Tuesday, June 21, 2011

When Dinosaurs Go Extinct.

A prominent historian doesn't think much of current history teaching, including:

What's more, many textbooks have become "so politically correct as to be comic. Very minor characters that are currently fashionable are given considerable space, whereas people of major consequence farther back"—such as, say, Thomas Edison—"are given very little space or none at all."

Yeah. Twenty years ago when I taught introductory American history (to the Civil War), the textbook I had to use was all social history, all the time. And when it is social history, it is politically correct. I can't imagine how bad it must be today.

I'd start the class by telling them that it would be an old-school military and diplomatic history when it came to foreign policy stuff. The textbook didn't even mention the Tripolitan War.

Actually, for me, the textbook was a blessing. I was weak on social history anyway. So I could rely on the book for that aspect and use other resources to develop the rest of the course.

Of course, that gets back to another point that teachers often aren't subject experts. I could teach what was not there because I knew the subject (and knew enough to know what I didn't know so I could do further research for the class). If I had used a textbook that emphasized diplomatic and political history, I could not have taught the other aspects--not even poorly. I just wouldn't have known.

Heck, I still remember my introductory American history course in college, eagerly awaiting the professor's take on World War II. He said, "We won. You can read about it in the reading list material. Now on to the post-war ... " Now that was a history lesson.

Oh well, I remain grateful to have had Professor Abbott's military history class in graduate school. He was a dinosaur in a world of furry politically correct mammals scurrying about the faculty lounges.