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#151 of 170 Old 01-18-2008, 07:13 PM
 
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The way typical people live during any era is directly influenced by major events and political leaders.
Yeah, like Jews in Europe under the Third Reich; Native Americans in both of the American continents during and after invasions and occupation; Cambodian under the Khmer Rouge; Americans during the Dust Bowl throughout the 30s and the Depression - to name just a few tiny spots in the immensity of human history. I couldn't get the pygmies off my mind all day yesterday - I've often thought about the way they live their daily lives, but that's now a thing of the past as they're faced with nightmarish outside interests coming into their forests and butchering them. The forces that affect people's lives aren't all bad - some of them are pretty marvelous - but no culture is an island.

It's pretty darned hard to talk about typical people in any time without seeing them as part of the major events and political leaders... - Lillian
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#152 of 170 Old 01-18-2008, 08:49 PM
 
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History, when it is taught well, is not about names, dates, famous white men or battles. You can look that up if you need to know.

It teaches you how to analyze information from different perspectives and sources. It teaches you how to think and how to understand. To see what complex factors are involved in why we are the way we are today.

I think it depends upon what your needs are, what you plan to do and what you enjoy.
ITA - furthermore, I think it is a mystery as to what is important or what touches each individual. My decision to have a homebirth was totally inspired by the advent of forceps and the history of the AMA, specifically how they took birth away from women. You never know what will make a huge and meaningful impact.
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#153 of 170 Old 01-19-2008, 03:20 PM
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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. .
As a previous poster explained, "David McCullough has said that history is the antidote to the hubris of the present." On those grounds, I strongly disagree with your opinion.

The last 400 years that define our country (beginning with European settlement, although you could certainly go back further) is a drop in the bucket compared to the 9,000 years or so of world culture. Just the numbers alone argue strongly that the world civilization that ultimately gave rise to this country might be somewhat more important than the last 400 years of this single country alone -- an idea I associate very much with stereotypically American hubris, the notion that this country is the best of all possible worlds, the most important thing since sliced bread, the apex of civilization and distinctly different from and better than any other civilization, country, or culture that ever has been or could be.

This attitude is what causes students in public high school to take a year of American history and have world history be "optional," and it's partly what is responsible for American jingoists thinking the only difference between Iraq and Iran is a letter, and for convincing the American public that the attacks on 9/11 were perpetuated by the Iraqis and Afghanis, not by people from Saudi Arabia -- and for being able to convince people that one Middle Eastern country is just like any other. A serious study of world history would have done a great deal to make pulling that snow job over on the American people a LOT harder, but then, world history study would have the tendency to make Amurrica a little less important in the grand scheme of things.
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#154 of 170 Old 01-19-2008, 06:22 PM
 
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Originally Posted by mz_libbie22 View Post
I use history to evaluate current events, to understand what brought us to this point and what needs to be done to get us in a better direction, which in turn helps me decide who I want to support in the '08 election.

People also use history to defend parenting choices. There is historical precedence for attachment parenting. The very reason that people call it a "natural" choice is because it is believed to be the way children were raised by our ancestors.

By studying history I discovered what educational method I wanted for my DS (classical).

By studying women's history I have a completely different view of myself and my place in the world. That obviously affects all kinds of choices.

Studying the history of agriculture has guided my choices about my own diet.

Studying the history of how boys have been raised in different societies has helped guide my own parenting philosophy.


History helps me make sense of WHY we're here to begin with. I don't have a religious belief, so I use it to try to find answers to the big questions. I also don't have much for family and I think studying history is a way to meet that instinctual need for a connection to those that came before me.

I also totally believe the old saying that if you don't learn from history, you're doomed to repeat it.
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#155 of 170 Old 01-19-2008, 06:27 PM
 
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It appears to me that practically everyone in this thread agrees that yes, history is inextricably interwoven into who we are today and where we're headed in the future.

However, since the whole of history is so vast that one lifetime isn't long enough to ever be able to do justice to learning all of it -- I think our real question is, who decides which areas are essential: the individual learner, the parent, or both.

I believe the individual learner should have the freedom to decide -- but I'm not so naive that I don't realize the things the parents are interested in and talking about, and reading and watching documentaries about, are going to play a huge part in shaping their children's perceptions of the world and of what's important.

I just believe that it's impossible for me to really know what's going to be most essential for each of my children as they fulfill their individual callings in the world. So it makes more sense to me to just open as many windows looking out onto the world as I can, while being attentive to what sparks each child's interests, and then respond to those interests by looking for windows that are likely to provide the most intriguing view for each individual child.

And then do everything in my power to help each child grab onto interesting trains of thought (interesting to the child) and run with them.

Susan -- married unschoolin' WAHMomma to two lovely girls (born 2000 and 2005).
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#156 of 170 Old 01-19-2008, 11:11 PM
 
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So, picking up on the idea of whether or not a person needs to learn history in a structured, particular way -- I would argue not.

And, today, oddly enough, while I was in one of my ESL classes, the instructor brought up the importance of the students selecting their own materials. He said that there was a study done in which it was determined that students who were allowed to pick and choose the sections of a chemistry book they wished to study (basically being allowed to flip through and read and study what interested them) versus students who were told what to study, and when, did far better on the test and retained that information for far longer. This was in spite of the fact that the interest led group didn't study everything that was on the test, and definitely studied "extra" topics that weren't covered.

So, definitely, following one's interests in history, and being careful not to destroy another person's enjoyment of that learning process through too much (or any) forced learning is a valid and valuable way to learn.

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#157 of 170 Old 01-20-2008, 12:57 AM
 
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Originally Posted by mammal_mama View Post
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.
It's not really fair to compare graduate students in history from Europe and S. America to graduate students in history from the US, I suppose.

Schools in the US have an unfortunate tendency to teach history in a propagandistic fashion. We want to feel proud, to convey a sense of unity and legacy. Every time people writing curriculum make some weak, half-hearted gesture toward teaching our real history as a country, there is backlash.

Do you not find it appalling that Advanced Placement US History did not cover any material at all about slavery? I got a 5 on my AP exam (which was the highest grade) because the test questions were about slavery and the civil war, and I was interested in that. I had one of those teachers who tried to downplay the role of slavery as a cause of the civil war. That's been a trend in US education for a few decades now, even though the primary source documents don't support it at all. Of course I aced the test--I read the damn documents.

Teaching history is all about teaching people to read critically and to be a detective of motivation.

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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.
I'm not sure what you mean by history here. What are you trying to find out? In college we learned the von Ranke phrase, "wie eigentlich gewesen"--how it actually was. The point of studying history is to learn how it actually was for people. I don't see that as quietistic, as encouraging people to accept "that's the way it is" now.

How are we supposed to understand how it is if we don't know how it actually was?

I think if teachers don't actively discourage us from pursuing it, we can learn history by asking questions about how things got to be the way they are now.

I don't agree that this has anything to do with science. Science is empirical. i don't advocate going out and doing experiments on people to see how they act! There's always going to be an element of uncertainty, a rashomon effect in writing history, no matter what kinds of documents we use to put the picture together. Which is a good thing to learn anyway.

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#158 of 170 Old 01-20-2008, 03:12 PM
 
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I'm not sure what you mean by history here. What are you trying to find out? In college we learned the von Ranke phrase, "wie eigentlich gewesen"--how it actually was. The point of studying history is to learn how it actually was for people. I don't see that as quietistic, as encouraging people to accept "that's the way it is" now.

How are we supposed to understand how it is if we don't know how it actually was?
I think we're still discovering new tidbits that cast even more light on "how it actually was." With the information we now have, we can make educated guesses about it actually was for the people living in that time, but we should always encourage an openness to the possibility that new discoveries will significantly change our perspectives on this.

I recall being asked to imagine what it would be like growing up without cars, electricity, central heating/air conditioning, running water, packaged foods, etcetera -- but the way that a child imagines "how it actually was" having to "do without" all the modern conveniences he's grown up depending on, is likely to be a far cry from what life was really like for children growing up in a particular time period.

I used to think it would have been "exciting" living in the times of the holocaust, and helping people to hide (or going into hiding myself), or being involved in the civil rights movements of the 60's and 70's. But now that I have small children dependent on me, the thought of living in a tumultuous time doesn't hold the same appeal.

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I don't agree that this has anything to do with science. Science is empirical. i don't advocate going out and doing experiments on people to see how they act!
I don't advocate "doing experiments on people" either -- at least not in the sense that you seem to mean. I simply see much of my life as experimentation. I encounter problems, and I think about possible solutions, and I pull information from history (both from my immediate history and from history in general) in my quest for the solutions that are most likely to succeed both now and in the long-term. And I hypothesize and listen to the hypothetical theories of others.

So just as I can't separate my own life from history, I also can't separate it from science. Science is all about problem-solving and answering the question, "Why?" So is history.

Susan -- married unschoolin' WAHMomma to two lovely girls (born 2000 and 2005).
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#159 of 170 Old 01-21-2008, 10:19 AM - Thread Starter
 
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This attitude is what causes students in public high school to take a year of American history and have world history be "optional," and it's partly what is responsible for American jingoists thinking the only difference between Iraq and Iran is a letter, and for convincing the American public that the attacks on 9/11 were perpetuated by the Iraqis and Afghanis, not by people from Saudi Arabia -- and for being able to convince people that one Middle Eastern country is just like any other. A serious study of world history would have done a great deal to make pulling that snow job over on the American people a LOT harder, but then, world history study would have the tendency to make Amurrica a little less important in the grand scheme of things.
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Schools in the US have an unfortunate tendency to teach history in a propagandistic fashion. We want to feel proud, to convey a sense of unity and legacy. Every time people writing curriculum make some weak, half-hearted gesture toward teaching our real history as a country, there is backlash.
Yeah, I agree with all this. I had to take two years of US history in high school, and no world history. I learned a lot about how wonderful our system of government is, with its separation of church and state, and balance of power among the legislative, judicial, and executive branches, and the Bill of Rights and the Constitution blah blah blah. And never learned anything about any other systems of government, and what advantages or disadvantes they might have compared to ours. Actually, I think what would have been more useful than any history course would have been a comparative government course. (Though I'm sure the history buffs will be quick to point out to me that you can't study governments without understanding their history.)

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I had one of those teachers who tried to downplay the role of slavery as a cause of the civil war. That's been a trend in US education for a few decades now, even though the primary source documents don't support it at all.
That's interesting! I guess my high school was part of that trend, because I remember learning that the civil war was about states' rights. I was left with the impression that it wasn't that the southern states wanted to keep slaves so much that they were willing to go to war over it - it was that they wanted more autonomy than the federal government was willing to give them, and they were willing to go to war over THAT. And that slavery was just the main issue that highlighted their lack of autonomy.
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#160 of 170 Old 01-22-2008, 12:20 AM
 
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For instance I remember that 'World War Two was sparked off by the assasination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand' . This means nothing really, it has no context. What I NEED to know about World War Two was that too much pressure was put on Germany after the first world war, AND IT BACKFIRED.
I think you know that you meant WWI, but if not, I think that's an excellent example of how unimportant that detail turned out to be for you.

However, I think details like that CAN be very important. When I tell kids that the world (36 countries) went to war over the death of a person with a title they've never heard of from a country that they didn't even know existed, they want to know WHY. Which is when I tie them all together with strings and explain how alliances work. Ten years from now, I don't really care if they remember good old FF, but I hope they remember which war was sparked by the assassination of a relatively minor political figure by a low ranking member of a relatively minor terrorist group.
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#161 of 170 Old 01-22-2008, 12:24 AM
 
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And call me a conspiracy nut, but I do think there is a political reason behind our kids in public schools being (mis)taught history.
I don't think you are a nut. One of my favourite college classes was called "the making of American society" and it talked about the indocrination role of the public schools, particuarly the hidden curriculum of social order, a lot. The government supports public education because it gains from an "educated citizentry" economically. Period. When education become subversive, the public stops supporting it with tax dollars.

Or maybe I'm just still bitter that they closed my charter school last year. :
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#162 of 170 Old 01-22-2008, 12:29 AM
 
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Well, any of you are free to come up with your own definitions of "history," but what I had in mind when I started this thread did not include the history of the earth's geographical features, the evolution of humans, individual or family history, or science. What I had in mind was the kind of subject matter you'd expect to see in a history class.
As someone who TEACHES a history class (well, several) on a daily basis, I can say that ALL of those things are taught in history classes. My World history class has a strong geography bent, and we start with "prehistory" before we move to recorded history, which means we deal with a lot of anthropology (one of my minors is in anthropology ). When we explore the idea of culture, we look at individual and family histories. In US history, we look at individual and family histories, too, but to a lesser extent-- I'd guess my US history class looks more like what you are thinking when you say a history class.
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#163 of 170 Old 01-22-2008, 01:11 AM
 
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That's interesting! I guess my high school was part of that trend, because I remember learning that the civil war was about states' rights. I was left with the impression that it wasn't that the southern states wanted to keep slaves so much that they were willing to go to war over it - it was that they wanted more autonomy than the federal government was willing to give them, and they were willing to go to war over THAT. And that slavery was just the main issue that highlighted their lack of autonomy.
Well, yes, slavery was the main issue in states rights. It was all about the right of states to decide--about slavery! Racial inequality was a primary value, not a secondary, coincidental issue.

Check out this nifty website, which has reproductions of all of the primary source documents relating to the causes of the US Civil War:

http://members.aol.com/jfepperson/causes.html

In particular, look at the documents of secession of the southern states, here: http://members.aol.com/jfepperson/reasons.html

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Originally Posted by Mississippi's document of secession
Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery-- the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization. That blow has been long aimed at the institution, and was at the point of reaching its consummation. There was no choice left us but submission to the mandates of abolition, or a dissolution of the Union, whose principles had been subverted to work out our ruin.
Yes? The primary source documents do not suggest that slavery is an incidental interest. They were going to war in order to maintain the institution of slavery.

There may have been other causes as well, like trade and tariffs, but the secession documents actually take up the inequality of black people as their reason.

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#164 of 170 Old 01-23-2008, 02:12 AM
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As someone who TEACHES a history class (well, several) on a daily basis, I can say that ALL of those things are taught in history classes. My World history class has a strong geography bent, and we start with "prehistory" before we move to recorded history, which means we deal with a lot of anthropology (one of my minors is in anthropology ). When we explore the idea of culture, we look at individual and family histories. In US history, we look at individual and family histories, too, but to a lesser extent-- I'd guess my US history class looks more like what you are thinking when you say a history class.
Well, and anyone who's read Jared Diamond's Collapse understands the relationship of geography to history and the success (or failure) of civilizations.
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#165 of 170 Old 01-23-2008, 02:40 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Yes? The primary source documents do not suggest that slavery is an incidental interest. They were going to war in order to maintain the institution of slavery.
Yep, that's sure what it looks like from those documents. That was interesting - thanks! It was also interesting to me to read in the Georgia secession document that "The question of slavery was the great difficulty in the way of the formation of the Constitution." If I ever learned that slavery was a controversial issue even back then, I had forgotten it.

This turned out to be a really interesting and informative thread. I almost didn't start it because I was afraid no one would be interested enough to reply!
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#166 of 170 Old 01-28-2008, 01:35 PM
 
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while this discussion is older, I just got this sent to me today and thought I would share, it is blog I read from curriculum connection and this topic was on whether or not studying hisotry was important.

opps forgot to include the link http://curriculumconnection.net/blog...study-history/

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#167 of 170 Old 01-28-2008, 01:41 PM
 
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Not that the Miss Teen answer about Iraq and no books isn't a classic and stands alone in the annuls of ignorance, but this one is fun/sad, too.

Of course, lack of historical knowledge doesn't prevent one from making a really good living:


http://youtube.com/watch?v=psGLXqW1kUs
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#168 of 170 Old 01-28-2008, 02:35 PM
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Oh, my... wasn't she the same person who thought the world was flat? It was someone on that show, I think.

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#169 of 170 Old 01-28-2008, 02:36 PM
 
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Oh, dear - here's the rest of it - "Is the world flat?"

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LNC117UYsHs&NR=1

Edit: For whatever it's worth, Sherry later said she was nervous and wasn't thinking when she said she didn't know if the earth is round or flat....

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#170 of 170 Old 02-03-2008, 02:36 AM
 
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A really good , if critical, book on history as taught in public schools is Lies My Teacher Told Me by James Loewen. 1995, Simon & Schuster Inc., ISBN 0-684-81886-8

http://www.amazon.com/Lies-My-Teache...2017128&sr=8-2
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