Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Calm Down

American teenagers have never known their history.

Has it ever occured to anyone that one of the reasons young people struggle with history is that it is hard? It takes a lot of repetitive work to keep track of even the most basic narrative lines of American history, not to mention World History or Western Civ or anything else.

For me, gaining a comfort level in history came in fits and starts. I would pick up on something I found interesting--like D-Day or Pearl Harbor or the Emancipation Proclamation--and then I would build out from those events. Eventually these dots of knowledge began to connect, but it took a long time, and I'm still working at it and always will be.

Any thoughts?


greg said...

Thanks for posting this Tom, Wineburg is exactly right. He has a very good book out on the subject called "Historical Thinking and Other Unnatural Acts: Charting the Future of Teaching the Past." (http://www.temple.edu/tempress/titles/1518_reg.html)

Stephen said...

I worry about our youth-oriented culture, where we actually have to listen to young people and pretend that what they say matters.

Mark said...

Maybe I shouldn't be commenting on this right now, seeing as how I've just come from teaching my discussions. Standing in front of empty, glassy eyes for two hours does not lend itself to inspiration regarding students' knowledge of history. But I do want to note that Wineburg's big problem seems to with the standardized tests, not with the lack of knowledge. Obviously, standardized tests are far from the best measure of historical knowledge, but it doesn't seem like they're that far off the mark, whether in 1917, 1976, or 2006.

But like I said, those comments may be coloured by my mood.

(On a side note, we used Wineburg's book in our TA development class last year, and it does have some interesting things to say on this topic.)