Saturday, May 21, 2005

The Importance of History

It grieves me to find that History is becoming a forgotten subject. I don't agree with the way that it's been taught in most of our schools, but at least they taught it. Our son wasn't taught ANY History until the 6th grade. Then it was 1 quarter of Ancient History, then on to the state mandated Minnesota History unit. Z was rather irate about this. They had just started studying ancient Egypt, something he's always been interested in, and bang, they switched to Minnesota History. This year they taught American History. Z's teacher was fascinated with the Spanish influence and spent the 1st quarter studying Spanish explorers and the 2nd quarter studying the hacienda system(a miniscule part of history, at best). How confusing is this to a young mind?

I shouldn't say that they never studied History. Every Thanksgiving Z would learn about the Pilgrims coming to America on the Mayflower. When asked: What's a pilgrim? Why did they leave England? Where is Plymouth Rock? What tribe of Indians helped the Pilgrims? Were there other settlers besides the Pilgrims? His answer was always:" I don't know". When we went on vacation through South Dakota, Wyoming, and Montana; it floored us to learn that Z had no idea who Lewis & Clark, Wild Bill Hickock, Wyatt Earp, Custer, Sitting Bull, or Crazy Horse were.

It seems that "the powers that be" of education, have decided that, they were bored with learning antiquated dates and events. So. . . . why should we teach our children something so irrelevant? I'm serious. This is what I've been told at school conferences.

When we started homeschooling, I asked Z why do we study History? His answer was the pat: "Those who don't study history are doomed to repeat it". I told him that this was only part of the answer. I told him the reason we study history, is to understand what is happening in the world today. Z gave me a blank look. A society behaves the way they do, because of their history. Everything that happened in the past is what makes that society who they are today.

A perfect example of this is the current mess in Iraq. Geographically, Iraq is a hard place to live; lots of sand and mountains. You had to be tough to survive there. Ancient Iraqi society was nomadic, with constant tribal wars over the basic human needs of food and water. These tribal feuds have carryed on for THOUSANDS of years and exist to this day. If our politicians had bothered to study history, they would have known that we should have had a plan to rebuild Iraq, before we invaded. Did Iraq need a regime change? Absolutely! Saddam Hussein is a despot with no regard for human rights. Could we go in and overthrow Hussein with very little loss of American life? Of course! The question is; how do we help these people to rule themselves without another Hussein jumping in there? Beats the hell out of me? That's the problem; nobody had a plan before we went blundering into Iraq. Any historian could have predicted the mess we'd be in! After hearing this example, Z's eyes lit up and he said: "I get it. People today act the way they do because that's the way their culture grew up!"

Our teaching tactics for History have been to start at the beginning. We started with Sumer and Mesopotamia, the Indus Valley culture, and the Nile River culture. These are all located in the "Fertile Crescent" or "Cradle of Civilization". From here we're studying in chronological order, as civilization expanded. We're also teaching world religions, as they evolved. Understanding what a culture believes in, helps to understand why that culture behaves the way they do now. It's all a matter of how their civilization "grew up".

We'll study American history when we get to that era. It never made sense to me how History was taught. They jump all over, in random order. Then, out of the blue, you're studying American History and don't have a clue why people were coming here to start with.

We're on a journey of discovery. How did we get to where we are today? How did the cultures and civilizations on our planet "grow up"?


At 5/21/2005 5:44 PM, Blogger the Logic Monkey said...

Yeah, History is in a bad way..but only because of liberal dipshits like you. If you send your kids to public school, they deserve to be stupid.

At 5/21/2005 6:52 PM, Blogger tshsmom said...

In case you hadn't noticed, I don't send my kid to public school!

At 5/22/2005 10:30 AM, Blogger Wandering Coyote said...

Oh, jeez...

This is an excellent approach, tshsmom. Most countries will teach history with a bias anyways, so the kids don't get a lot of perspective when it comes to where their own history falls in the grand scheme of the entire world. We had very British-centric history up here until later on in highschool when we had one year of Canadian history and then a year of 20th world history.

Teaching your son about ancient empires etc. will also teach him that these empires eventually fall and are replaced by something completely differnt. That is a lesson every American of LM's leanings needs to learn.

I had so many great books on ancient Greece & Rome from my universiyt days that would have been very useful to you, but alas, they all went in that garage sale last weekend! Sigh...

I'm up to an hour and 8 minutes of uniterrupted connection time... Must mosey before I lose it!

At 5/22/2005 10:31 AM, Blogger Wandering Coyote said...

kant typpe... newfandangled keyboards!

At 5/22/2005 2:02 PM, Blogger Isabella di Pesto said...


Wow! What a great post! Z is lucky to have you as a Mom AND teacher!

I was born here, but my parents were from Italy. In school I never learned in detail any modern history of Italy. It was the Roman Empire, and that was it.

Italy wasn't even a country until 1861. And some of the men who fought for the unification of Italy, fought in the American Civil war, Garibali's red shirts.

BTW: the logic monkey is hilarious!

At 5/22/2005 4:30 PM, Blogger Laura said...

I agree, history should be more than memorization of dates and names. What is the context? What social, political, and economic factors contributed to a certain turn of events and why is the story being told the way it is. Those are just as important as knowing dates and names. Without context, history means nothing.

Unfortunately these concepts don't translate well to multiple-choice style standardized tests.

At 5/22/2005 5:29 PM, Blogger greatwhitebear said...

I have long decried the decline of the teaching of history in our schools. When I was in HS you had to take a social studies course every single semester, including two semesters of world history, 2 semesters of US history, 1 semester of government, and one of civics.

It appalls me how little knowledge of history hs and even college grads have now.

At 5/22/2005 5:51 PM, Blogger Wandering Coyote said...

I have just been to the logic monkey's web site. He is, by his own admission, a fool. It says so at the top of his blog.

And so, the more he opens his mouth, the more he condemns himself. A helpful suggestion LM: Read the blog before commenting!

LM's blog is a very interesting read if you like rabid Catholicism being spewed at you like spoiled quacamole from the gut of a gall bladder patient.

Hey...this is twice in the same day for me! I am doing very well today, eh?

At 5/22/2005 8:21 PM, Blogger SME said...

LM: Where on EARTH did you get the idea that this is a liberal blog about public school? Do you even read the stuff you're commenting on?
The Catholic Church has a (mostly deserved) bad rep already. You're just making it worse.

At 5/23/2005 3:35 PM, Blogger tshsmom said...

Laura had a good comment on LM's blog. She says that he's not comfortable unless he can categorize EVERYTHING into his own "little boxes". I totally agree!
If figures that he's a teacher; that's their trademark.

At 5/23/2005 3:52 PM, Blogger tshsmom said...

BTW, thanks everybody, for all the feedback!!
We often feel very alone in our odyssey. It's good to hear that others think we're teaching a subject in a valid manner.
Please don't hesitate to tell me if you think we're totally screwing up(with the exception of LM). We're open to any and all suggestions.
Thank you, my friends!

At 5/23/2005 4:05 PM, Blogger The Zombieslayer said...

This is an outstanding post. Have a son in public education right now and if it weren't for the fact that we can't afford to have one of us stay home and homeschool him, he'd be out of that school pretty fast.
They not only don't teach history in schools anymore, they don't teach the Constitution. I had to learn the Preamble and the Bill of Rights in 8th grade.
You just inspired me to get Zombieslayer Jr. to read some history books.

At 5/24/2005 11:46 AM, Blogger Laura said...

And not all public schools are bad. I'm a product of public elementary and high-school education and I think I had a pretty good and well-rounded experience there. Just like not all private schools are excellent merely because they're private.

We pay our teachers like paupers, and so many of the more talented and knowlegeable people go to the private sector where they can actually pay the bills.

But proper funding is only part of the problem. I have seen the MESS that are Colleges of Education. It's ironic to me that these are the people producing teachers and they can't administer their own schools...

At 5/24/2005 1:24 PM, Blogger tshsmom said...

You're right Laura; I shouldn't lump all teachers together.
Actually, in our area, the best teachers are in the parochial school, and they make 1/3 what our public school teachers make.

At 5/27/2005 2:22 PM, Blogger The Zombieslayer said...

Laura, I agree with you. Hate to say it, but Texas, or at least where we were at, definitely had better public schooling than California does.
But when I was growing up, mostly in California, our public school system was fine. No idea what went wrong so fast.

At 6/10/2005 10:47 AM, Blogger Vest said...

tshsmom; did you get my e mail.


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