Friday, February 17, 2012

History Lesson

I don't understand they way states Department of Educations want history taught. I have students who can regurgitate the details of Plymouth Rock but they've never heard of the Cuban Missile Crisis. WTF?!?

Kids get taught, starting in first grade, about the history of the United States, started with Pilgrims. It's basic, I know, but they get Pilgrims, Plymouth Rock, Squanto and Maze. They learn about Ben Franklin and George Washington. They learn about the Civil War and slavery and Abe Lincoln.

Then each year, they start all over with the same basic information. Obviously the themes, principles and thinking increases but it's the same historic events over and over again. Teachers usually only get as far as the civil war or maybe the Depression before the end of the school year. In my state, at grade 6, the focus changes to World History so they learn about the ancient civilizations, and the Bering Strait and Mesopotamia. They get geography in grade 7 here (Do you know how many countries end in 'stan'?) Then in 8th grade it's back to US history, all the way back to the beginning and again, ending around the Depression, or if the teacher doesn't show any movies they might actually get a very brief overview of WWI. I find that Depressing. And it doesn't get much better in high school history classes, either. There the students think they have a reference of the 1960s because they've heard music from that era and because of marijuana references. They sort of know MLKJ is a black dude who did something that gave them a day off in January. When I hear this crap, I want to cry.

Our kids don't know anything about the Korean Conflict, the Vietnam Conflict, JFK, the Berlin wall going up, the Berlin Wall going down, Hitler, Nazis, MLKJ, RFK... the list goes on and on. I flip through the history book and it actually goes all the way up to Obama's inauguration. Then why the hell can't we cut back on the "old" history the kids have heard annually and skip to things that happened in 1900 forward? I have students who don't know who JFK even is, let alone that he was assassinated or the youngest president to be elected (at that time) or the idea of Camelot or that he was the first Catholic or the famous picture of John-John under his desk... I realize all that might not be IMPORTANT history, but it's still history.

We are raising a generation of kids who have no idea what happened in this country after the Civil War. Some kids think the Civil Rights movement happened in the Civil War, not having a clue that there was racism in the 1960s. Gee... Hell, most of my students don't really "remember" 9/11. I'm sickened and appalled. I don't understand. Why don't we want to continue to make sure students know ALL the history of this country, not just how it was founded? I think that it's important but let me tell ya... I think there's a few important things that happened in the 20th century that might bear teaching. Maybe. Just one or 2...

Other than the fact that we are raising a generation of stupid kids, I firmly agree with George Santayana who said: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." How can they remember what they've never been taught?

Maybe I should be a history teacher instead...


Mellodee said...

When one starts to examine it closely, education in this country is not really as good as it could, and should, be! I love your point about starting over every year. And its true, a quick review (kids forget stuff over summer) and then on to new stuff! No wonder some kids get bored!

Curley said...

I totally agree with you, but I also think that part of the reason that they don't get any farther in the history books might be because they spend more than a fair amount of time just letting the kids watch a movie that has nothing to do with "History". I don't ever remember getting to watch movies in class unless it was a documentary. Now I know that class isn't as long as movies are so that means several classes to see the whole movie.

Jimmie Earl said...

Though showing "The Patriot" when studying the revolutionary War and "Glory" during the study of the Civil War might be entertaining, does it really accomplish anything with the students? In my experience in 8th grade History, when the teacher showed these, most of the students had seen them at least once, or slept, or lost interest and either drew on themselves or stared out the small window in the door. It did accomplish much for the teacher (not me, I was just in there to help the learning disabled students) however, he didn't have to teach anything, just keep order for a week of movie showing. No wonder today's kids don't know what is going on!