Thursday, October 24, 2013

Part IV - History as National Memory

In the final section of Historical Thinking, Wineburg poses the larger questions of history in education and society. In Chapter 9, Wineburg traces a class discussion over violence, war and authority. In getting students to understand the period after the Revolutionary War, the students drew on their knowledge about Vietnam, World War II, the Great Depression and current events. Discussions, like any topic in history, can take on a life of their own, and students values, ideas and knowledge get thrown in the mix. Teachers, while trying to be facilitators often get caught in the middle between their personal values and trying to let students express theirs. In Chapter 10, Wineburg deals with how history is seen in our national, collective memory. Whether this is through popular media or familiar connections, many times these events add clarity to our understanding, but they also provide their own bias and incomplete pictures of the past.

Questions to consider:
1. What moral and judgement role do teachers in the social studies class room have? Are there times when it is appropriate to insert your own opinion? What about in the face of horrible racism or the promotion of violence towards groups or individuals?

2. How can teachers and historians go about increasing the sophistication and understanding of the national collective history memory? Are museum trips and thorough reading enough, and leave people to their own devices, or is there some greater responsibility of history teachers beyond their classroom? Should history teacher, and social studies teacher in general, be more politically, socially and economically involved in order to make sure that more critical voices are heard?

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