On 10/27/10, veteran history teacher wrote:
> On 10/25/10, Cathy wrote:
>> I teach 7th/8th grade history. I would like to teach a
>> quick one week unit on why we study history. I have a few
>> ideas, but wondering if anyone has a great lesson they do
>> for this. Thanks.
> I do but - the answer to it is surprising.
> Winston Churchill said we study history to avoid the mistakes
> of the past. "He who forgets the past is doomed to repeat
> it." was really what he said and history teachers have used
> that for years to justify the study of history (although
> that's not what Churchill was talking about at all really)
> So I have the kids write down three things in world history -
> or US history - that they think should never have happened.
> (natural disasters don't count and the war in Iraq is off-
> limits, sorry) I tell them they can take three things out of
> history - what three things will they be?
> NO conferring with neighbors- just this once. No discussion -
> just this once.
> So they do but usually they press me for 'what do you mean -
> a mistake?' Then I say - something that happened from which
> NO good came.
> This list should be three things in human history from which
> NOTHING positive came.
> Now they're really thinking...
> And then when done, I say let's see if we're in consensus on
> anything. Surprisingly, we're mostly not. Some kids will
> write down the Holocaust - who wouldn't? - but some protest
> saying it gave rise to the state of Israel and they see that
> as good (very touchy subject there)
> What I'd like is if an entire class could come to consensus
> on just one thing being a mistake - in that it should not
> have happened. One year the only thing the kids could agree
> on as being purely bad with NO positive outcome was the
> invention of the spray can. ( I'm tempted to agree with that
> but then we had a kid whose dad was s surgeon who saved lives
> somehow with spray cans and since then no class will come to
> consensus again on the spray can)
> Anyway, the kids love the thought exercise and almost never
> can 20+ kids ever agree on any one thing in human history
> having had absolutely no positive outcome at all. Maybe it's
> a testament to their ability to think positively ( I
> personally see no good from the Iraq war and that's why I put
> it off limits from the exercise - to me it's an easy answer
> to an otherwise hard question)
> But some of my colleagues say this exercise defeats their
> purpose of trying to talk kids into studying history. I
> disagree. It gets them thinking and my kids are too smart
> anyway to be swooped up by Churchill's comment anyway.
> Then I spend the year showing them the ins and outs of
> history - modesty aside, kids like my class and they almost
> immediately stop asking 'why do we have to study history'
> because they like the class.
> History is the rich drama of the human experience - there
> just can't be anything boring about the mad sweep of people
> across the planet. All the family of nations is is something
> like a group of students all jockeying for social status and
> extra lunch money. If kids are saying history is boring, it
> can be time to reconsider how we're teaching it.