Sunday, November 21, 2010

Lies My Teacher Told Me


Since the time we have began school, teachers have lied to us. Not all teachers, however. The teachers who have lied are the ones that drone on about dates and attempt to cement into students minds everything from the arrival of Christopher Columbus to the Second World War in a clear, no questions asked manner. These teachers are history teachers and this way of teaching is wrong. History is not fact; it is not a list of accepted concepts and actions to be memorized. It is, in fact, an argument, with as many answers as there are opinions.
History is "a furious debate informed by evidence and reason"(16), as James W. Loewen, the author of Lies My Teacher Told Me, openly states. From the time we enter school we start to memorize dates and events in history. This material is presented by textbooks that "employ a god-like tone"(16) and by teachers in the same manner to present history as only one story, one group's opinions.
Our textbooks focus so much on attempting to shed a positive light on America's history that they, in essence, are no longer so much about history as they are about glorifying a nation despite its history.
For example, our textbooks present Columbus as a herald to America's beginning. Most text books fail, however, to mention that the material they use to shape Columbus' arrival at the New World is "an outrageous concoction of lies, half-truths, truths, and omissions". Text books also fail to mention Columbus's shear abuse and exploitation of the natives that he encountered during his journeys. The sheer atrocities of what our "discoverer" did have never graced any American textbook in any significant way. This is just one minor example of history texts' abuse of historical information to suit their purpose.

That being said,

1) Have your history classes presented the subject as a list of facts without argument? If yes, do you think learning more of the argument would make the class more enjoyable?

2) Do you think that history teachers should present history as an argument? Is there time enough for this to be plausible or do we need to take more history classes?

3) Does the responsibility to present history as an argument fall more on the history teachers or the history texts?

15 comments:

Deanna K 5-6 said...

1. In proior history classes i've had, all the "knowledge" we learned was in fact presented as a list of facts rather without argument. Much of the things we learned was always one sided with with no room for a second opinion. Personally, i do not enjoy learning about history, so no, learning about more of the argument would not make it more enjoyable.

2. Yes, i do believe history teachers should present the material with different sides of the story, but i do not believe this is always possible. It's not that there isn't enough time, it's that the resources are not avaliable. Text books schools buy must be aproved by the school itself and the state. Neither group would aprove of textbooks that create doubt of the "great achievements" Americans have made. For this reason i do not believe we need to make more history classes. We need better, more accurate resources.

3.I believe the responsibility to present history as an argument falls more on history texts. As stated in the answer to number two, history teachers do not always have accurate resources avaliable. It is not the teachers fault, more the history texts.

Kristen R. 11-12 said...

To answer the first question, my past history classes have presented the subject as a list of facts without argument. I firmly believe that if the teachers presented it as more of an argument that the class would be more enjoyable. No one likes sitting and listening to lectures and being forced to accept "facts." We are critical thinkers and we like to question things and ask why. Therefore, if students could debate history, the class would be more enjoyable and also more beneficial because they would understand the events as more than just mere dates. To answer the second question, I do think that history teachers should present history as an argument; however, I do not think that this can always be done. Yet, I do not think that the resolution is to take more history classes; I think we just need a balance. Some history lessons should be presented as arguments, like the case of Christopher Columbus, and other lessons should just be merely stated as facts. This would include terms, timelines we know to be true, etc. To answer the third question, I think the responsibility falls on both. The information is presented through the history texts, and it is the teacher's job to provoke their students to think. They are the ones responsible for initiating discussions if they know a particular event has been debated.

Bojana D 11.12 said...

1. As everyone else said, history classes have been presented as a list of facts without argument. I personally love debating, so I think debating history would make the class more enjoyable. I do not think debates are always possible. No one really know what happened in 4000 B.C. It's really just a theory from learning about artifacts and novels of the time.

3. The responsibility to present history as an argument falls more on the history texts and the state. Every teacher has a ciriculum they must follow. They cannot choose what to teach us and what not to teach us.

Vanessa D. 13-14 said...

1.) Some of my History classes have in fact presented history as a list of facts, (cough cough 9th grade history), and I feel this is wrong. History should be taught as an argument because in the words of Mr. Wolski, "History is not black or white. It is grey."

2.) I feel history teachers should present history as an argument because most of the time, there are two or more sides to every event. Primarily, we learn history from an American's point of view, where textbooks make it seem as if America is the super hero and the opposing country is the bad guy. The problem with that is, history is not cut and dry, there is room for conspiracies and doubt, which teachers should share with students.

Yay history!

allie s 11-12 said...

I'm not a fan of history, but i know learning about arguments would make my class more enjoyable. I like to see both or all sides of a story. Teachers should present history as an argument on at least some topics. But this also falls more on the history texts that we use. so no i don't think the teacher is responsible for not presenting history as an argument.

KatherineS13-14 said...

1) Most of the history classes throughout my life have been given in a these-are-the-facts sort of manner. However, my 10th grade history class was presented in a much more argumentative fasion. This made the class much more enjoyable.
2) Yes, I do believe that history should be given as an argument. There is enough time to give it in this way.
3) The responsibility is on both the text books and the teachers. The text books need to start giving all sides of the situation and the teachers need to at least tell the students that there is more than one side to the story that is being presented.

Kristen T. 11-12 said...

To answer question 1, I feel that in past history classes, yes everything has been presented as a list of facts without argument. We have been taught this type of material since kindergarten, and we have simply come to accept it for how it is. No one questions anything. We have been taught to trust the teachers and the textbooks, and we accept the information given without really thinking about it. I enjoy learning about history, so learning the argumentive side would not make the class more enjoyable for me, however, many students do like to state their own opinions. I think much of the student body would enjoy if they could learn about the argumentive side of history.

To answer question 3, I feel that most of the fault lies on the textbooks and the people who wrote the text. The teachers do not know the truth about history. They were taught from history books as well. They are simply teaching what they are told to do.

Betsy C 1314 said...

In my opinion, if history were presented more in an argumentative fashion, it might hold my interest for longer. I am not too crazy about just accepting facts as they are presented in textbooks. Its important to me to be informed of all possible situations, not just the most commonly accepted one.

Kaitlyn S. 13-14 said...

1. As much as I remember, history class has always been presented as fact with only one exception. One teacher I had took some time to explain to the class that the winners of wars write the textbooks. Different areas also have different versions of what has happened in history. Some countries omit total events and others twist it around just like the example of Christopher Columbus. I believe that having debats or talking about the events in a way where it's not black and white would make the experience more benficial and interesting.

2. I think that teachers should try to present it as an argument. They should make it known that questions are allowed and that they should be able to challenge the textbooks or their sources. This is plausible in my opinion for highschool classes and college classes. Elementary schools would probably be harder to integrate this in.

3. Teachers are there to teach so I believe it falls more on them than the textbooks. You can shove articles and books in students faces but to most students, the teachers are what brings the material to life and make it more understandable. There is a reason we have teachers and not just have kids sit at home and read all day. Teachers can also direct the conversations and get new ideas and thoughts flowing.

Sydney C.13-14 said...

Most history classes do glorify historical figures for their accomplishments and do not present two sides of the written up story. However, since first grade we have taken tests on the facts of history, and I don't believe that should change. There are facts and chronological events that are important to world history and our nation's history. It is harder and requires more time to present history in more of an objective moral-based way, but I think teachers should strive to embrace the arguments of history in the form of class discussion. I believe children would get more out of the class in the way of a fun environment and the evaluation of what is truth and assumption in our texts. I believe that teachers could fit these teaching methods into the current curriculum. History texts do not make it easy for teachers to stray from the facts, but I believe if teachers used a more hands on method with History based on discussion and just used the book as a reference to the chronological events of a nation and a list of topics, children would get more out of a class.

Megan D. 11-12 said...

With very few exceptions, my history classes have been taught in a no-questions asked manner. While I never thought I'd ever like history, I was proven wrong when I encountered a history teacher last year with an amazing sense of humor who presented history as an argument and even provoked arguments in the classroom. The class was a lot of work but I enjoyed I immensely and did wonderfully on the AP test. That being said, I do think history can and should be taught as an argument because that is what it is. And while I have to agree a little with most of you who said that it is the textbooks fault, I think that most of the responsibility falls on the teacher. Just like us they have the ability to think critically and have opinions and should have learned by the time they exit college that history has many sides. Therefore, they should be able to at least explain the gaps in the textbooks.

Leah A 5-6 said...

My history classes have been just straight forward facts told from our teachers. However I do believe that making an argument in the class about history would be more enjoyable. More children would participate in class and give their opinion on the subject. I also agree that the responsibility falls on the teachers. They can also interact and express what they believe on subjects in history.

Cieran B. 5-6 said...

1. In my history classes it is mostly facts but there are times when controversial subjects come up that have different views and arguments to it. Learning more of each argument would provide more views and a better picture of what actually happened in history.
3.It falls more on the teachers for they do not all and should not depend on the book for the info and it is up to them to provide the information that the students will learn from.

Hayley D 11/12 said...

1. I think that in general, history classes tend to present the facts as a lists of dates and events. In my opinion, learning more of the argument would make the class more interesting because different view points would allow us the chance to form our own opinions of what really happened.
2. I don't think that we would have enough time to cover all the events in history if they were presented as arguments, but I think that some events should be presented as arguments throughout the year. For example, my history teacher presented the assassination of J.F.K. in the form of an argument and we were able to form our own opinions and honestly, that is the one event that I learned the most information about. Unfortunately, we don't have enough time to have arguments like this in class all the time though.
3. I think that the responsibility would fall more on the teacher and the class could use the text book as a resource in those arguments.

Mrs. Sherwood said...

Thread graded, closed