Just Plain Foolish

Just a chance for an old-fashioned, simple storyteller to say what needs to be said.

Friday, July 28, 2006

The past

How do we look at the past? This is an important topic right now, as everyone seeks to line up history on their side. "Mom, he started it!" "Did not! Mom, she got on my side!"

Do we have to pull this planet over?

The really dangerous thing about history is that everyone picks the facts that they look at to tell the story. My great granddaddy was a man of the earth, a farmer who never would have stood for some of the ideas you see today. What kind of man does this sentence draw to mind? What if I change it to: My great granddaddy was a warm and compassionate man who reminded his children through his every action that economic justice was important. Changes the perception, doesn't it? Both sentences are absolutely true. It was her father that gave my granny the confidence to walk, against police advice, into an economically disadvantaged community during a labor dispute and get the story. When the "reporter lady" showed up, she was warmly welcomed and didn't have a bit of trouble, though she said that the police did their best to frighten her.

http://www.teachthefacts.org/2006/07/re-defining-and-re-writing-history-in.html has a story about how the teaching of history is being restricted by legislators. Just the facts, ma'am, is not a viable way to learn or teach history - who brought out these facts? How reliable are they and what is their bias? Do we accept wholesale one source or another? And to whose benefit did this system work?


Blogger Little Black Car said...

I have a history BA and am often asked why I don't teach. Reason #1 is that constant human contact drives me insane. Reason #2 is that there is no way I could teach it to my own satisfaction. On the one hand, the school boards wouldn't let me (our district is very narrow-minded about its history curriculum--still of the Dead White Men mindset). On the other, history is so complex that the only way I would be able to teach it would be to teach students HOW to learn it, not the facts themselves, and that would never fly in the era of Teach to the Test mentality.

Everything comes together in history--literature, art, politics, architecture, fashion, science, religion, everything. The best way to teach it is to have a coordinated effort among departments, which is almost impossible to achieve in today's public schools. Failing that, kids need to be taught research methods and to look beyond just the Dewey Decimal 4.10 900 to find out the real story, and try accomplishing that when SAT's are coming and administrators want rote names and dates.

(I suddenly have this image of Paul Revere riding at breakneck speed across the schoolyard yelling, "The SAT's are coming! The SAT's are coming!")

In a lot of ways, I'd be a great history teacher since I'm also interested in all those other things, and I love seeing how things affect one another, but I don't know where I could go that I'd be cut loose to teach is as I think it needs to be taught.


7/30/2006 1:29 PM  
Blogger Plain Foolish said...

I, too, was a history major, and even studied the history of the Middle East (don't get me started on how lousy and imprecise that term is.) It's amazing how many people have been turned off from history by the way we teach it, yet there is no freedom to teach it other ways. Meh.

7/31/2006 8:09 PM  

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