, mostly because that approach to teaching/learning history requires time but curricula have reduced the number of lessons going towards history courses. Frown


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We scraped along like rats, but now we will soar like eagles... eagles on pogo sticks!
 
Posts: 10887 | Location: Switzerland | Registered: September 05, 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Dane Cook's Final Horcrux
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What Murph's suggesting is also pretty much what I did at school too! I think we got a nice balance, I don't know whether that was the national curriculum changing in the (fairly few) years between us, or just how our respective teachers used their wiggle-room.



____________________________________________________
I'm thinking that a lot of my internal conflict and malaise comes from the tension between the life I ACTUALLY want to live, and the stories I'd love to be able to tell? - T-Rex, qwantz.com
 
Posts: 20852 | Registered: November 11, 2006Reply With QuoteReport This Post
waggish jackanape
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quote:
Originally posted by Ceridwen:
quote:
Originally posted by Royko:
A little aside here, awhile back I was playing a trivia game with a few friends. I forget what it was called, but it was all about giving and betting on estimates of things.


Wits & Wagers?


That's it! Fun game!


---------------------------------------------------------------
So fluffy you could die.
(blog)
 
Posts: 6919 | Location: Chicago | Registered: October 24, 2004Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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