Monday, November 29, 2010

Ideas for Teaching World History

While walking, the morning after our Thanksgiving feast, my younger daughter’s husband came up with an idea for teaching world history.   Americans are taught US history year after year after year in school, but only one year, during high school, is devoted to studying world history. That academic course focuses on a few names and dates, mostly having to do with wars and who won them.

My son-in-law’s idea was that world history should be taught at least 3 full years.  Each year should be a different theme: commerce and inventions, philosophy and art, and war. Of course there would be overlaps.  Wars are waged because of commerce and philosophy. Inventions change the way war is waged. Art influences how people feel about war and commerce.  Still, the different emphases allow for greater depth of study. And repetition allows for greater learning.

People in every country want to study the history of their own country.  Local history is more interesting in the context of world history.  For example, the US lost the war of 1812, but England did not take the US back as a colony because they were too busy at war with France. In fact, one of the reasons France helped the US revolution was as a tactic to attack England. They had no idea they were sowing seeds of their own revolution. The world is full of complex events like this, and given the international nature of commerce, it would be helpful if we knew more about the world.

I’m reminded of a high school friend who passed the advanced placement test in English History because she loved reading British historical novels.  Stories are much easier to understand and remember than a dry assortment of names and dates.  Historical novels from around the world could be part of literature classes as well as history classes.

These are just ideas – a starting point for hoped-for change. Comments are welcome. Ideas are welcome.  

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