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Demosthenes's avatar

How should history be taught in schools?

Asked by Demosthenes (13571points) November 15th, 2021
24 responses
“Great Question” (3points)

Considering that the controversy over what should be taught in schools determined the outcome of several recent elections, I think this a topic worth addressing.

How should American history be taught in U.S. schools? Should kids learn about slavery and Jim Crow? Should they be taught about the white people who fought against slavery and for Civil Rights? Should the negative aspects of history be toned down so kids don’t feel guilty?

What should be taught and how should it be taught?

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Answers

ragingloli's avatar

It is common in Germany to have school trips to concentration camps, to teach children how the German State and their ancestors, murdered people by the millions.

An essential part of the adage “Never Again”, is teaching children the horrific parts of the past.
It is quite obvious that one of the major reasons for colonial “exceptionalism”, and the fervent nationalism exhibited by a majority of colonials, is the fact that history in school is white-washed, sanitised, and censored, while the principal actors in it are elevated to a level of adulation, that is only rivalled by the Gods themselves.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Of course they should be taught about slavery and Jim Crow. And the civil rights movement. I mean, I was.

The problem is, school isn’t just about teaching history. They have a whole bunch of other shit to do too.

KNOWITALL's avatar

I think that so many children are online and race has been a huge issue, we may as well teach them the honest facts at this point.
What those facts are and at what age children are taught are my primary concerns.
How would children even understand the complex relationships of Lincoln, for instance?

product's avatar

All history is political. Teaching it requires an ideological framework. So, teaching it means that we are taking a position.

While I would love to see a focus on history from the perspective of the voiceless and victims of the US, that’s not going to happen. A far second choice for me would be an admission or declaration of what the whole project is. If we’re going to continue to whitewash history and have it serve power and act as a moral cleanser, I’d really love for people to know that this is the case. An explanation of what the whole project is about would go a long way for people. We could drop the whole “objectivity” nonsense, and move look at historical narratives for what they are.

filmfann's avatar

Review the bidding. Examine the obstacles and choices they had. Be frank about the mistakes, and clear on the impacts.

Forever_Free's avatar

great question. It should be taught open and honestly.
There should be no room for political stance as we are taking about something that was done in the past. We need to teach how we evolved and learned from our mistakes.
We should teach what we know, what we did, who we did it to. The impact of this becomes a study in Social Ethics at that point.
My son is a History Teacher. This question will be asked of him for his feedback when I talk to him. I want to hear his answer as he is front line on this currently.

Blackwater_Park's avatar

Teaching history should be neutral and as matter of fact as possible. History is not political and should never be political but more often than not it is a political propaganda weapon. How it is taught depends on who is teaching it and what their ideology is. If we ever aspire to become an honest society this will have to stop.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Nothing should be taught with a political stance. Or a religious slant.

SQUEEKY2's avatar

Accurately!

ragingloli's avatar

Teaching history is political.
What are you choosing to teach? To what depth do you teach it?
Time is limited, so other topics inevitably fall by the wayside.
Which of topics do you omit, or just glance over?
The decision, which parts of history are important to teach, is political.

A lot of time and emphasis was put on teaching the horrors of Nazi Germany.
Other parts of German history were neglected.
That decision was based on the political stance, that Nazis are bad, and their return to power must be prevented at all costs. That includes not glorifying other parts of Germany’s past.

Deciding to emphasise teaching about Slavery, is based on the political stance, that slavery is bad, is a horrific part of colonial heritage, and to give context to the racial injustice that persists to this day.
Conversely, deciding not to teach it, is based on the political stance, that teaching about its horrors will result in diminished nationalism, and that it is more important for children to be indoctrinated into the belief of their country’s “greatness” and nigh-infallibility.

janbb's avatar

@ragingloli Not to mention including the teaching of the genocide of the native populations.

Blackberry's avatar

They’ll already learn when they leave the school or go online, or simply live their life.

I don’t think we’re ready to tell a bunch of kids their country was garbage from the start and they did irrevocable damage that can’t be fixed.

Just keep the status quo so we don’t make racists uncomfortable.

Whatever happens is only gonna be seen as “the government telling me what to do.”

KRD's avatar

They should teach American history.

Mimishu1995's avatar

Right now I’m reading this amazing book. It claims to be “a visual history”, but it’s chocked full of useful information. It isn’t just a picture book with full of slightly related pictures and a bunch of texts vaguely explaining what is going on in the pictures and to be honest, I have a bias against picture books because I came across so many books like that. This book is extremely detailed, down to the most trivial matter, and it really helps me develop a mental picture of what was going on at that time period.

But what I like the most about it is how it discusses everything honestly and objectively. It doesn’t shy away from sensitive matters like how black people were used in the army or the treatment of Native Americans. Yet it doesn’t make me feel horrible about America at all. I feel so proud of the good people involved in the war and sympathetic to the people who were unjustly harmed and whose heart were in the wrong place and I’m not even American!. I find myself loving everyone equally, even with knowing their shortcomings and all. That is because the book doesn’t take side. It simply retells what happened and let me come up with my own conclusion.

This book proves to me that you don’t have to take side or be dependent on any political standard to teach history properly. This is how I want history to be taught, in a way that doesn’t sanitize anything but still instill a sense of pride into students. Not just American history, but history all around the world.

Mimishu1995's avatar

@KRD They should teach American history.

What do you mean? This question is about American history.

JLeslie's avatar

Kids should absolutely be taught about Jim Crow, slavery, the Underground Railroad, Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, racism, affirmative action, inequities, etc. Just not when they are very young. I think If should start some time in middle school.

RedDeerGuy1's avatar

From those who lived it.

Mimishu1995's avatar

@RedDeerGuy1 If you know anyone who lived through the Revolutionary War please let me know :)

RedDeerGuy1's avatar

@Mimishu1995 In that case I suggest reading their biographies/diaries. That should be as close to first hand experiences from someone who lived it as possible. Also letters to home.

YARNLADY's avatar

That’s hard question. Did George Washington cut down the cherry tree? No. Did Columbus discover America? No. Were all slaves black people from Africa? No. Do little kids need to dress up in paper feathers and plastic drums to learn about Indians? No.
History is important, but knowing the names and dates of various Generals and battles is not the way to teach or learn.

mazingerz88's avatar

History should be taught based on facts. Along with all kinds of opinions people have with regards to those facts throughout the course of history.

People who worry they will be hated or are being hated for the evils their ancestors did should grow up.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Honestly, I was taught everything in history in school, but most of what I learned I really learned after graduation, just from living.
I know one young lady, in her 40s, who had never heard of the holocaust! Everyone wants to blame the school system but I don’t. There is just no way she could have gone through 40+ years of life and not know about the holocaust. Something else is going on there.

flutherother's avatar

I think it is almost impossible to teach history without taking some kind of a moral position but as far as possible the facts should be allowed to speak for themselves and not be used to support religious or political views. Politicians in particular should be kept well away from the classroom.

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