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    Re: Why study history
    Megan R

    I think that this is a great idea, especially if this is done at
    the beginning of the school year.

    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.