Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Excellence in History Education

While this is somewhat an update to my May 30th post on sensitivity, it's more of a reinforcement of just how great a history teacher Mr. Powell is. In his response to the article referenced in that post, he clearly and concisely described how to deal with children and their burgeoning definition of self when encountering some of the more unpleasant facts of history. He explains that it is important to be able to acknowledge that while they may relate to a certain ethnic, religious, or national identity, children need to understand that they are not responsible for the misdeeds of that group. The teaching of history should not be altered to accommodate certain sensitivities, but rather the teacher needs to assist any child bewildered by his connection to wrong-doings of generations past.

Mr. Powell's response is much more clear and concise and you can read it on his History At Our House email list. Again, I urge anyone who is interested in history or excellent pedagogy to join this list.

HistoryAtOurHouse is a forum for anyone interested in the value of a secular history education. Parents of homeschoolers and afterschoolers are especially welcome. The group serves as a complement to the HistoryAtOurHouse program and blog, but it is open to discussion of any secular history curricula and issues related to history and homeschooling.

I struggled with the contents of that article and had a knee-jerk reaction against over-sensitivity and the insidiousness of political correctness. But of course, children can certainly see themselves proudly belonging to any one ethnic, national, or religious group and only later learn about the horrors perpetrated by that particular group for the first time in a history class. They may need help to understand that they make their own choices in life and are not bound by the mistakes or violations of their ancestors.

It is the same for living off the glories of past ancestors. It may be an interesting thing to think about for a time, but it is up to the individual to make his way properly through life.

It reminds me of a phrase so eloquently stated in Rudyard Kipling’s If:

If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same;

While the whole fabulous poem (found here) is devoted to individual choices, finding out about the good and bad of groups you personally identify with may feel like a triumph or a disaster, and should ultimately be treated the same: things which came before you. Your choices are up to you.


Kim said...

I really enjoyed Mr. Powell's response as well. In our adult sense, we forget kids are still trying to find out who they are. They may end up with some sense of belonging based on groups that we might not realize. I think his answer was very appropriate.

LB said...

Yes. He's a really good teacher. I'm happy we found him.