As I have though more about teaching history in the California school system, I have begun to see more fundamental problems that plague the system. Namely: We treat students like they are too stupid to study history like historians.
When one studies history at the collegiate level or anything beyond the collegiate level, professors rarely use textbooks. I came across another interesting quote in A Practical Guide to Secondary Social Studies:
States with large populations, such as California, Texas, and New York, influence the entire nation’s curriculum because of the role of textbook marketing. National publishers want as wide an audience as possible for their textbooks, and a prime consideration is the curriculum frameworks of the larger states. The process of designing and publishing textbooks is more expensive each year, partly due to the increasing amount of supplementary materials ranging from technology to student tests and workbooks that teachers now want with a textbook… Textbooks are a major determinant of what content is taught at each grade level. We have, in some sense, many of the same curriculum titles that we started with decades ago. Some observers have called the social studies curriculum a ‘frozen curriculum’ that is not adapting and claim that ata the present rate of change, the landscape will not change much in the near future.
I am of the somewhat extreme opinion that textbooks should be done away with and students should read bits and pieces of various literature from the time periods they are studying. If they are studying the American Revolution, they should read from those who were the revolutionaries. If students are studying the Vietnam War, who better to read than the first hand accounts of the soldiers who experienced it. For the greater narrative, the teacher should choose from experts in the field who have written age appropriate material, and have students read the information from the experts.
I am of the somewhat extreme opinion that with the money saved on textbooks, teachers could invest in technology like web pages to create an environment can read the majority of what they need to read online. High school teachers are foolish not to use the wealth of primary sources already on the internet.
I am of the somewhat extreme opinion that if teachers challenge their students to read higher level information at the high school level, students will begin to work harder because they know their teachers expect more.
I hope that I am not proved wrong by my youth.