Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Apparently history teachers don't know history

I swear to god, Joanne Jacobs (on my blogroll) is becoming the Drudge Report of the Op-Ed education related blog-o-sphere.  I'm fairly certain that she not only detests public education, but is positive that public education teachers are fat slobs that would love nothing better than to screw over little children.

One of her latest pieces is regarding history teachers who apparently don't know history.  Apparently Jacobs gained her knowledge from the Lexington Institute, a (big surprise here) conservative social reform group that pushes a platform straight out of a hardcore Republican handbook.
. . . history is often tucked under the umbrella of social studies – a mishmash of everything from global studies to sociology, in which critical figures and lessons from American history are often overlooked. Indeed, in some cases, it is possible to gain certification as a social studies teacher without having studied any history.
 I really don't know what colleges the Lexington Institute was looking at, but I'm pretty sure that every one of them requires at least General Education credits in history.  Mine sure did, since Dale Ostrander at Butte College kicked my ass with Early U.S. History and I have not forgotten that at all. 

This is a gross exageration at least, and more dangerously, a narrow minded vision of what History really is.  The Lexington Institute wants Founding Fathers, Constitutional values, and patriotic views of U.S. History.  That's fine, except that our history doesn't stop at Antebellum America.  And guess what?  I'll tell every single new teacher that they better NOT just major in History.  They better get a Social Studies degree or credential. 

Thanks to Ty Benoit, my 8th grade History and J.C. professor at Butte College, I majored in what was then called Bachelor's of Art in History/Social Science.  It was the best choice I made in my early education.  Because of that degree, I can teach any Social Science classes, from Government to Economics to Geography to Sociology to any of the History classes.  I ended up teaching three Gov/Econ classes and two World History my first year, and was hired mainly because I could teach Gov/Econ.  Now that No Child Left Behind has come around, it is even more vital to be varied in the coursework, because those people with History only degrees are very limited to what they can teach within the department.  New teachers take note, know more of everything, it gets you a job.  Not only that, knowing Government and Economics makes you a better History teacher.  Period.

It seems to me like Joanne Jacobs and the Lexington Institute have a very narrow minded view of what History really is.  U.S. History is taught in 5th, 8th, and 11th grades, and in their Junior year you are supposed to start at Reconstruction.  The other years are a much broader scope of history and the world.  Let's remember, kids don't know much about Social Studies period, and I don't think it's a lack of instructor knowledge as much as it's a lack of those same things that are missing in all education; good instruction, accountability at all levels, good parental support, and a true drive at making education a priority. 

A side note on the mentioned Teaching American History Grant Project.  I just got done participating in the 3rd and final year of the project, and I decided not to really comment on it out of respect for the hard working teachers in the group.  Let me simply say this about project.  It was very, and I mean very, liberal leaning (enforcing a bad sterotype).  Teachers were not treated as professionals.  And this year, when my wife and I spoke up and asked "How is any of this connected to the State Standards", we were mocked.  Multiple times.  However, there were good teachers there that wanted to learn not only about History, but how to teach it well.  And this idea that History teachers don't know History is just wrong.
blog comments powered by Disqus