Is it important to learn history? - Page 5 - Mothering Forums

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#121 of 170 Old 01-17-2008, 12:45 PM
 
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David McCullough has said that history is the antidote to the hubris of the present.
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#122 of 170 Old 01-17-2008, 12:59 PM
 
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I feel strongly that everyone should learn at least an overview of history--not only their own country's history or their own culture's history, but the history of the whole world. It gives a person so much more understanding of the world, of current events and issues, of themselves, of other cultures.

In my opinion learning history is essential to a complete education. No, you may not "use" it in your job or even in your daily life, but there is so much more to being a human being on this planet than that.
I agree with you. I'm not so sure that world history is as important as knowing about the history of our own country, but I do think history is important. I know that we couldn't possibly cover "everything" during our homeschooling years but we can hit on a lot of the more important things.

You know there are topics in history that I don't know that much about now at the age of 40 that I feel embarrassed when those around me are discussing them. My husband knows about all the different wars and can spout out the years of the wars and I have no earthly idea usually. I'm sure I learned about it all in past years but I have a harder time keeping things in memory than my husband does. It just kinda fades away from my mind.

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#123 of 170 Old 01-17-2008, 01:43 PM
 
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Wow, this made me want to cry, but now I see so many articulate, passionate defences of the value of history.

Learning about change and continuity over time helps us evaluate things that happen around us and think about what might happen in the future. It helps us understand other people's and other nations' relationships, dreams, fears, anger, wealth, poverty, and oppression.

I fully agree that learning 'social studies' and 'history' in school can be a pretty pale experience, and it does put off a lot of people. But just as reading is a lot more than sounding out words, history is a lot more than dates and memorization.

What do historians do? Well, some of them have their little corner of an archive and churn out dull little monographs that excite a narrow group of academics year after year. That's fine, fair enough. But there's an incredible amount to be drawn from a lot of what is out there, and there are big questions to be wrestled with.

What are some of the things that Holocaust historians look at, for example? Here's a partial list-I wonder if they're important, and if they'd be useful things to think about as we go through life evaluating the choices that we have each day...

- Did German leaders intend the Holocaust to happen, or was it just the result of an accumulation of events?
- Did Germans who voted for the Nazis hate Jews? Was Germany an anti-Semitic country? Why the Jews?
- How did ordinary Germans participate in the Holocaust? Why?
- Did modern technology make it easier for Holocaust perpetrators to distance themselves from what they were doing?
- How did Holocaust perpetrators come to regard those they harmed as less than human?
- How did Germany go from being an industrialized, democratic country, the first social welfare state, to the Holocaust?
- How might decisions by the winners of the First World War about the terms of the peace to impose on Germany have contributed to the rise of Hitler?
- What motivated those who helped the Jews? What stopped others from doing so?

Another important aspect of the study of history is understanding how it is used afterwards, how its imagery is deployed. That's one reason why we can't just get 'stuff we need to know' from political speeches, the movies, and pop culture references. A lot of historians actually study political and cultural 'memory' of history and its significance.

In Germany, there is a noun, Vergangenheitsbewaeltigung, which actually means 'overcoming the past' - a force and process that has been an incredibly important motivator in the post World War 2 social, political, and artistic life of that country. Special noun notwithstanding, however, every nation engages in a constant process of Vergangenheitsbewaeltigung to some degree.
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#124 of 170 Old 01-17-2008, 01:49 PM
 
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Daffodil, given the answers in your last post I would respectfully suggest that perhaps it is your definition of history that needs the expanding. The fact that Aristotle and Plato were homosexual is absolutely historically accurate--yet they are still considered some of the greatest thinkers of our time, despite the fact that in this day and age they'd be locked up as pedophiles.

One needs a basis for winning an argument, not a "should or would" kind of "well I can SEE that it's wrong!" as you suggest regarding Lactivism. That kind of stance, while fine for forming a personal opinion, does not hold any weight in the public arena. It won't get us anywhere. Nurse-ins are fine for garnering public attention, but what good is that? You need people working on different levels, in the courtrooms and in the policymakers' offices. Personal opinion doesn't do much there, if it's a situation requiring overturning a current public trend.

We--as informed humans-- need precedent, context and information. An opinion is so much more relevant and valuable if it is an informed opinion. That is the gift I intend for my children.
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#125 of 170 Old 01-17-2008, 01:57 PM
 
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Originally Posted by Daffodil
I don't think this is really history, either. Sure, we'd be looking at data from more than just this present moment, but I don't think this is the kind of thing a historian would be studying.
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Actually this is exactly the kind of thing historians study. There are numerous books, phd theses, and university classes about the history of health care in this country.
And really, there doesn't need to be a historian around for those involved to be aware of the crucial history involving their projects, so whether it's the kind of thing historians study is beside the point (although, as Lissa said, it is.)
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#126 of 170 Old 01-17-2008, 02:01 PM
 
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#127 of 170 Old 01-17-2008, 02:04 PM
 
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Israel didn't exist 100 years ago -
The geographical country of Israel is new, but the Nation of Israel has been around for tens of thousands of years:

http://www.science.co.il/Israel-history.asp

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#128 of 170 Old 01-17-2008, 02:34 PM
 
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The geographical country of Israel is new, but the Nation of Israel has been around for tens of thousands of years:

http://www.science.co.il/Israel-history.asp
I, too, meant to respond earlier in response to:
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One thing I'm trying to figure out is whether the people who think it's so important are talking about basic stuff like knowing that the United States didn't exist 1000 years ago, and Israel didn't exist 100 years ago - which is the kind of stuff you CAN just pick up without trying - or about a much deeper level of knowledge, like understanding the causes of World War I.
The fact that Israel as the country we know it today is relatively new is only an isloated fact - but the whole picture surrounding that - the history - touches our own lives in crucially important ways. We're not an island - we're more intimately interconnected with the rest of the world than a lot of people realize until something like 911 happens. And we're a lot more heavily connected with some parts of the world than others.

It's reported that over 3 million people* have died in the Congo since 1996, and yet, that's not a place that's all over our TV screens, and not a place we hear politicians fussing over whether or not to rush in to defend "liberty" - why are we so heavily involved in some conflicts and not others? If we're aware that history is an integral part of why we're where, we can make much more intelligent decisions about what we want from our elected political leaders, and which ones we want to be in or remain in positions of leadership.

*And many of the pygmies some of us know so fondly from an older book, The Forest People, by anthropologist, Colin Turnbull, have been massacred, and even eaten.
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#129 of 170 Old 01-17-2008, 03:04 PM
 
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As a kid, I didn't like history much. I LOVE it now, and really see the value in it.

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#130 of 170 Old 01-17-2008, 04:00 PM
 
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*And many of the pygmies some of us know so fondly from an older book, The Forest People, by anthropologist, Colin Turnbull, have been massacred, and even eaten.
Lillian

oh no. I didn't know that.
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#131 of 170 Old 01-17-2008, 04:19 PM
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*And many of the pygmies some of us know so fondly from an older book, The Forest People, by anthropologist, Colin Turnbull, have been massacred, and even eaten.
Lillian

Colin Turnbull was my introduction to anthropology... I read one of his books when I was seven, and then my teacher (who knew him) helped me write a letter to him, and he wrote back. I wish I still had the letter... but he was a real inspiration.

Have you read his biography? Some really interesting stuff there. I remember parts about the brutality of British boarding schools during that period, and then later about how tough it was for him to live in the south as part of a biracial, homosexual couple... he died of AIDS, I believe. Just an amazing guy.

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#132 of 170 Old 01-17-2008, 04:25 PM
 
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Colin Turnbull...
Ohmygosh, no, I haven't followed Turnbull's life. I must say I'm happy that he didn't have to see what happened to the pygmies - he never could have even dreamed such a thing in a nightmare.
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#133 of 170 Old 01-17-2008, 04:54 PM
 
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We have to be able to understand "who" and "what", and to a certain degree "when", in order to get to "why" and finally "how".



I really am shocked that anyone would think history wasn't important. Without history we have nothing, no past, present and certainly no future. Shocking!
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#134 of 170 Old 01-17-2008, 07:09 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Actually this is exactly the kind of thing historians study. There are numerous books, phd theses, and university classes about the history of health care in this country.
Really? That's interesting.

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I think the people who have such a narrow view of history would be surprised at the subjects of my history classes in university.
So enlighten me - what are some of them?
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#135 of 170 Old 01-17-2008, 07:42 PM - Thread Starter
 
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It sounds like you've decided that history is not useful and you aren't going to take advantage of the freedom of homeschooling to do it justice.
I never meant to say that I don't think history is useful at all. I certainly wouldn't want to have NO knowledge of history, and I think it's good for some people to become history experts. I'm just questioning whether it's important for most of us to go beyond the broad overviews and random bits of knowledge we can acquire without ever taking any great interest in the subject.

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When you choose not to study the words of eyewitnesses to political and social events of the past, you declare yourself above the experiences of other people whose lives were molded by these events in ways that continue to affect them in the present generation. . . .

It's a measure of your privilege that you are asking this question, for which I suppose we all ought to be grateful--and yet, somehow, I'm really annoyed.
I've been puzzling over this. I was intrigued by your vehemence, since I think of you as someone whose posts are generally calm and diplomatic. Of course this one was too, really, but obviously you feel strongly about this. And I'm just not sure I get it. You're saying if I respected and cared about other people and nations, I'd want to know their history? But I'm not all that interested in learning about history that has directly affected me, either. And anyway, there are so many groups of people all over the world - no one could possibly understand the historical events that have affected ALL of them. But maybe the important thing is to see all those histories as valuable, even if you can't learn all of them?
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#136 of 170 Old 01-17-2008, 08:12 PM
 
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If y'all dig Colin Turnbull, have you read Tobias Schneebaum? I loved the film KEEP THE RIVER ON YOUR RIGHT. Wow.

History, math, science- I firmly believe all people, to be good citizens and just plain useful, should know as much on these subjects as possible, and never stop learning. Art, music, literature (but what is literature but part of history?); nothing should ever be considered "enough."
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#137 of 170 Old 01-17-2008, 08:30 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Okay, you guys have convinced me that that history is more important than woodworking. I think it was mainly the talk about the Holocaust and other atrocities that really swayed me. I'm skeptical about whether understanding history is ever going to be of much help in stopping people from doing terrible things to each other, but it's pretty much impossible to imagine things could get better without people knowing something about what terrible things have happened in the past, and what brought them about. And though it may not be likely, it is at least conceivable that we might eventually manage to act on that knowledge and become a bit less terrible. It's a goal worth aiming for, anyway. So, yeah, I guess I want my kids to learn enough history that they aren't likely to become or support future perpetrators of atrocities.

It's been interesting to see how many people there are out there who see history as so central, so vitally important. It's just so different from the way I think. To me, human history feels like a bunch of details that scarcely matter to the big picture. Think of the whole universe, with all its galaxies full of suns orbited by planets, and then there's our little planet, with all its species of plants and animals, and we're just one of them. And there are so many things for us to wonder about that really have nothing to do with human history. Why is there a universe - why is there something and not nothing? What's everything made of? Why are some things alive? Why do they age and die? Why do we have conscious experiences? Do we have free will? What's inside our bodies and how does it all work? Is there life on other planets, and if so, what is it like? And on and on . . .
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#138 of 170 Old 01-17-2008, 09:00 PM
 
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It's been interesting to see how many people there are out there who see history as so central, so vitally important. It's just so different from the way I think. To me, human history feels like a bunch of details that scarcely matter to the big picture. Think of the whole universe, with all its galaxies full of suns orbited by planets, and then there's our little planet, with all its species of plants and animals, and we're just one of them. And there are so many things for us to wonder about that really have nothing to do with human history. Why is there a universe - why is there something and not nothing? What's everything made of? Why are some things alive? Why do they age and die? Why do we have conscious experiences? Do we have free will? What's inside our bodies and how does it all work? Is there life on other planets, and if so, what is it like? And on and on . . .
But it's how these "bunch of details" come together in a meaningful way that allows us to look for and hopefully find the answers to the questions you're asking.

And it's also our knowledge of and understanding of the past and these details that allows us to move forward in our research in an ethical and meaningful way. The scientists during the Holocaust were interested in finding the answers to these questions, too -- but their methods were atrocious. Before we set up meaningful standards for research in this country, our methods were much more barbaric than they are now.

We can't always know who will benefit the most from a solid understanding of history and historical precedent, but it's safe to say that we all benefit from being able to think in a historical context, and to learn to research history on our own -- so that we're not subject only to the memories of a select few.

ETA: This is has been an interesting and consuming conversation, btw!

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#139 of 170 Old 01-17-2008, 09:59 PM
 
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I'm not quite sure yet what conclusion I'm going to come to, but I suspect in the end I might have to admit that most people don't actually use science and don't actually need it any more than they need history.
Since scientific process is all about problem solving --

1)brainstorming about why something has happened (or is still happening) in a certain way,

2)hypothesizing (guessing) that if we do X, we can make things go differently,

3)testing our hypothesis by actually doing X,

4)evaluating our results, and

5)forming (incomplete and temporary) generalizations that can help us make some sense of the problem (which turn into new hypotheses that we can later test) --

I don't see how anyone can live any kind of happy or meaningful life without continually "using science." Since problems that are never thought about tend to not get solved, and to mushroom into major limitations and difficulties down the road.

It sounds like, as others have said, your definitions are just very narrow. Sure, if all you're asking is, "Does everyone need a conventional history class?" -- I can certainly agree with you: I've personally found that my interest in history has grown exponentially, the more the years have distanced me from my public school education. Ditto with conventional science classes.

Those classes are, of course, likely to be interesting to the few who are destined for careers as, say, history teachers and chemists. Not that the way the classes are taught is necessarily the optimal way for even these individuals to learn it -- but simply because they're so interested, they'll take it any way they can get it.

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#140 of 170 Old 01-18-2008, 04:26 AM
 
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If y'all dig Colin Turnbull, have you read Tobias Schneebaum? I loved the film KEEP THE RIVER ON YOUR RIGHT. Wow.
I haven't, but I'll make a mental note on that. Lillian
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#141 of 170 Old 01-18-2008, 07:01 AM
 
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I find it difficult to separate out "subjects" like math, biology, history...it all overlaps, imo and ime. This is how I learn as well and if I have to separate it all out, it doesn't "stick" for me.
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#142 of 170 Old 01-18-2008, 10:28 AM - Thread Starter
 
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But it's how these "bunch of details" come together in a meaningful way that allows us to look for and hopefully find the answers to the questions you're asking.
Well, the details of human history aren't going to help much in answering questions like, "Is there life on other planets?" But of course details in general are important in answering big questions in general. I was thinking about the kinds of details that seem interesting to me, and actually came up with a way history could be useful. Let's say you were interested in chestnut-sided warblers. You'd want to know what they ate, and how that was different from what other warblers eat, their average reproductive rate, major causes of mortality, how they've been affected by the increasing human population in the Americas . . . Hmm, and for that it would be useful to know what the human population of North America was in 1700, 1750, 1800 . . . and what percentage of the people were concentrated in cities vs. living on farms? How much land had been cleared for farming? How much logging was going on? What sizes and species of trees were being cut down? History! This is actually the kind of history I've always thought was pretty interesting - what was life like for typical people in the past? I'd much rather learn about that than about major events and political leaders.
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#143 of 170 Old 01-18-2008, 10:33 AM
 
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This is actually the kind of history I've always thought was pretty interesting - what was life like for typical people in the past? I'd much rather learn about that than about major events and political leaders.
The way typical people live during any era is directly influenced by major events and political leaders.
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#144 of 170 Old 01-18-2008, 12:50 PM
 
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and I would dare say, vice versa.

This is something I'm learning more and more as I read and research and follow my interests...everything affects everything else. It is truly amazing! /geekiness
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#145 of 170 Old 01-18-2008, 01:42 PM
 
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Let's say you were interested in chestnut-sided warblers. You'd want to know what they ate, and how that was different from what other warblers eat, their average reproductive rate, major causes of mortality, how they've been affected by the increasing human population in the Americas . . . Hmm, and for that it would be useful to know what the human population of North America was in 1700, 1750, 1800 . . . and what percentage of the people were concentrated in cities vs. living on farms? How much land had been cleared for farming? How much logging was going on? What sizes and species of trees were being cut down? History! This is actually the kind of history I've always thought was pretty interesting - what was life like for typical people in the past? I'd much rather learn about that than about major events and political leaders.
There you go girlie! Dat's what we're talking about! (and of course to understand why the people are camping on one side of the river instead of the other, for instance, you'd want to know about the crazy French occupation on the other side, and the more filial British occupation on this side...would that make it appear that the warbler preferred the French?)
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#146 of 170 Old 01-18-2008, 01:52 PM
 
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Well, the details of human history aren't going to help much in answering questions like, "Is there life on other planets?" But of course details in general are important in answering big questions in general. I was thinking about the kinds of details that seem interesting to me, and actually came up with a way history could be useful. Let's say you were interested in chestnut-sided warblers. You'd want to know what they ate, and how that was different from what other warblers eat, their average reproductive rate, major causes of mortality, how they've been affected by the increasing human population in the Americas . . . Hmm, and for that it would be useful to know what the human population of North America was in 1700, 1750, 1800 . . . and what percentage of the people were concentrated in cities vs. living on farms? How much land had been cleared for farming? How much logging was going on? What sizes and species of trees were being cut down? History! This is actually the kind of history I've always thought was pretty interesting - what was life like for typical people in the past? I'd much rather learn about that than about major events and political leaders.
Yay! I also find personal stories of individuals and their families much more interesting than the "great" leaders.

But I dare say that at some point one of your excursions into the lives and stories of ordinary folks will cause you to want to look more closely at how those lives were informed by the major events and political leaders of their times. It's difficult to understand what motivated people if you don't have at least a reasonable idea of the political landscape of the time period. I hear all the time "Why didn't they _random group of people_ "just" do X, Y, or Z" -- well, we can move a long way toward understanding others by understanding the political, social, and emotional constraints under which they live(d).

As for the answering life on other planets question, we have to be able to get to other planets or at least communicate with them in order to answer this question (unless we get visitors ). Our ability to work towards this is very much affected by politics. Many things don't even become a priority for funding in this country until they are a priority to rival countries. We may not have landed a man on the moon without the competitive push. Living on Mars *wasn't* going to be a priority for us, but it may well become a great one if the competition heats up. And the millions of historical details from Galileo till now have added up to help give us the tools we need to answer these questions and many more.

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#147 of 170 Old 01-18-2008, 02:05 PM
 
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So enlighten me - what are some of them?
I missed this before, but from the calendar when I was in school (some of these I took)-

Women in health care (talked about how health care used to be the sphere of women, midwives, etc and how and when men took it over, etc).

American cultural history

History of film

Canadian Labour History

Western INtellectual History since the Renaissance

Family Ties in History

History of Modern Western Sport

The Medium and the Message: Canadian Media, a History

Jam 7, Peanut Butter 5, and Bread 2.

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#148 of 170 Old 01-18-2008, 04:44 PM
 
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As an aside, my oldest, a history major, took Order and Justice in World Communities this past semester.
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#149 of 170 Old 01-18-2008, 04:57 PM
 
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Originally Posted by Daffodil View Post
I've been puzzling over this. I was intrigued by your vehemence, since I think of you as someone whose posts are generally calm and diplomatic. Of course this one was too, really, but obviously you feel strongly about this. And I'm just not sure I get it. You're saying if I respected and cared about other people and nations, I'd want to know their history? But I'm not all that interested in learning about history that has directly affected me, either. And anyway, there are so many groups of people all over the world - no one could possibly understand the historical events that have affected ALL of them. But maybe the important thing is to see all those histories as valuable, even if you can't learn all of them?
Ha! I didn't think I was so diplomatic. I'm usually much nicer. In fact I came back to apologize.

There are a few things that affected my response.

1. I had a teacher in high school who defended Andrew Jackson's actions in the Trail of Tears. Because we'd had so little exposure to the history of American Indians, no one in our class contested this. We had several children of Holocaust survivors in my AP US History class. No one in the class knew enough of what the teacher was talking about to say, "No, it was wrong to force-march those people across the country, killing thousands in the process, in order to steal their land."

2. As a young adult, I was in Israel where I met some children of Chilean exiles. They were angry and bitter that the United States had supported the overthrow of their government in 1973 and that we Americans knew nothing about it. I sure didn't know.

3. I have a doctorate in European History. Not sure why that makes me think history is useful! A lot of the time I was working on my degree I was just embarrassed at how much the students from other countries knew that we didn't, about just everything.

4. My husband has been doing research into the history of racism against African-Americans in the United States. He came to it in a round-about way--he was trying to learn about his dad's life, and his dad (who was white and Jewish) had a close friend who was an African-American jazz musician. So he was reading and everything kind of spiraled out from there.

There is just a lot of untaught US history.

But yeah, I'm with everyone else on this thread. I think "causes of WWI" style questions are pretty dull, but there are other ways to approach these questions that help you understand what you want to know. It's a big challenge to find the books that historians have written that ask the questions in a new way.

I might have some recommendations.

Divorced mom of one awesome boy born 2-3-2003.
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#150 of 170 Old 01-18-2008, 07:01 PM
 
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Captain Optimism, I agree that many in our nation are seriously uninformed about world issues. But are you thinking that it's really because the schools in other nations "require" more of their students, or teach the subjects more thoroughly? I realize you haven't said this, just wondering.

I just think it has a whole lot more to do with how interested the people in each particular nation generally are, and how much the kids hear these issues being discussed and cared about.

As you mentioned in your previous post, most Americans have had the luxury of not having to feel as vulnerable; many of us have never been uprooted from our homes or forced to experience, firsthand, the effects of U.S. foreign policy overseas. Therefore, many American children simply haven't seen their parents and peers taking more than a superficial interest in history and politics.

What I'm seeing in my own family, is that since dh and I are interested in figuring out what's really going in the world, and why various things are happening, we talk about it and our children hear us and think about it, too (well, I'm thinking more of our 7yo than our toddler at this time).

When dd encounters various issues in our culturally diverse neighborhood, she's interested in understanding things better, and in the connections we make between yesterday and today. This is where I see the scientific process as much more valuable than the "set in your ways, this is the way it is" thought-pattern.

Because the "this is the way it is" viewpoint blocks every attempt at problem-solving, whereas scientific process urges us to keep rethinking our current solutions and generalizations, and testing them and coming up with better, more accurate ones.

So history comes alive in interaction with the scientific viewpoint, but is reduced to a dry corpse when we think it's already been figured out by "smarter" people, and there's no point in asking any questions 'cause they've already been answered.

Susan -- married unschoolin' WAHMomma to two lovely girls (born 2000 and 2005).
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