Friday, May 24, 2013

Reckless Historian: "I am a Historian, Not a Jeopardy Contestant"

It is fun watching Phil Strunk and the Messiah College sophomore history majors who make up the"Reckless Historians" grow as historical thinkers.  In his latest post, Strunk talks about reading Sam Wineburg's Historical Thinking and Other Natural Acts and coming to grips with the idea that history is more than the memorization of facts.  Here is a taste:

As a historian, I’m just trying to make sense of the past with the facts I’m given.  I get to study the finer details of the past — and while knowing dates and people are necessary tools of history, they should not be the final product of history.  History is deeply involved in understanding our thought processes and the thought processes of people in the past, and just trying to understand the “who, what, where, when, why, and how” of a situation.

Phil's post reminds me of a line in my forthcoming, Why Study History: Reflecting on the Importance of the Past.  After discussing the economics teacher (played by Ben Stein) in the movie Ferris Bueller's Day Off, I write: "This teacher, with his knowledge of certain facts about economic life in America, might be a successful candidate on Jeopardy, but he is not teaching history."