Tuesday, June 17, 2014
I Dodged the Question
post by William Chamberlain who reflected on a students's question "Why do I have to learn history?" This is an important question and needs to be addressed, not dodged like I did in responding to the question as if it were "How should history be taught"? I will try again. All of us have to learn history because we live history. Each day our historical trail lengthens. That trail, that history, shapes us (and has already shaped us). I think it is important to understand how that happens (and what happened and how it happened). That, I think, is why we should learn history. But to learn that history we must reflect, ask questions, gather data, seek answers, increase our awareness to what is happening so that the questions will be more easily addressed in the future. We need to know history in order to affect the future (if we can). If we understand our ongoing history, it is possible we can shape the future history, that is our history after tomorrow (or any time frame you want to set). That is why we need to learn history. And we can substitute almost anything for our selves in this process of reflecting, asking questions, gathering data, seeking answers, and changing the future. But this probably does not really address the question asked by the fifth or sixth grader. My guess is that he really meant why do I have to learn the history you have (or the textbook has) chosen for me to study? A good question. I think we should think very hard about how to provide our students with more choice in the histories they choose to study. We should emphasize that what needs to be learned is how to effectively use the tools listed above (reflecting, asking questions, gathering data, etc.) which we use to study history. Schools instead seek a specific answer to a specific question and call that history.