'Why Do We Have To Study History?' - Part II - Blog! - Two-Fisted History


'Why Do We Have To Study History?' - Part II

'. . .But Mr. S, History is booooooooring!'

I never knew why so many people thought of History as ‘boring.’  My best guess is that, with the way that most state curriculums are set up, History is just one long series of causes and effects with a bunch of names and dates tossed in.  History is so much more than that, though.

History is the story of all of us.  It’s the story of humanity.  Tragedy, drama, comedy, war, love, friendship, hatred, lust.  Everything that you experience in your life or watch on your favourite television program has already been done before.

Unfortunately, with the way that History is generally taught, teachers are not able to provide the story – just the cliff notes.  When I was doing my student teaching, my Cooperating Teacher explained to me that teaching Social Studies in high school is like being the engineer onThis blasé and disinterested student is obviously unfamiliar with Two-Fisted History. a train.  You have a start point and an end point, and you have to get your class to the destination at a predetermined point (usually early or mid-May so that the students have more than enough time to review for the Final) .   The students may ‘look outside the windows’ and get a broad look at the scenery, but they only get to see it as it’s whizzing by.  It usually is not the teachers' fault, mind you.  They're just following the curriculum and standards established by the State and Federal Education Departments.

I never believed History should be taught this way, though.  I’ve always believed that History is best treated as a Sunday jaunt through the country.   You drive along and when you find something interesting, you pull over and go check it out.  That’s the only way to truly look at History.  Without it, you may learn about the Industrial Revolution or the Silk Road and why they were important in the Big Picture, but you don’t get to explore it.  Did everyone welcome the rise of factories and urban life?  What about the Dutch workers who would throw their shoes into the factory machinery because they were afraid they’d lose their jobs?  Take a deeper look at History, and whole new worlds open up to you.

I understand that not everyone finds the idea of charging through a handful of history books to get a clearer picture of a topic as appealing as I do, but there are a couple things students can do:

  • Put yourself in their place.  The people you’re reading and studying about are real people – just like you!  Everything that you feel and do; all the themes that make up your life – cheering for your team at the big game, getting friend-zoned, working a crummy job – it’s all been done before.  Get in the heads of the people you’re studying and think about what you would do in their place.  How would your thinking be different if you had grown up in their society?
  • Read primary sources.  Things like journals and diaries, newspaper articles, letters.  These are History’s daytime and primetime dramas.  Primary sources provide the modern reader with unfiltered and uncensored views and opinions from the people actually living the events.  How did Jacques d’Schmo feel after witnessing Louis XVI’s head being cut off?
  • Find something that excites you.  There are so many neat things in History since History spans the entirety of human existence.  Like sports?  Look at the thousands of sports developed over the last 6,000 year – from baseball to hurling to Buzkashi to jousting to Tlachtli.  Clothes?  With thousands of cultures and fashions constantly changing, something should spark an interest.  Maybe something you hadn’t even thought of, like airships or music or buildings might spark an interest.  That spark might be the first introduction to a new culture or time period that you really start to develop an interest in.

A little change in how you look at History might totally change how exciting and interesting you start to think it really is.

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Tags : Education History SocialStudies

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