At what point do you think that kids should be taught an accurate version of history, complete with all of the nasty stuff? As a history teacher, I notice that a lot of my college students have a childish understanding of history. Since the stuff that people learn as kids tends to stick with them, I think that this is largely the result of the "history" that they learned in grammar schools.
I would think middle and high school. elementary age children are not able to think conceptually or understand abstracts, the lengthy time frames and generalities. they can 'hear' facts and figures but it is more difficult for them to learn unless it is made relevant to their present.
I don't see any harm in teaching the gruesome facts as they are a part of not only our past, but the present time. kids are exposed to gruesome, horrendous realities daily if the news is on in their homes. students here are taught the Holocaust and even go to the Holocaust Museum for field trips. It's realities like that which can help a student mature and see themselves as part of a bigger world with important implications as to how country and global issues are resolved. Tragedy and the cruel realities of history can be an effective teacher of compassion and tolerance if presented properly by a talented teacher.
What is the accurate version of history? Everything is interpretation, isn't it? Anyone who documented events as they occured gave their version of the events. While it's true that others may be in agreement with that version, there are always others who disagree.
I believe you should teach your students what "your truth" is and allow others to do the same. It's up to your students to conclude what "their own truth" is.
Good point. What I was specifically referring to was our effort to shelter kids from reality, whether we are discussing the past or the present. At what point do we expose our kids to some of the ugly aspects of the past? History is subject to interpretation, but few would argue that the past was ever a purely happy time.
Afterall, isn't teaching about opening the mind? Exposing them to different views than they've heard before allows them to think about things differently. It's all good.
I've taught 5th and 6th grade, and I see such differences among different classes, so it's a hard questions... Certain aspects of history are meant for a more mature mind, yet I'll admit some of the 6th graders knew things I was oblivious to when I was 12, and some of the 5th graders were SHOCKED over things I remember learning about when I was in second grade... sooo...
Tough question. But, I agree, that many adults never did gain that full understanding. (Not sure I even did!)
I have a feeling kids don't learn the more "advanced" version of history than they learned in grammar school because grammar school kids are often more interested in school. When they hit middle school and beyond, they've reached an age when they're pondering who they are, whether they're popular, etc. etc.; or else they're old enough to know there are people starving in the world - and either way, they don't think learning about history is "that important". I think it takes a certain level of maturity to see the importance of learning history. Kids between 11/12 and 18 aren't always endowed with that kind of maturity.
My "thing" (for years) has been that I think grammar school kids need to be taught some of the things that are often left until secondary school; just because younger kids haven't reached that stage of development when their focus is on themselves, rather than on school. If they had a better understanding in grammar school, secondary school could capitalize on the interest that often accompanies a better understanding. I think, though, kids could be given a better foundation and more solid understanding, without being given too many gory details.
Good points. It also might be helpful to expose them to a broader range of historical topics. If History is taught as mostly politics, famous people, and wars, students will often tune out. If it includes social history and topics that they can personally relate to, they might find it more interesting.
I was about 10 when I opened a library book and bumped into a graphic description of the Sand Creek Massacre, complete with pregnant women being sliced open for sport and tobacco pouches being made from men's privates. It still haunts my nightmares today.
That said, I was a sensitive kid, and reading stuff like that really doesn't get any easier with time. High school would have been a better age to get the gruesome details, but although I think history for younger kids should concentrate on the heroes, I still think it's important that even young kids know, at least in general terms, exactly how horrible we as a species are capable of being. Nobody's perfect and no country is perfect and kids need to grow up with a reasonable understanding of both the great deeds and the mistakes.
The difficulty of exposing kids to reality only hit me fully when I became a parent. It's so tempting to shelter kids from the world, and for a while, it is a healthy thing to do. Soon, however, will come the difficult process of letting go.
I'm not in favor of gruesome details for younger kids - just teaching the overall history and saying something like "and in x year the country of _____decided to send in _____, which resulted in a war in which many people, including soldiers, were killed." That would part of that "foundation" I mentioned above. Later, in high school, if someone wanted to expand on the details they could. My theory is, though, that if enough of the "basics"/foundation were offered young, and it was built on as kids get older (even without a lot of gory details), there's the chance students/graduates would find it interesting enough to read more about it on their own. So, I'm not even in favor of teaching high school kids some kinds of gory details. It's not necessary. They could know more than what I proposed for grammar school kids, but saying something (to high school kids) as non-detailed as "and the violence that took place during x battle was particularly gruesome in nature" can still get a valid message across without being too disturbing to people who don't need any pictures painted in order to get the message.
Good Day Freeway Flyer
This is an excellent topic! I understand and agree with you completely, that there are many people (not just students, but adults in all walks of life, especially politicians) are walking around with a childish understanding of history.
One time I responded to a question in the Q & A section. The question was: Why do you think interracial relationships continue to be somewhat stigmatized? It wasn't worded quite that way. But this is one of the areas of American life (sticking strictly to America for the sake of efficiency) in which the "childish" understanding of history becomes operative.
We all know the childish version of the Pilgrims coming to America in the Mayflowers, making friends with the indigenous peoples, shaking hands and sitting down to the first Thanksgiving..... We are all aware of that.
What I want to suggest is this: it is the blockage of that childish understanding of American history, which, in a way, feeds into a reason why interracial dating, to this day, continues to be somewhat stigmatized. I am saying some of the tension in social relations among blacks and whites represents an ongoing failure in our education system.
I'm saying that our society continues to be somewhat segregated because the discipline of history, to a certain extent, remains segregated. What do I mean by this?
What is the study of history, as we usually have it? I believe you, Freeway Flyer, made the point. History is largely kings and popes lists. "History" basically just glorifies upper class, heterosexual, rich white men.
In other words, we will have more of a truly integrated American society when the public school system figures out how to teach a truly integrated curriculum. Because of the failure to do this we have so many niche studies: African-American studies, Women's Studies, I believe there are even Gay Studies. There are even upper class studies -- the elite private schools the children of the upper classes attends, institutions which, by their very nature, validate the way the world is stratified by class.
But teaching an integrated curriculum will not be easy. Let's just stay with black and white people. How will we teach American history without making little white boys and girls feel like oppressors, and without making little black boys and girls feel like victims? However this must be done!
Yes, it's ironic that specialized disciplines designed to make up for past discrimination can end up promoting a form of academic segregation. It is difficult teaching an integrated curriculum. There simply isn't time to cover everyone's point of view. Still, I try to bring in as much diversity as possible.
Slavery is a topic that lends itself to the standard whites as oppressors / blacks as victims story, and deservedly so. Still, it is important to note that slaves were generally captured by Africans. I emphasize this in my classes to show that victimization does not always fit such nice, clear, racial guidelines. There is tremendous diversity within the categories that we create, a fact that can draw us away from simplistic, childish thinking about both the past and present.
My latest hub is about the dangers of childish history. I would put the link here were it not for the scary message below.
Of course every student should get a good grounding in history, without it they know nothing about themselves and their culture.
The problem is the history that is taught. If some US schools are teaching flat earth theory, and maintaining that religious fictions are 'history' then they are lying to their kids.
Here in China they are quite angry that Japan (so I understand) has removed the record of their occupation of China from the history books. This occupation was accompanied by horrendous massacres and mistreatment of the population that we all know the 'old' Japan was in the habit of inflicting on others.
I guess quite a few people in the US would be against teaching the truth of Vietnam - little facts like 4 to 5 million Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos people killed - massacred would not be too far a choice of word - for a total of 85,000 US troops killed and injured. Or the ideological cess pit that got all those people killed for nothing.
as soon as they are at the development stage (age) in school where reasoning is developing well, I say teach the whole truth about all countries. They need to know.
sadly if we just keep teaching achievement tests and how to pass them, so Unions get raises and Gov. money for advancing the kids, ready or not, then they don’t have much chance at seeing the truth in any subject mater
college is expensive enough without having to take High School make up courses as prep courses.
I would first wonder what "reality" are you teaching or supposedly exposing them to?
Is it your reality? The "reality" that history isn't accurate, due to a subjective view of others?
The most objective definition of reality is lead by reality exists. It exists free of thoughts, desires, wishes or will.
The world humanity sees is an objective reality and it is all knowable.
*on a side note- just because it's all knowable, doesn't mean humanity has nothing to learn. Reality never changes. It's the subjective view of each person that changes every time something new is created or discovered.
I would have to agree with Dutchman, at an age where "reasoning" has become well established.
Children should be taught the upper level of history, so that when they get to high classes they know the initial levels of history, at that time they could be taught history.
I've seen, only few teachers exist who make their subject interesting for students and develop their interest in it. If the teacher has the capability then they should taught other wise no need to teach.
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