In Part II, Chapters 3 - 5, Wineburg addresses the various issues students have when analyzing historical texts. In chapter 3, he uses high school students as case studies to illustrate the various issues students have when accurately analyzing sources. While many of these students may be "good readers" they have some characteristically poor notions of good history. For example, many of the students considered the textbook to be the most reliable source, because they thought it contained the least bias. Chapter 4, in discussing a "think-aloud" activity concerning Abraham Lincoln among two prospective teachers, is able to first of all describe the process by which two people use documents and their historical knowledge, or lack thereof, to formulate a perspective on the past. Chapter 5 is an analysis of an activity on gender and stereotypes of figures in history. The findings demonstrate, on some level, a lack of understanding of women and certain groups in history. When prompted, students tend to think about men in history as opposed to women, which creates a gender bias on our understanding and meanings in history.
Questions to consider:
1. Chapter 3 talks about the problems of students' reading in history. What do you think are the biggest obstacles to students understanding source material at a better level? Why are they keen to believe a textbook over a primary source? What strategies can be implemented to overcome these problems?
2. Wineburg points out at the end of chapter 4 that it is often clear that students who want to become history teachers are woefully unprepared in their content knowledge and skills. Do you agree with this statement? If so, why and how does this come about? Do you think it is incumbent upon graduate teachers to continue to emphasize content knowledge and skills beyond just pedagogical skills and practice?
3. Wineburg's source material for Chapter 5 is from very young students. Do you think conclusions about history and education can properly be drawn from students that young? Do you think students assumptions about the past are relevant for historical student based on cognition levels and development? If so, what can they tell us, and how can we proceed cautiously when using them?