How Should We Teach History?

I’m not a history teacher!  However, I’m a citizen of the United States and I care about what our kids learn because I get that they are our future.

The other day I heard about those kids in Colorado who were practicing their version of free speech in walking out of classes so they could protest their school board deciding to change their curriculum when it came to History.

Now it isn’t shocking to imagine teenagers wanting to protest something so that wasn’t the part of the story that bothered me.  What did bother me was why they were protesting. Was it possible that the people on their school board were using their own political ideology to influence how students were taught?

I know, what kind of idiot am I to be surprised by that kind of thing!!!

The point is I wondered and that made me explore it a little and while I’m not a genius, at least I kicked the idea around a bit so if anyone wants my information here goes:

While it is absolutely true that one of the board members brought up the idea of changing the school’s history “framework”. It’s also true that this wouldn’t be the first school considering such a move.

So why would schools want to change the way history is taught?

Would you believe some historian’s think we are teaching history all wrong?

In other posts I’ve talked about Common Core.  The idea has been that teachers can teach what they want…they just have to teach some common threads.   Right?  Well, the bad news about that great plan is that tests are modeled on what teachers are supposed to teach according to the Common Core framework.  Teachers wind up feeling compelled to teach to the test.

Now let’s get back to Colorado.  The conversation there developed  out of a concern that students were learning a history of America as part of a larger whole.  America from a  global perspective isn’t the same as learning about America as a list of facts and dates that define the country and it’s “exceptionalism”.

In short, you can teach kids to be “nationalists” or you can teach them both the negative aspects and the positive aspects of their shared history.

Conservatives probably want to teach children to love their country!  And I would imagine they’d have no shame in doing such a thing.  Children should feel proud to be American citizens.  I am 100% behind that idea.

But what if students are being cheated by not getting to work with the genuine facts?  What if they are missing out on learning about connections to the larger world?

The question for school boards wrestling with this is, “Are we teaching children what we think will make them good citizens?”

Or “Are we teaching them leftist liberal ideas that will corrupt their brains?”  ( Okay, maybe that isn’t exactly what the school board members were thinking but I’m betting it’s close!)

My takeaway question is are we teaching students enough to simply pass a test?  If that is our goal great, but um,  who is designing the tests?

Remember, we are teaching these kids and then we are sending them to college where they will be coming face to face with students who have learned a “different” history.  They’ll all pretty much be using the same math, and the same English….but their histories will be markedly different.

What do you think?  Maybe we should toss history in the elementary grades entirely and replace it with civics classes.  Maybe there is too much sociology built into teaching history in the early grades!  Won’t it be too darn complicated to explain to children what was good about historical decisions as well as what was bad about them?

I don’t have the answers.  I’m just thinking about them which reminds me of something I picked up in an early English class from Hamlet, ” nothing is either good or bad, only thinking makes it so”.



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