Jill Lepore’s challenge to history teachers

I heard Havard historian and New Yorker staff writer Jill Lepore at Powell’s last night.  In person as in print, her analysis of how the American Revolution has been appropriated by politicos of all stripes was insightful and funny.

She opened the talk by asking whether the very weakly construed lines the modern day Tea Party followers draw between themselves and the 18th century revolutionaries indicate an utter failure of historians.  She ended the talk reading her description of her daughter’s 3rd grade classroom (p 161).  In that selection, she celebrates

an assignment that requires research, that raises questions about perspective, that demands distinctions between fact and opinion, that bears an audience in mind – an assignment that teachers the art of historical writing.

Again – as with the case of the Virginia textbook author’s faulty research on Black Confederates – I was struck by the importance of the work we’re promoting through Teaching American History projects.  As our students do history, they’re defending the union!


3 responses to “Jill Lepore’s challenge to history teachers

  1. Pingback: Lesson Study Planning Fall 2010 | Teaching American History in SW Washington

  2. I commented earlier regarding an assignment I gave my high school juniors–to read Lepore’s Tea Party essay in the New Yorker, and then to have them comment on the modern uses to which the original Tea Party has been put. I posted three or four of the more interesting takes on my own blog, which is now here:


    if you are interested in seeing how they responded.

    As always, I am happy to read your blog–it reinforces my own convictions.

    • Thanks for the comment, Raleigh. I’m so glad that you posted your students work: Reading it helps everyone think about what “evidence” we’re looking for in student learning. Keep it up!

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