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Teaching history

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boswellbaxter
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Teaching history

Post by boswellbaxter » Mon September 15th, 2008, 1:45 pm

The thread about US-set historical fiction, and some discussions I've seen on other forums, makes me curious, how is history taught to schoolchildren where you live? When I was growing up, we pretty much focused on the colonization of America, the American Revolution, and the American Civil War, with maybe a brief excursion into World War II. I can't even remember what was taught in my World History class in high school. (Granted, it was a while back.)

The classes tended to focus on dates and events, with very little emphasis on the personalities of the people involved. It was a thoroughly boring experience.

It wasn't until I began reading Shakespeare's history plays that I truly realized that history could be fascinating and that there were flesh-and-blood people behind all of these events.
Susan Higginbotham
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Misfit
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Post by Misfit » Mon September 15th, 2008, 1:55 pm

I have the same memories as you. I also seem to recall (those 70's were a looooong time ago :o ) that we always seemed to start with sqaure one at the beginning of each school year and never finished all of it and then back to square one the following year. I don't think we ever got much into WWII at all, let alone the Korean War or Vietnam (but then we were living that weren't we?)

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Post by Ash » Mon September 15th, 2008, 2:01 pm

Ditto here, but I was fortunate in a couple of teachers. My Social Studies teacher in jr hi was fantastic, integrating history with geography and current events. Her class is probably responsible for my love of world history. Another teacher in HS made history come alive for us, and made it relevant to us. Unfortunately I know that these two were exceptions rather than rules, and now that we test our kids 24/7 in the basics, I suspect that history is taught even less than when I was a kid.

And yeah, we were living Vietnam. Which means that kids today should be learning about it, but if they stop at WWII they are sunk.

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Rowan
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Post by Rowan » Mon September 15th, 2008, 3:01 pm

The first response that came to my fingertips to type was that teachers don't want to make school interesting. In any subject, let alone history, but then I realise it's not just them. They have to teach within certain guidelines and making things interesting is not the top priority of any school board or other governing body of schools around the country. Hell, after reading an article this morning on Yahoo about how educationally unprepared students are when they get to college, it seems no one really wants our kids to learn. Yet we consider ourselves to be the greatest nation in the world.

I think I came along long enough after both the Korean War and the Vietnam War for it to be taught at the very least in college (early 90s) but neither were. I have no clue about anything involving the Korean War and only a smidgen about what happened in Vietnam. One of the bits I know about Vietnam is that those guys were tiny because I saw an episode of History Underground (or whatever the name of the programme is on the History Channel) and the guy went to Vietnam and went down into the places the Vietcong (sp?) were running their operations from. The host is not a huge guy. He's average size and it was a tight squeeze for him to get through the holes that the Vietnamese did.

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Misfit
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Post by Misfit » Mon September 15th, 2008, 3:27 pm

I can only recall one teacher who really inspired me to work at my homework and that was a lit teacher. Come to speak of the Korean War, I'm thinking that all I really know about it is from watching episodes of M.A.S.H. A sad thought, isn't it?

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Rowan
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Post by Rowan » Mon September 15th, 2008, 4:24 pm

Few times I've watched M.A.S.H. I didn't learn anything, so you're one step ahead of me. :p

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Misfit
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Post by Misfit » Mon September 15th, 2008, 4:34 pm

Nah, I didn't learn much either except that there was a war in Korea :p :eek:

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Post by chuck » Mon September 15th, 2008, 4:55 pm

I was lucky enough to have a history teacher that made us read a NF or HF book and then do a book report on a character that we were interested in....Hence I learned a bit more of the real Miles Standish, John Smith, Robert Rogers, Benedict Arnold, Molly Pritchard. Sara Barton, and on and on....Then College History really opened the door into new interests in the Middle Ages, the Crusades, etc.....and today, most times my HF adventures...Makes history come alive......

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boswellbaxter
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Post by boswellbaxter » Mon September 15th, 2008, 4:56 pm

I'm curious to know whether members from the UK and elsewhere have had similar experiences as to the teaching of their own country's history.
Susan Higginbotham
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Post by donroc » Mon September 15th, 2008, 5:02 pm

I taught U.S. and Advanced Placement European History for 23 years plus some english and Creative Writing, and an independent history research course in high school. I also was Dept, Chair for 15 years and had to deal with the incompetents and lazys I mentioned on the other thread.

I would say, and it is the same in any profession or skills (physician and auto mechanic), that about 20% of the teachers were great and inspirational, about 30% were harmful, and the rest did no damage without inspiring.

We could not fire the worst in Los Angles City Schools. With 50 high schols at best it was a game of musical chairs.

One veteran teacher, also a coach, told his class that Queen Victoria was the perfect example of an absolute monarch and was surprised when a student told him the French helped us win at Yorktown.

By way of contrast, the principal at my first school hired those who had success and experience in their fields outside the classroom. The head of Social Studies had been in the FBI, the head of Girl's PE had danced with Martha Graham, the German teacher was German and a von from an anti-Nazi family, the French teacher was French, and Spanish was the first language of the Spanish Teacher. I was hired for English and Creative Writing because I had won literary prizes.

The principal was unique as well. He had been an all-American end in college and had a masters in English from a respected Jesuit university.

My own high school, Lowell in San Francisco, has been one of the best in the country, the oldest public high school west of the Mississippi, and with an all academic program--no shops or home ec courses. We had a choice of Latin or Greek in the 9th grade as well as contemporary languages. Today, Manardin and eight other AP course languages are taught there.

Great schools exist in the USA and hire the best instructors. You have to look carefully for them.
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