Yo Tumblr - What Matters?
Dear Tumblr - I need your help! From what I’ve gathered over my short teaching career, the older I get the more History there is to teach. And yet, while the amount of history to teach is growing, the amount of time to teach it remains the same. Clearly, a problem only solved by time travel. Seriously though, each year I have to make tough choices about what to teach and what not to teach - it is quite impossible to teach it all with depth and clarity. The problem is that I am one person, with a certain lens through which I view History, bringing my pre-judgments and biases to my curriculum. In short, I’m trying to unlearn the unwritten rule that says we are to cover everything broadly, and nothing deeply. Welp, here goes…
I need your help in deciding what matters in American History. Whether you be a teacher, historian, bum, blogger, plumber, dumb, or none of the above, my humble request is that you join a dialogue about what matters in American History, and what doesn’t.
So. I’ve created a new blog called “What Matters?”, and over the next few weeks I’ll be posting over there about how we decide what’s important for American kids to know, and what’s not. Please take part in that conversation if you are at all interested - even if you just want to weigh in on your own experience as a student, an American, or someone who wants to help change the way we learn History.
Please send a message or just click follow at whatmattersinhistory.tumblr.com if you are equal to the task, or follow the #whatmatters tag if you prefer to watch. If it’s not for you, please consider reblogging and sharing this with others you know.
Not sure yet? Read these answers to the questions you have that I already thought of and answered here.
Hunter-Gatherer Style of Education?
There’s no doubt about it – I spoon feed my 11th graders. I tell them when the Great Depression started, and they know who took office in 1932 and can list various government agencies created to stop the bleeding. Some of them can even tell how this changed the role of government in our country and can make a direct correlation to things I’ve shown them in the news. But they only know it because I told them it was so. I put it into a power point, printed it up on worksheets, and told them where in the textbook they could read about it. I’ve spoon-fed them the Great Depression and New Deal, and I haven’t asked them to do anything more than that. I’d be ashamed of myself if it weren’t so typical.
But by far the worst part is that my students like it that way and they want it that way. They don’t want to have to think, they want to the right answer. They don’t value process – they value results. You might be thinking to yourself that this is par for the course for teenagers, especially at this time in the year. But my contention is that the desire for process, not results, has been educated out of them. I think it’s likely that our system of education has bashed them senseless with a never-ending quest for being correct. Clearly, I now know why my students abide by the rules of the game: if you don’t know the answer, you keep quiet or get chastised.
Instead of spoon-feeding students knowledge, what we need to do is involve them in the hunt. They need to know where to look for a good catch, how to watch out for misinformation, and how to have each other’s backs. They need to know how to accomplish goals with a team, how to problem solve without together, and how to forage for “food for thought”. Wouldn’t the food taste better that way? Don’t we appreciate the wisdom we have if we’ve gathered it ourselves? Wouldn’t a hunter-gatherer model of education be better than the spoon-fed version we have?
I guess this explains it best: