A Conversation for History as a Form of Knowledge.

Peer Review: A46433801 - What has happened to school history teaching?

Post 1


Entry: What has happened to school history teaching? - A46433801
Author: Solnushka and Zvozda - U138596

Right. Having been inspired by the Streatcher topic for the week of controversial issues, I thought I'd have another go at catching up on my one entry a year average.

Except that I'm not sure if all the descriptions of what the second order concepts are are comprehensible to someone not already in the know, if you see what I mean. Is this entry clear or confusing?

A46433801 - What has happened to school history teaching?

Post 2


It's good and quite thought-provoking as well as informative.

It made me think about it all anyway. There are a couple of things that might or might not fit your 2nd Order Concepts model that occurred to me. (I guess what you've described though is the academically-established version of this, so I'm not advocating any additional content, just asking for some help with understanding).

The unmentioned concept I think is most relevant is one about motivation. If you believe in God, say, you will receive and interpret history through a religious perspective and you will tend to think that our forebears were compelled to act by their own religious beliefs (not necessarily the same ones as your own, but still a kind of faith-driven history). If you are mainly motivated by money (anywhere on the spectrum, from craving wealth to deploring poverty) then your model of history is economically driven. Power and influence is yet another interpretation. Whichever of these motivations appeals to an individual student of history, they tend to interpret history in those terms. No?

A second concept concerns connectivity. Not direct causality, ie one thing leading to another, but interpreting past events in terms of an experience of other events (typically topical and current ones). You can see historical commentators from journalists to serious academics reinterpreting events here and now. In the week that Obama becomes President, we reassess the status of black people in history. The causes of the Great Depression are reinterpreted in the light of the progression of the current global recession, etc.

OK, yeah, maybe a bit rambling and off-topic for PR. Sorry if so.

One thing I think you should definitely change is the title. You're leading the reader to expect a review of changes in teaching practice, whereas the Entry is really about the cognitive factors that underpin an understanding of history.

Not that I'm recommending a title of 'Cognitive Factors Underpinning the Understanding of History', mind. I'm sure you can think of something lighter. (I just did Matt's Geek Test and I seem to be stuck in a loop)

A46433801 - What has happened to school history teaching?

Post 3


I want to read and comment on this entry later, but would offer the following as an observation on the topic of historical perception in general:

As individuals, we subconsiously separate historical events into two classes: those that occurred before we were born, and those that occurred afterwards. Events after our birth as viewed as a continuum and are fairly well seen in their proper context, whereas earlier events are discontinuous and not seen in any wider context than the event itself. They are free-standing entities, to which we attach start and end dates merely to enable them to be stuck on a time-line diagram of 'History'.

So the American Civil War started suddenly, as did the English Civil War - in neither case was there a preamble. Pre-birth events which are contemporary although unrelated are not seen as having any connectivity in the broader catalogue of World events.

A good discussion topic entry, but please remove that last sentence with its reference to the Daily Mail. In an entry that has just managed to remain factual rather than arguing a point of view, it is out of place.

smiley - towel

A46433801 - What has happened to school history teaching?

Post 4

BigAl Patron Saint of Left Handers Keeper of the Glowing Pickle and Monobrows

As a teacher of Science, specificaolly Chemistry, I am always endeavouring to prevent things in a historical context, including the people involved in discoveries etc.

Thus I have developed and frequently show a timeline called 'The Technological Ages of Man'.

This was priginally to illustrate that man's use of metals was in order of their chemical reactivities.

Thus, in terms of our most common (familiar) metals, they were discovered in the order:

Gold, Silver, Copper (i.e. 'Noble'/unreactive metals),Tin, Iron. Aluminium.

So, my timeline starts at the Stone Age, then goes to the 'Gold Age, Bronze Age (Bronze being an alloy of copper and tin), iron age and 'aluminium age'.

(I point out that aluminium, although known, was an extremely expensive metal until Faraday's discovery of electromagnetic induction in the 19th Century enabled its extraction by electrolysis.

I overlay this with key historical events such as Egyptians civilisation/pyramids, Trojan War, Romans, Birth of Christ etc, etc, to set the historoical context.

What do I get from the pupils? 'smiley - erm I thought this was s'posed to be a Science/Chemistry lesson?. Why are you doing History?'

Pupils compartmentalise their curriculum into discrete compartments, and it is virtually impossible to shake them out of it smiley - grr

A46433801 - What has happened to school history teaching?

Post 5


Actually, Pin (wotcha), I think the example you give about interpreting history through your own perspective, religious or whatever, would come under the heading of a(n incomplete) understanding of empathy. Applying one's own standards or interests to the past. Even if you are assuming the people in the past saw these things slightly differently. I think we could accuse the Marxist historians of that, for example.

As for your other point about Obama's impact, which was spot on by the way, I think that comes less under the heading of understanding history as a form of knowledge and more in the realm of how we see history, or historical consciousness and the interplay of academic history and what tends to get called public history. Which I plan to write an entry on very soon, as it happens.

H5ringer: The problem with second order concept teaching is indeed that it has bred students who now see history as a series of discrete, random and frequently unrelated 'patches'. The latest thing in teaching, in fact, is trying to sort this out. One suggestion is to organise topics not by era or event (The Stuarts or The Civil War) but by themes like 'Agriculture over time'.

BigAl. I share your pain. I spent weeks fending off the horrified cries of 'But this is Geography!' while trying to get to grips with the Agricultural and Industrial Revolutions.

I changed the title. The thing is, though, that this is a school thing. The research and formulation of the idea of 'history as a form of knowledge' seem to be a history teacher thing, not a professional historian thing. Still, I figure a history of history teaching in schools is good for _another_ article, so why waste a good title?

I also added some bits about how it's possible to measure progression and referenced the research that underpins all this.

I will change the last line, but only when I've thought of something more slyly inflamatory. I was wondering if I'd get away with that... If I said I could, at a pinch defend that statement, can I kep it? smiley - winkeye

A46433801 - What has happened to school history teaching?

Post 6


And where _are_ my manners. Thank you all for commenting so thoughtfully. Really very much appreciated.

A46433801 - What has happened to school history teaching?

Post 7


Actually, Pin, I think your first eg is an example of the interplay between current (or personal) interests and 'academic' history too, now I think about it. You didn't mean that people ascribe the same values to the past, just that, say, the unfasionableness of the upper classes means that suddenly everybody is writing history books about sewage collectors. Did you?

A46433801 - What has happened to school history teaching?

Post 8


I did mean that people ascribe the same values (ie their own values) to the past.
I don't quite get the point about sewage collectors. In fact I didn't even realise that sewage was collectable.

A46433801 - What has happened to school history teaching?

Post 9


Gong farmers please!smiley - smiley

A46433801 - What has happened to school history teaching?

Post 10


Ok, so ascribing your own values = a lack of historical empathy.

The sewage collector example (people will collect _anything_ donchaknow. Even trains spotted)...

A religiously inclined person might want to write history books about the importance of religion to people in the past, and although they manage to keep from judging the people's religious views in the past by their own values, by dint of writing about it, they have given a distorted view of the importance of religion compared to something else, like the importance of patriotism or something.

Of course, one book won't make a difference, but interests do come and go. 20th Century was dominated by secular ideology, so perhaps the importance of religion was downplayed because fewer people were interested in studying it. Now religious conflict is a hot topic again, there are going to be a lot more books out there about that in history. And/ or a lot more books/ historuans writing about the middle east rather than, say, Russia.

Anyway. The 'sewage collectors' is the sort of thing that got written when history was no longer written by the sort of people who went to Oxford or Cambridge and were descended from or related to people who became Archbishops/ Prime Ministers/ Generals/ etc. Or at least I was trying to think of a topic which was the opposite of high politics and biographies about movers and shakers.

A46433801 - What has happened to school history teaching?

Post 11


Oh pants. So writing about seage collecting because you are descended from sewage collectors does not demonstrate a lack of historical empathy per se, but it is connected to the aspect of historical consciousness which is the connection between current interests and the discipline of history.

Which I will write an entry about before the end of the week, I think.

You can tell I should be writing application forms, can't you? Plus my bathroom is really grotty at the mo...

A46433801 - What has happened to school history teaching?

Post 12


I enjoyed this very much, thank you smiley - smiley

However, from my perspective as a Scout, I'm not entirely sure of its overall accessibility as an Edited Guide Entry...

But, I'm ready to be convinced otherwise by my Peers smiley - ok

A46433801 - What has happened to school history teaching?

Post 13


I know what you mean Matt. I does rather read as a study essay, where the topic knowledge of the readership is already established. Having said that, I do think it has a place in the Guide, in the same way that other semi-academic entries have been and are accepted.
As you said, others will also have a view. smiley - towel

A46433801 - What has happened to school history teaching?

Post 14


I was afraid it read like that, too, actually. I could have a go at changing it. It's mean withdrawing it, though, as I'm pretty sure it'd mean a total rewrite and RL has caught up with me again.

Feel free to vote on this issue here smiley - biggrin

A46433801 - What has happened to school history teaching?

Post 15

McKay The Disorganised

Well I thought it was a good piece - with the exception of the Daily Mail comment, which really does need to go.

However history is my hobby, and my daughter did a degree in history and politics and is now a teacher, so perhaps I'm too close to this to make the judgement.

However, I would say the problem only arises because of the style of the piece, if it werre written more colloqueally I don't think the thought would arise.

smiley - cider

A46433801 - What has happened to school history teaching?

Post 16

TRiG (Ireland) A dog, so bade in office

"Progressing students further relies on helping them to see that when we ask questions about a source of evidence it was not designed to answer, we can gain information in which the question of reliability does not arise."

In Josephene Tay's novel The Daughter of Time, one character remarks that truth is to be found "not in accounts, but in account books". If the account book says that money was spent to buy ribbon for the baby, it's likely there was a baby, even if the narrative accounts say there wasn't.

(Josephene Tay is a pseudonym.)

TRiG.smiley - smileysmiley - booksmiley - 2cents

A46433801 - What has happened to school history teaching?

Post 17

TRiG (Ireland) A dog, so bade in office

And I am not close to the topic. I know shamefully little about history, really. And I thought this was an excellent Entry.

It does have a formal style, but it's a formal subject, so what harm?

TRiG.smiley - geek

A46433801 - What has happened to school history teaching?

Post 18


Josephine Tey = Elizabeth Mackintosh

smiley - towel

A46433801 - What has happened to school history teaching?

Post 19

Gnomon - time to move on

I enjoyed reading this Entry, and I think it deserves a place in the Guide, but I think there are a few points that need addressing.

1. I disagree with the title. History has always been taught as a form of knowledge. The old-style method which you so accurately describe is also a form of knowledge. So I think you'll have to find some other phrase as the title to this.

2. You use some fairly long sentences which can be confusing at times. Can you look through the longer ones and find any way of breaking them into shorter sentences with more impact?

3. There are a number of typos, but I wouldn't worry about them at this stage.

smiley - smiley

A46433801 - What has happened to school history teaching?

Post 20

Gnomon - time to move on

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