Thursday, December 10, 2015

Why History Teachers Should Continue to Study History

I recently wrote a short piece on this theme for History Matters, the online publication of the National Council for History Education.  I hope that K-12 history teachers will find it useful.

Thanks to Nate McAlister of the Kansas Council for History Education for invitation to write this piece.

Here is a taste:

I was fortunate to get a good history education in school.  Most of my teachers were passionate about teaching history, knowledgeable about the past, and committed to life-long learning.  But I do remember a few teachers who just didn’t seem to care.  Some of them read from the textbook or lectured from yellowed pages of notes that had not changed since they first wrote them in the 1960s. Success in history classes presided over by these teachers required the memorization of facts in the same way that success in math and sciences classes required the memorization of axioms and formulas.  Whatever civic value the study of the past might have for our lives was largely ignored.
I am convinced that these teachers were so bad because they were not devoted to the continued study of the past. To them history was a fixed body of truth that they learned in college, and teaching was simply the act of conveying that truth to students year after year.  State-mandated continuing education was a necessary hoop to jump through in order to keep the paychecks coming.
Today, as a college history professor, I spend a lot of time teaching future teachers.  I want my students to be both effective classroom teachers and first-rate historians.  I thus usually spend the last several sessions of my “Teaching History” course at Messiah College challenging students to develop professional habits designed to foster the love and passion for history that led them to choose this subject as a college major. There are a lot of reasons why history teachers should keep studying history, but I will focus here on three.
Read the rest here.