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Teaching History

As I have begun reading for my teacher-credentialing program, I came across an interesting line about standards teaching in Social Science:

“The proposed first set of National History standards engendered a fierce national controversy, with critics concerned about what they regarded as an anti-Eurocentric bias and an emphasis on negative aspects of U.S. History.  These history standards were denounced by the Senate, and President Clinton’s administration did not defend them.” (June R. Chapin, “A Practical Guide to Secondary Social Studies, 6)

It made me think about how I want to teach history.  Do I want to emphasize the negative aspects of US history?  I tend to be a bit of a cynic when it comes to US history.  While some people see manifest destiny, I see plotting politicians searching for more power and more land.  While they might have had America’s best interests at heart, I still doubt the sincerity of calling America some sort of Winthropian “city on a hill.”  I think it is this type of thinking that has lead to the hawks believing they have to take America to the world—as if everywhere democracy should be the only system. 

Then I wonder if students will even care.  I wonder if students even care enough about the history of America.  I wonder if I am not just going to waste my life teaching something that people don’t care about.  

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4 thoughts on “Teaching History

  1. You probably know this already — but I think you just have to find a balance. I don’t think either view is all good or all bad.

    My brother majored in history and is credentialed as a social science teacher — but the job he finally found is basically in teaching personal finance/living in the real world skills! Oh, and he’s teaching keyboarding now, too.

    Where is your credential program?

  2. I guess teaching History is like teaching anything: if you can’t find a way to connect the subject matter to the students’ lives, they won’t care.

    I’d slightly challenge the concept of balance. Balance implies the settlement of an issue; tension is dynamic. Maybe it’s just me, but as a teenager, I was drawn to paradoxes, so with your American History example, you’ve got the paradox of an American ideal versus the lived experience of real people. “Both/and” kind of thing, maybe.

    Good luck with it. History is exciting, but historians are often boring. Keep it fresh and it’ll teach itself.

  3. we live in such an ahistorical time
    our culture is obsessed with the present
    and truly our world is changing so fast

    one of the many problems with moving away from a eurocentric view of american history is that non-europeans tended not to be literate and not to leave many written records; you’re left with hazy archaeological data and suspect oral histories.

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