Why is studying the past valuable? Not why should we teach it, or why should the students in your classes learn it, but why do you love it? That’s the question that we asked the elementary teachers we’ve been working with this year at the start of last week’s workshop. The question arose, in part, as a result of Rich and I noticing that many of the teachers seemed to always be looking for ways specific experiences on our trip might be transformed into specific lessons – rather than developing a foundational appreciation for the discipline that, in turn, would deepen an approach to history. If our yearlong study only left folks feeling more prepared to teach young people, it might not lead to inspiration for young people (and their teachers) to learn about the past.
After participants had some time to collect their thoughts individually, they assembled lists in their lesson study groups. So, what did they say?
Sense of patriotism Sense of belonging Connection to our past/present National pride Connecting to the people of the past Feeling-learning about our history thru their voices Sense of where we come from Learning from past why? where? how? Facts not fiction about our history as a nation Makes things you have read about “real” by going on location Origin of common phrases Better appreciation of the contrast between now and then Past lays foundation for the present and future Less biased Amazed by the ingenuity of the historical figures Inspiration of life long learning Helps make the past more concrete Historical fiction or biographies give a story/context to attach new information Stories (esp. w/ personal application) Know the past to connect to a better future Cyclical nature of it Escape to a different time Brings events and people to life Back stories of secondary personalities Length of certain civilizations Emotional! It’s real connection to past Important to preserve our freedoms Learning about motivations of people-character. Human nature. It’s a great true story. We can visualize it. It goes beyond timelines! Historical questioning. Building loyalty to our country. Putting faces to the facts Sense of story Past is things- History is the story. Putting the puzzle pieces together History is on-going Multi-perspectives, different points of view Concrete at first- then as you learn more it becomes fluid(different levels of complexity) In road to teaching citizenship(builds loyalty to country) Sense of self - roots? Knowing the outcome – then going back and learning what led to that outcome. Voices echoing forward Power of an individual Touching artifacts Connecting w/real people/events Knowing the outcome & going back to see how they got there Connecting the dots of the present with the past Questioning intent/outcomes Stories of people overcoming adversity Stories of the common people
I think that it’s a pretty interesting list, both for what it features and what doesn’t appear. Many of their entries were on my list, many weren’t, and some of my entries didn’t make it to their lists. I’m struck by the extent to which these teachers see the study of history as playing a role in developing heritage/patriotism/citizenship – clearly an intended consequence of the Teaching American History program (funding struggles for which you can read about here), but one which I hadn’t expected.
What’s on your list? Why do you love studying history? What value does the study of history offer?