Should History Teaching Be Cut?

13 06 2011

Adam Ozimek suggests yes here. He points out important flaws in the arguments in favour of investing resources in teaching history.

Being taught history doesn’t make you better voters unless you remember that history. I’m not going to go down the litany of things that huge percentage of Americans incorrectly believe about history, instead I’ll just give one prominent example. How many hundreds of millions of dollars to we spend each year teaching kids about the Civil War, and still 42% of people don’t know we fought it over slavery?

He makes a good point, although I would say that the solution is to increase the effective of historical education, not to eliminate it.




3 responses

13 06 2011

He seems to view history as glorified civics and retention of facts. I don’t think it’s just about teaching students key facts that apparently can be absorbed by screening a few documentaries.

History classes are one of the few fields where primary and secondary students learn about research outside of the science labs. It’s where they should also learn about identifying arguments and forming their own. From the perspective of “employable skills” they learn how to communicate this information in a variety of ways, sometimes using art!

I’m all for greater math literacy and a practical knowledge of economics. Good luck getting that in the curriculum given how poorly primary schools generally handle mathematics (this is likely a factor of the severe math-phobia that grips our own students who then go off to teacher’s college). Cutting back on history won’t improve the numeracy of primary teachers!

14 06 2011
Richard Becker

I strongly disagree. His argument is especially flawed because history isn’t meant to teach civics.

Years ago, I had the opportunity to interview a vice president of Intel. He was a history major, and proceeded to share with me how it shaped his career and gave him an edge because he understood subjects with a greater context, including science, technology, and business. The trouble isn’t history. The trouble is the lack of emphasis on critical thinking skills that help students immerse and apply what they learn.


15 06 2011

Hi Richard, Your point is similar to that of Jliedl: history should be about teaching analytical skills, not a bunch of facts to be memorized. That’s certainly my philosophy. P.S. Did you ever publish the interview with the Intel executive? Is it available online? I would love to know exactly how his education in history influenced his later career!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: