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  1. #21
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    In English state schools in the 70s the only Scottish history we were given was Mary Queen of Scots, the point were the monarchies of England and Scotland converged. It was taught well because I could remember it when I did the tour of Holyrood and saw where many of the events unfolded.

  2. #22
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    22nd October 17
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    I am an American and have taught high school history, both World History and US History, in China.

    As Neloon wisely notes, the teaching of history is always going to be seen as political, since history is how nations define themselves and how governments justify themselves. And as Kiltedtom says, meaningful history will involve multiple perspectives, rather than just privileging one (usually the one of the current rulers).

    The US History I got as a child in US public schools was pretty much a cheerleading tale of the European settlers bringing civilization to an untamed continent and our principles of liberty and justice making us leaders of the world. My 1st grade year was 1976, the year we celebrated our Bicentennial, so patriotism was certainly a major element and goal of our history curriculum. The USA was always portrayed as heroic, even when dealing with events (slavery, the Indian Wars, the Civil War, the Civil Rights Movement), where it is clear that Americans of good conscience had widely varying--often diametrically opposed--points of view.

    Interestingly, talking to my Chinese students, I found that the history they had learned in Chinese public schools was a similarly cheerleading rendition of the achievements of Chinese civilization. And I suppose most countries must have some element of this in their curriculum as well. However I really liked the point one commenter made that UK schools presented their history as part of the world, rather than the whole stage. The US and Chinese schools definitely present their respective cultures as the "main story" and everything else is seen only in relation to that.

    In my experience, history classes in the US are often taught not by interested historians, but by people who wanted to coach and are forced to supervise classes in order to be allowed to do the extracurricular work that is their passion. Although there are certainly some excellent history teachers (and I had a few), all too often such classes consist of videos alternating with worksheets (which can be printed off the textbook software, which also generates tests at the press of a button). Students in such classes experience history as an empty procession of names and dates that seems to have little to do with their lives or anything else. Unsurprisingly, they lose interest quickly.

    The more recent movement in history teaching has been to try to teach students to think like historians--detectives seeking answers about the past. We try to get kids examining a variety of physical, visual, and written sources, evaluating them for potential biases or limitations. Like the blind men examining the elephant in the old fable, we soon find that this source says an event was a snake, another says it was a tree, and yet another claims it was a rock. Our challenge it to "find the elephant" and persuasively explain why the evidence supports our view. We also use role plays to get kids to examine issues from the perspective of the time we are studying. I have found that students are engaged by debating the various points of view and intrigued by the widely differing perspectives of the sources. When they are tasked with solving the problems our ancestors faced, they can become rather passionate and begin to see how history could easily have moved in many other directions at various points.

    The downside of this approach is that it necessarily emphasizes methods, themes, and ideas over memorizing a specific list of dates or events. It means that the events we do study are open to a variety of interpretations and that we will have to leave out many other equally important and interesting events, due to time constraints. My hope is to inspire enough curiosity that students will explore further on their own. But of course, the results vary from student to student.

    When I taught in a Shanghai public school, I was amused to discover that one office door was labeled "Propaganda." I thought it was refreshingly straightforward, as any school will involve some level of indoctrination into the values of the culture. After all, my own focus on inquiry and supporting individual interpretations with evidence is a reflection of my own cultural values as a college educated American. People from other lands and traditions will likely see history as more fixed, or even divinely dictated. Teaching history is always going to be tangled up in issues of politics and culture, but it is critical that each of us grapples with these issues if we hope to make some positive contribution to this world.

    Andrew

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  4. #23
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    4th September 16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Benning Boy View Post
    I have a little game. Often when checking out at a store, and the cashier is young, and the amount of my purchase is the same as some important date in our history I'll ask them what happened on that year, say 1865, and every time they fail to know. When I tell them, without fail so far, they invariably tell me they did not learn that in school.
    Hah! I do the same thing. My wife always hands me everything and waits in the car.

  5. #24
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    7th February 08
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Q View Post
    Starting from the point of view of Outlander has very little to do with history....

    As someone who was educated in Northern Ireland, England and Scotland with a Scottish certificate of education higher level in history. It doesn't matter which you were in, official history education in my time at school (1962-1975) was outline only for national history education.

    Do you teach of heroic Jacobites verses the nasty English royalty and army.
    Or
    Do you teach of the army of the elected British government fighting a bunch of rebels lead by an Italian( Charles Edward Louis John Casimir Sylvester Severino Maria Stuart ) supported by a foreign power ( France)..
    I wonder if you are referring solely to the "Outlander" TV series, or include the books? IMHO, the books are much better. Either way, the blog poster speaks about how "Outlander" sparked his interest in finding out more about the historical background of the story. Ms. Gabaldon did do a substantial amount of historical research, and that shows. However, she does also point out that she did, sometimes, alter some small details ( ex.: timing) in the interest of the plot. Nevertheless, the basics of historical facts remain in the storyline. I felt that the bloggers main point, that very little of Scottish was taught to Scots, was interesting ( and it seems, many here seem to feel that the same was true in their own schooling, wherever that may have been. What wasn't taught is also interesting, whatever the reasons.)
    waulk softly and carry a big schtick

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  7. #25
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    22nd October 17
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    Regarding the well-founded frustration that "Braveheart" is the most widely-seen source of Scottish "history:"

    It is certainly true that Mel Gibson's film is a lousy history text. He makes all sorts of distortions, fabrications, and anachronisms.

    However, the same can also be said for all the really popular Hollywood films about American history, from "Birth of a Nation" to "Gone With the Wind" through the great John Wayne Westerns and on to "Dances with Wolves" and "Forrest Gump." They all offer cockeyed, biased, and frequently inaccurate portrayals of events and people. We can include Mr. Gibson's "The Patriot" in this list, too.

    That said, these movies were all quite entertaining to audiences and great vehicles for furthering the careers of their stars. And this is the problem: Hollywood's goals are telling entertaining stories and promoting stars that will help sell tickets to their next movie. Professional historians and serious students of history are seen as a small niche audience, best served by PBS documentaries.

    But it is still frustrating to see the myths and distortions of Hollywood entertainments absorbed as facts by the public. As a teacher, I often found that ridiculous parodies like "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" or "Blazing Saddles" did a better job of highlighting certain historical issues and themes than the costume blockbusters.

    What we can all hope is that seeing a story or era brought to life on the big screen will inspire some portion of the audience to learn more. Which certainly does happen from time to time.

    Andrew

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