Anybody who’s taught a history class can probably sympathize with the points raised here and here. In some ways, it’s harder to teach the material you know really well than it is to teach material outside your immediate area of expertise.
As John Fea says, when I’m teaching the stuff I’m really into, “I always leave the lecture hall frustrated. As I walk back to my office I often obsess about everything I did not have time to cover.” When you’re passionate about a particular topic, you want to give it the coverage you know it deserves. Of course, this is usually impossible, especially with a survey course. As a result, you leave the classroom feeling disappointed with yourself, and then you start wondering about whether you’re teaching any of the material adequately.
The lectures I’m most content with are the ones where my understanding of the subject falls into a sort of middle zone, where I’m familiar enough with the material to be comfortable but not so thoroughly schooled in it that I’m conscious of how much I’m leaving out.
Looks like they want to see a greater emphasis on American exceptionalism, textualism, and white people:
House Bill 1129 would require school districts to adopt curriculums that stress the “positive difference” the United States has made in the world and “the political and cultural elements that distinguished America.” The measure also deletes a current guideline that encourages teaching about diversity and contributions from minorities in history classes.
The state Department of Education opposes the measure, saying curriculum decisions should be left to the State Board of Education and local school boards.
Backers of the legislation, a version of which has passed the Senate, say it remains a work in progress. But its main sponsor in the House, state Rep. Timothy Hill, conceded Wednesday that the measure is meant to leave students with certain beliefs, such as the view that the wording of the U.S. Constitution leaves no room for interpretation.…
“I don’t think there’s anything wrong with talking in terms of we live in the greatest state in the greatest nation,” said Hill, R-Blountville.
And a-one and a-two and…
You’ve got to accentuate the positive
Eliminate the negative
Latch on to the affirmative…
He talks about his mentors, teaching content vs. teaching method, and the need to have a passion for the subject.
- I can’t believe I forgot to mention this until now, but it’s time for John Sevier Days Living History Weekend at Marble Springs State Historic Site in Knoxville, TN. The action starts tomorrow and continues through Sunday—reenacting, demonstrations, food, and presentations on the Lost State of Franklin and King’s Mountain. It’ll be a blast, so stop by if you get the chance.
- While we’re talking about Marble Springs, let me also recommend a great way to support the site and get some nifty benefits for yourself. Join the Governor John Sevier Memorial Association and you’ll get free admission when you visit, discounts on gift shop items, access to special events, and more. Memberships start at just $25.
- Late September-early October is King’s Mountain season. If you can’t make it to Knoxville for the Marble Springs event, there’s another option for those of you in southwestern Virginia. On Sunday, Abingdon Muster Grounds is hosting Sharyn McCrumb, who will read from her new novel about the battle. They’ll also have living history demonstrations and the unveiling of a new painting of William Campbell, whose unit marched from Abingdon to Sycamore Shoals to meet the other Overmountain Men.
- Some Connecticut parents are quite understandably upset over a school function where students got a taste of slavery…including the racial slurs. What. Were. They. Thinking?
- Here’s a Rev War infographic from 1871.
- Some folks are working to preserve the area around Kettle Creek battlefield in Georgia.
- A supplementary AP history text is drawing criticism for the way it refers to the Second Amendment.
- Next time you’re driving through Shepherdsville, KY keep an eye out for the new John Hunt Morgan mural on an underpass along Old Preston Highway.
If you’re a history or social studies teacher, check out the Periodic Table of the Presidents. It’s got lots of historical information in an easy-to-use format, and you can get it in poster form to hang in your classroom.
Tennessee officials are floating a proposal to combine geography and history. This approach will supposedly “give students a deeper grasp of both subjects and free up more time for teaching language skills that are measured on standardized tests.” I would’ve assumed that shoehorning two subjects into one class would mean students would get a much shallower grasp, so I’m a little perplexed here.
Of course, my perplexity is beside the point, because this isn’t really about giving kids “a deeper grasp” of history and geography, is it? This is about marginalizing social studies to make way for math and language arts, because with the Common Core standards you live and you die by math and language scores on standardized tests.
Think the cost of health care has been going up? Check out the cost of college textbooks.
Maybe we should all think about replacing our usual textbooks with something like Robert Remini’s A Short History of the United States. Students would still be getting their background and context from a distinguished and reputable historian, but at a fraction of the cost of the glossy, illustration-heavy volumes put out by textbook publishers. They’d also save time and money that could be spent on other reading material, material which would demonstrate what historians do and how they do it.
Or maybe we should ditch the background, textbook-type reading completely. I’m gradually becoming convinced that survey-level history texts aren’t just overpriced—they’re a little superfluous. When I teach survey courses, I spend most of my time lecturing on important historical trends, covering critical events, providing context, and so on. In other words, I’m doing the very same thing the textbook is doing, except I’m doing it verbally. Is the textbook really necessary when it does nothing but elaborate on the same material we cover in lecture?
In the past, I’ve tried to save my students’ money by replacing the supplementary source reader with material from the Internet History Sourcebook or another online primary source collection, and assigning the main text as the only book to buy. Maybe I’ve been doing it backwards. Perhaps we should all ditch our textbooks instead, and assign a good primary source reader along with an accessible monograph or two. Thus we’d have lectures for background coverage, and assigned reading to learn interpretation and historical thinking. Some professors have been doing this for a long time. Is it time to take that approach mainstream?