A High School History Teacher Under Fire for Teaching Facts Speaks Out





Mr. Enge teaches history at Carson High School, Carson City, Nevada.

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The Carson City (NV) school district says 11th-grade history teachers should start teaching American history at the Civil War period and move forward. But one experienced, award-winning teacher is standing up to this History-Lite policy and is insisting on teaching about our nation's colonial and Founding eras. And he might lose his job over it. Citizen Outreach is asking people to sign an online petition to save his job. -- Petition to Save Joe Enge's Job

What is the historian’s version of the Hippocratic Oath? Herodotus as “The Father of History” has not left us one as far as I know. Given the disturbing trends towards disparaging the teaching of historical facts in public schools, we may want to consider writing such an oath regarding the sacred duty history teachers have to impart our heritage to the next generation. Perhaps it could read, “I will not water down history content or the methodology of teaching history to conform to any given educational fad or political correctness that slashes and burns through our subject. Our foremost duty is to the integrity of history facts and the best interests of our students.”

In addition to our new oath, we could consider forming the history police to investigate pressures put on history teachers in public schools to cut corners lest they rock the boat. I am only half joking. One has only to watch The Tonight’s Show “Jaywalking” where Jay Leno asks people on the streets the most basic of history questions to concur our graduates of public schools do not know historical facts.

In reality and to the astonishment of many, teachers are told not to be “fact-fixated” when teaching of history. The word “facts” is almost used as an expletive in modern education. We are told students need to have a “feel” for the period and jump right into critical thinking and dialog with each other. “Facts” we are told only promote lower order thinking and are a waste of time as facts change in an ever changing world. Wow! What nonsense.

Whisper the nonsense part if you are a history teacher in a public school. Those of us fixated on facts are labeled “Neanderthals” and “dinosaurs” in American public education’s version of the Cultural Revolution. Today’s educational Young Turks are taught to look with disdain on the factual dinosaurs by the schools of education that control the licensing of teachers.

Another disturbing trend in modern education is the focus on social history to the point that students can receive good grades on a historical topic and never learn or cover the major events. Jay Matthews, in the Washington Post (May 28, 2004) article: "Students Don't Know Much About WW II Except the Internment Camps," gave such an example. Teachers are pressured to cover these issues at the expense of the dates, battles, and leaders to the point that many of the history teaching staff have weak backgrounds in these basics. This in turn reinforces the trend not to cover the Molotov—Ribbentropp Pact, Pearl Harbor, and Stalingrad in any detail or with real meaning.

I currently find myself in a rather interesting predicament of resisting the cutting of U.S. history content and being forced to apply questionable educational methods. I have been told to “play ball or else” by school district authorities. I rock the boat of public school history education in my little part of the world because I know how to swim. I understand others in the boat resent it being rocked, but wonder where compromise begins and selling out ends. We all have different beltlines. Mine has been reached.

I pointed out serious errors of my school district in addressing the state history standards (which I helped author) . In retaliation school officials have rated me unsatisfactory and are intent on making me an example of what happens when a teacher steps out of line. My years of experience including being a Fulbright teacher and Madison Fellow have been denigrated by district administration as not relevant to being a good teacher in their attempt to marginalize me and my objections. The two history textbooks I have written in the last two years are dismissed as simply having to do with “content” and are also considered irrelevant to what they call education.

While this appears backwards and rather confusing to most, it makes perfect sense in the minds of too many in public education. It is a fundamental ideological struggle for the control of the teaching of history, a struggle between content-oriented historians versus the educational methodologists that are set to apply their process style of teaching that manipulates content at will. They have the tail wagging the dog with the allure of not having to bother with the years of historical study required to be (formerly) fully competent to teach history.

The premise of traditional historical education is to learn the key people, places, and events and only then build upon these solid foundations toward “real” critical thinking regarding the topic. This teacher-centered model of instruction is considered “bad” teaching by student-centered theorists.

With student-centered teaching, students “share” their ideas and feelings in groups, as Heather MacDonald wrote in her 1998 work, The Flaw in Student-Centered Learning:

In such a classroom, the teacher is not supposed to teach, since teaching is considered too hierarchical and authoritarian. Worse, traditional lecturing presumes that the teacher actually knows something the students don't, an idea that is anathema to ed-school egalitarianism. The ideal student-centered classroom lacks a fixed curriculum. The student's own interests determine what he or she learns, with the teacher acting as mere "facilitator."

The use of the word “facilitator” exposes the key ideological difference of the methodology. While states still issue “teaching” licenses, the new teachers are not being trained to teach, rather facilitate. I can assume the people on the streets interviewed by Jay Leno were facilitated and not taught history.

Admittedly, forming a history police may be too far-fetched. They would be unnecessary if we had historical ethics and stood by them. Let’s toy with the idea of a historian’s oath. We should definitely look towards taking the power of licensing history teachers from schools of education and require them to obtain the stamp of approval from hard core history Neanderthals like us, assuming there are any of us left.



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Robert F. Kimball - 3/21/2007

Vivat on the article A High School History Teacher Under Fire for Teaching Facts Speaks Out
By Joseph Enge. I find that I too am often a lone voice in the wilderness of educational fads and edubabble that presuposes that kids are somehow auto-magically gifted with historical insight and knowledge.

As a veteran teacher of nearly 20 years with a father who was in the same profession for 35, I feel personally qualified yet increasingly heisitant to "do what is right" and directly instruct my students. Their functional knowledge of historical content and facts apporaches nil yet they seem very willing to desire to "debate", to "do projects", and to "have fun". Meanwhile, their acheivement seems to be lower, their functional skills diminished and their capability to historically analyze or support waning. Student Centered learning has its place but is not a cure-all and in fact, in large doeses, seems to poison the educational mind.

Are debates and projects good? Sure when they are researched and acurate but Cinderella's castle made from toothpicks by 14 hands unfairly relinquishes history and its majesty to the shelves of a Toy'-R-Us educational system. Likewise, a debate between 4 historically ignorant youths based on their previous knowledge of Immigration from watching the Cartoon Network or MTV.

Students who hav not been "directly instucted" have to be assumed, by definition, ignorant of the facts. If that assumption in fact is true, than direct instruction has to be retained at all costs (as it has been in al the countries killing us educationally currently).

So thank you for saying what needed to be said, Mr. Enge. I look forward to signing your petition momentarilily as well as pledging the Herodotus Oath we so desperately need. I liken us not to Neanderthals but caring, informed and cautious "Historian Educators".

Robert Kimball II, Social Studies Department, South Kingstown High School, Wakefield, RI


Paul Telesco - 12/2/2005

...but at what point did teaching require a lack of factual information? I suspect there is more of a personality conflict in that whomever made the decision to fire the author feels threatened by his obvious professionalism in the educational field.

As a teacher myself I have NEVER allowed such actions to "short-sheet" my students. Actions such as this are a perfect example of why the US is slipping with every passing year in educational standings on the world report card.

Fight for the students by fighting for FACTS - not what ever is politically warm and cuddly.

And as a side note - I personaly think that "American History" starts with the events that lead up to the American Revolutionary War... Someone should ask that school board if we should re-set the country's age!


Lisa Kazmier - 11/25/2005

As Matt Groening would say (Live in Hell): oh mais oui. Their paper-writing skills are horrendous too. Just recently, I read that WWII arrested Primo Levi. I did not know wars could do that. I highly doubt that people who use to for too and other obvious problems (thrown for throne, etc.) meants arrested development or suspension of life function. Too subtle.

Critical thinking is absent in a great many students. I asked a simple question for a short paper: why did Primo Levi survive Auschwitz? Getting anything like a well-supported thesis is beyond the majority.

The moralizing is sure present but not merely there in non-history majors. This past summer I read essays for the AP test that addressed similiarities and differences in Luther and Henry VIII. The comments on Henry often revolved around personal comments on his wives, instead of how to compare and contrast the two Protestant founders. Egad is about the right remark.

The weirder thing about a few of these students is that when I've pointed out failings of theirs, they want to argue the points with me, like one about the length of her paper. She turned it in via email, not as an attachment. It looked short. I did cut and paste and found it to be an entire page short (2 not 3). She gave me lip about how it was 2.5 how she had it, then in a subsequent email that I said it should be 2.5 but no longer than 3, whereas the assignment reads 3 pages, meaning over 2.5 and not terribly longer than 3. Does she really think I don't know what I wrote? Lazy, lazy, lazy. Instead of writing another paragraph or two, she writes another email to argue. Did hs teachers really indulge or tolerate this crap?


mark safranski - 11/24/2005

The reasons for the observations of Ms. Kazmier and Mr. Gonzalez ( who see the TOP quintile of H.S. American students wjhen teaching college courses)are:

a) Very, very few secondary and almost none of the elementary teachers were history majors.

Or have more than 18 hours total in all social sciences combined.

b) Being a history major is no particular advantage in applying for a position teaching History in a public school.

A principal will give far more weight to a candidate with minimal history prep who has a strong background in coaching football or basketball, is certified to teach ESL, Bilingual or Special Education or even English. English teachers are often seen in American High Schools picking up the odd social science class they know little or nothing about so the school can avoid hiring a full-time history instructor.

c) Neither school districts, nor states nor the Federal government do much to encourage the teaching of history.

NCLB for example is a powerful impetus to *cut* what history instruction that exists to increase Math and English instruction, because that is tested.

d) Most administrators cannot tell good or effective history teaching from bad ( being themselves mostly ex-Athletic Directors and elementary ed majors).

So they look for orderly classrooms and few parental complaints as a criteria for excellence. This encourages boring, quiet, seat work - not lively debate about controversial issues.

e) The 80 % of non-college bound H.S. students are the focus of public education except in more elite districts.

In many places you have seniors reading at the 4th or 6th or 8th grade level. Delving into interpreting primary sources is not going to happen in classrooms filled with functional illiterates. Reading is a crucial skill-set for learning history and today our kids can't read worth a damn.

f) Boomer parents of the white midddle class variety are not into having their progeny stressed out by tough homework policies. They like sports, extracurriculars and social events and easy " A's".

The pressure is on in many fairly affluent districts ( though not those where students go to the Ivy League after graduation) to cut way back on homework, to grade generously and to pretend everyone is at least above average. I would not advise any new, untenured teacher to get a reputation as a " tough grader" - they can still get away with strict discipline in some places - but not grading stringently. The students who get " F's" will be passed anyway and the teacher will lose their job more often than not.

http://zenpundit.blogspot.com/


David Nicholas Harley - 11/23/2005

"I don't trust school boards as far as I could throw 'em; too many parents involved."

Is it parents who oppose the teaching of "The Facts"? I think not. They probably want to have their children coming home from school full of the traditional narrative, driven by providentialism or Whiggery, about the glorious march of nationhood and American freedoms.

It is the teachers of teaching who want to see historiography as merely the play of conflicting interpretations, perhaps because they have read the works of Keith Jenkins and other such pedagogical theorists of history.

Whether we think there is too much emphasis on dry facts in the old model or too much freefloating discourse in the new model, it is surely the parents who have to be persuaded. Otherwise, teachers of history will have control of the curriculum wrenched from their hands by politicians and demagogues, appealing to resentment about the alien influence of government and secular humanism.

If historians and other teachers cannot connect rhetorically with the consumers of their services --- students and parents --- they will struggle when debates occur. Blaming parents and school boards for decisions is surely little more than self-righteous denial. It is the previous failure to persuade that needs to be addressed.

It seems probable that most high school biology teachers believe in naturalistic evolution, especially if they took classes on the subject, but they are by no means typical of the American public, who believe in either young earth creation or guided evolution. Whose fault is it that teachers find that they are having to confront school board members who do not understand the science involved or the status of a "theory" in science? It's too easy to blame the ignorance of the consumer without addressing why there is this mismatch.

Teachers do not pay their own salaries or consume their own services. It is foolish or arrogant to imagine that there is no need to persuade those who do, whether one is teaching in a high school or a university.


David Nicholas Harley - 11/23/2005

"I don't trust school boards as far as I could throw 'em; too many parents involved."

Is it parents who oppose the teaching of "The Facts"? I think not. They probably want to have their children coming home from school full of the traditional narrative, driven by providentialism or Whiggery, about the glorious march of nationhood and American freedoms.

It is the teachers of teaching who want to see historiography as merely the play of conflicting interpretations, perhaps because they have read the works of Keith Jenkins and other such pedagogical theorists of history.

Whether we think there is too much emphasis on dry facts in the old model or too much freefloating discourse in the new model, it is surely the parents who have to be persuaded. Otherwise, teachers of history will have control of the curriculum wrenched from their hands by politicians and demagogues, appealing to resentment about the alien influence of government and secular humanism.

If historians and other teachers cannot connect rhetorically with the consumers of their services --- students and parents --- they will struggle when debates occur. Blaming parents and school boards for decisions is surely little more than self-righteous denial. It is the previous failure to persuade that needs to be addressed.

It seems probable that most high school biology teachers believe in naturalistic evolution, especially if they took classes on the subject, but they are by no means typical of the American public, who believe in either young earth creation or guided evolution. Whose fault is it that teachers find that they are having to confront school board members who do not understand the science involved or the status of a "theory" in science? It's too easy to blame the ignorance of the consumer without addressing why there is this mismatch.

Teachers do not pay their own salaries or consume their own services. It is foolish or arrogant to imagine that there is no need to persuade those who do, whether one is teaching in a high school or a university.


Michael Beatty - 11/23/2005

Present!

I have, in my late 30s, finally decided what I want to be when I grow up - a History teacher, albeit at the post-secondary level. No offense to Mr. Enge, or the memories of the high school History teachers who (after a short delay) turned me on to the subject, but I have no interest in teaching at the elementary/secondary level, for precisely the reason that Mr. Enge's job is currently in jeopardy. Plus, I don't trust school boards as far as I could throw 'em; too many parents involved.

Polemic aside, I can't help but wonder what the fundamental rationale is behind this notion of teaching critical-thinking skills, and making the ability to think critically the sine qua non of education, if students are never given anything material (that is, data) to think about. We are teaching our children to process information, but not giving them any information to process.

I propose the analogy of a chef attempting to make chicken salad. She has the most advanced buffalo chopper, with high-carbon German-crafted stainless steel blades, a capacious hopper, all the bells and whistles to make this machine the gem of her kitchen. But if she doesn't actually put the chicken, celery, onions, mayonnaise, etc into the machine, she'll never get chicken salad out of it.

We need to teach facts and relationships in high school, and let the college faculties deal with issues of critical thinking.


Robert B G - 11/22/2005

A good example of the failure of the student-centered facilitation of history learning happened several years ago.

I was born in 1933, the year FDR and Hitler came to head their respective governments.

My granddaughter was in high school at the time, and her girlfriend asked me if I was alive in World War Two.

Either I looked tremendously younger than I was, or this student had no clue as to when World War Two took place.

To begin American history with the Civil War is wrong. That conflict is so central to our very being that it is important to know what happened in the years and decades before 1860 to build up to this point.

I have seen the subject taught out of sequence, resulting in some students thinking Lincoln was our first President, and Washington came later.

As a former ESL tutor for refugees in my community, I always used content-based lessons with my students; often I drew on examples from their own country of origin, to help them understand the history behind their parents' decision to leave home and come here.

You cannot teach that in a student-centered methodology.

If this methodology is based on the supposition that the student knows as much as the teacher,who is to be just a "facilitator," then why bother with school?

What is the purpose of education if the students already purportedly know as much as the teacher (adolescents already "know" this to be the fact, as most parents know)?

Perhaps I was fortunate, but my high school teachers in History and Literature taught more than just the facts; these facts were put in the context of people and events of the time.

The history of the English King Henry V and the Battle of Agincourt was not quite the same history as found in Shakespeare's play, Henry V, and our teachers explained the difference.

When we studied English literature, we became aware that some of Chaucer's poetic style was derived from his contemporary Dante; Chaucer was a court diplomat, we learned, who often went to Europe on the king's business.

You cannot teach that in a student-centered methodology.

I am still working with high school students, in a different role; recently I had one theatre student say she was not fond of the musical "1776" (which I was going to play in the car as we drove to a theatre conference) because she had numerous negative experiences with her American history teacher.

If teachers turn kids off because of their methodological preferences, perhaps they should consider other models of teaching.


Gonzalo Rodriguez - 11/22/2005

Ms. Kazmier,

I have had similar experiences. The students I have (in intro-level college courses) are woefully, woefully ignorant when it comes to basic knowledge -- and by that I mean simple facts of geography and chronology without which a history lesson is impossible, like: where is Guatemala? In what century was the Mexican-American War? Wow, I didn't know New Mexico is a US state!

As a result, I have to spend way too much time lecturing on facts just so the students can get a minimal grasp on the actual course material which, being a college course, assumes a basic pre-knowledge of these things. And contrary to what Mr. Young says, my students DEVOUR facts voraciously. They've been starved of facts for so long they're lost, and they are extremely grateful when I or another teacher offer them -- it's something to grasp onto. Whenever the discussion reverts back to a "sharing" session in which we all talk about how awful slavery was and pat ourselves on the back for being so much more enlightened then people were 200 years ago, most students simply turn off: they've been hearing this stuff their whole lives.

In short, the students who arrive at the university today are big on "the big picture" (class conflict, race issues, gender oppression) but no sense of the facts behind this academic trendiness. This leads to two things: 1) a deep suspicion of actual facts that don't immediately support the dominant sense of history-as-the-ongoing-progressive-struggle-for-justice-by-oppressed-groups, or 2) a complete inability to argue for all the "higher-level thinking" that the New History is supposed to instill in students. These students produce boring and unoriginal essays that are based entirely on emotional moralizing ("I think slavery is wrong") rather than evidence and argumentation.

Nobody is arguing that we should simply make students memorize names and dates. That's a total straw man. But when "higher-level thinking" is emphasized so much that facts get waved away as "boring" and "irrelevant", what happens is the students simply learn what the teacher wants them to learn -- indoctrination rather than education. A true educational experience in which students learn their OWN critical thinking skills is one in which the teacher presents the students with enough facts and context to where they can make their OWN judgments and interpretations of their meanings.

The end result of an education that de-emphasizes facts is that students expect their teachers to do all their thinking and hard work for them -- and spit it back in hopes of a good grade, their ultimate goal of even taking a class.


Lisa Kazmier - 11/22/2005

Good luck to all you hs history teachers. This fall, I experienced an incoming crop of non-majors expected to take a required history class. They know neither facts nor possess a "sense" of history. My easy exam was "hard" to them, to one the hardest exam ever taken. It involved IDing terms and some passages from reading they were supposed to have done (of course, no one reads these and then they complain about the material on the reading list being too much).

There have been a sad sad bunch of students who know nothing about taking notes from a lecture, either. And actually some person had the nerve to ask me to provide notes (possibly the same individual who whines on ratemyprofessor.com that I refused to do their work for them). In short, I have found this crop to be intollerably lazy -- adding to this the fact that many students went home last weekend and couldn't even be bothered to attend a Monday class before Thanksgiving (I wonder how many will attend next Monday).

I am very unimpressed and anything done to shake up students from their doldrums is good by me.


Paul Mocker - 11/22/2005

That's right. Read "Historical Thinking and Other Unnatural Acts" by Wineburg.

We have never been strong on facts and it's time to try another approach such as constructivist teaching.


Paul Mocker - 11/22/2005

I agree with you Mr. Young. Mr. Enge has mischaracterized the current teaching paradigm.

I am studying to be a history teacher. It seems obvious that "teacher-based" learning (to use Mr. Enge's phrase) has not worked and we have nearly 100 years of evidence. Americans have never been strong on facts.

That doesn't mean I won't use facts. It just means that I will use the content (facts, ideas, timelines, etc.) as a bridge for teaching higher-level thinking. That's the goal isn't it?


Charles S Young - 11/22/2005

Students don't know history because they are bored stiff by it. That's what happens in courses structured around memorization of facts. For facts to be remembered, and be useful, they have to be a part of the critical thinking process. You cannot have one without the other.

I'm not acquainted with a classroom where "the teacher is not supposed to teach, since teaching is considered too hierarchical and authoritarian.... lecturing presumes that the teacher actually knows something the students don't, an idea that is anathema to ed-school egalitarianism." That strikes me as a gross caricature.

Anyone who's tried to lead a discussion knows that nothing will happen if the students are not first presented raw data to work with. The "facilitator" approach does not negate the teaching of facts -- it is based on it.


Jeremy Greene - 11/22/2005

According to Sam Wineburg, who is in another comment on this list, students have never tested well.


Christopher James Scott - 11/21/2005

Enge's offhand comment about Jaywalking got me thinking about the historical ignorance of current students.

Without detracting from the force of his main argument, I wonder just how historically-inept our current students are in comparison to previous generations? Is there extant data on that subject? The level of rhetoric makes it seem as if previous generations were much more knowledgable about history in general. By comparison, the current generation is filled with historically-ignorant dolts.

I have two comments on this. 1) I'm generally skeptical of the reality this comparison, though I have no data to support my hunch. 2) Discussions of historical ignorance often leave the implications unstated, as if merely positing its (unknown?) consequences of are enough to send any historian with enough good sense into convulsions. But what do we have in mind? This questions stems directly from the skepticism in my initial comment. That is, if we've traditionally been a historically-ignorant nation (except perhaps for the well-educated creme de la creme), what different consequences will the historical ignorance of our current students have?


Robert Harbison - 11/21/2005

The requirements at my School (and this is historically a 'Teacher's College, mind)state that a prospective Social Studies Teacher doesn not have to take a single history course outside of the general education requirements for the whole school. Even with the Gen Ed, a student is only required to take one history class.

It is scary, but that's why there are the polls that say 70% of American graduates can't name the century of the Civil War or find Nashville on a map.


Gonzalo Rodriguez - 11/21/2005

One of the causes, I think, of this problem is the fact that many of our teachers are woefully undereducated themselves. There are many wonderful teachers, but statistics show that education majors are frequently the most mediocre students at any given university. And very few of them that will become history teachers will ever take any amount of actual history classes -- education schools instead promoting theory and method over knowledge.

As Professor Sam Wineburg of the Stanford School of Education puts it:

"Imagine this: Nearly a third of the students who apply to Stanford's master's in teaching program to become history teachers have never taken a single college course in history. Outrageous? Yes, but it's part of a well-established national pattern. Among high school history teachers across the country, only 18% have majored (or even minored) in the subject they now teach.

I don't doubt the dedication of these people. The application statements I read at Stanford shine with a commitment that renews one's faith in the passion of today's youth. And nearly every one of these young people is willing to forsake a more lucrative career — in law, medicine, business — to pursue teaching.

But how can you teach what you don't know? Would someone who wanted to teach calculus dare to submit a transcript with no math courses? Would a prospective chemistry teacher come to us with a record devoid of science? Yet with history, the theory goes, all you need is a big heart and a thick book....

The shopworn saying that a good teacher needs only to stay a chapter ahead of students is widely believed — but patently false. History is about how events in one age sow the seeds for what happens next. Good teachers foreshadow later lessons when teaching earlier ones — by helping students see, for instance, that the configuration of power left in the wake of World War II would eventually erupt as the Korean War. History is just a random mess to those who remain a chapter ahead.

Lack of knowledge encourages another bad habit among history teachers: a tendency to disparage "facts," an eagerness to unshackle students from the "dominant discourse" — and to teach them, instead, what the teacher views as "the Truth." What's scary is the certainty with which this "Truth" is often held. Rather than debating why the United States entered Vietnam or signed the North American Free Trade Agreement or brokered a Camp David accord, all roads lead to the same point: our government's desire to oppress the less powerful. It is a version of history that conjures up a North Korean reeducation camp rather than a democratic classroom...."

http://hnn.us/roundup/comments/10444.html


Mike Schoenberg - 11/21/2005

On the editorial page of 11/21 NYTimes is an excelent piece on how Japanese teachers cooperate with their junior partners to improve their teaching skills. I realize this is a tangent from the discussion at hand but it seems American education is in enough trouble without the teaching of the the Founding Fathers.


Jeremy Greene - 11/21/2005

see the petition to save Joe's job at:

http://hnn.us/roundup/comments/17802.html

for my (and others') thoughts.


Tim Lacy - 11/21/2005

The best way to solve these kinds of problems is to seek the center. One must balance facts and method. Many students do not respond well, that is energetically, to mere narratives on the facts. Those facts - colonial, antebellum, or otherwise - must be presented with relevance. For instance, one of the purposes of this website is to prove, daily, history's relevance to current events. So long as Mr. Enge is not seeking to dryly present the past at the expense of the present, he is justified in his complaint(s).

Also, if Mr. Enge is seeking to present relevant cultural knowledge, E.D. Hirsch style (without the culture wars), then he's on the right track. Students must be aware of the facts that comprises the platform on which current knowledge has been built.


Kim Jackson - 11/21/2005

I went through high school in the 1980's, thus experienced both types of teaching methods. I see problems and benefits to each style. Teaching and learning by rote is easy but the "facts" have to be right and inclusive of many sides to a particular event. I do agree that it provides the basis for critical thinking and has been wrongly neglected. The discussion/activity-based learning style creates (at least) two problems; wastes time and omits the objective environment in which to learn history. I remember one World History class in which we took over 3 weeks to cover the French Revolution (and it wasn't covered). Using precious time in History class to discuss particular parts of an event is unnecessary when there are elective social studies courses that specialize in that very task.


mark safranski - 11/21/2005

Knowing public school systems and the arbitrary way in which they can be run as I do, I'd strongly advise Mr. Enge to hire an attorney familiar with labor, free speech libel and slander law cases.

Retaliation against school employees who criticize their school boards or administrations is illegal. On the other hand, in most states school boards have the legal authority to set the curriculum, within the parameters of the public school code and state law.

If the school board reduces American history to dumbed down garbage, they usually have that authority though differing state laws regarding academic freedom, previous practice, state standards for education are potential modifiers. So, probably a school administrator could conceivably forbid Mr. Enge from teaching anything prior to 1861 ( though that type of micromanagement of one teacher in a district is usually indicative of administrative harrassment)


Seth Cable Tubman - 11/20/2005

You are completely right. Students can not be expected to understand how to analyze and synthesize material without first understanding the facts they are analyzing. It's time that educators stop playing political science and start teaching history!

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