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Posts tagged ‘james loewen’

Kids don’t hate history, they hate the way we teach it

About 15 years ago, I had the chance to drive James Loewen around for a couple of days. He was in town for a two day workshop and afterwards had to get to Kansas City for a flight. As his chauffeur, I got the chance to pepper him with all sorts of questions. And much of what I wanted to know revolved around his most recent book at the time, Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong.

I was especially curious about the first few sentences in the book:

High school students hate history. When they list their favorite subjects, history always comes in last. They consider it “the most irrelevant” of 21 school subjects, not applicable to life today. “Boring” is the adjective they apply to it. When they can, they avoid it . . .

Once I got him started, Loewen went on to describe the incredible amounts of money being made by movie producers and book publishers who focused on historical topics. At the time, the viewing and reading public was fascinated with movies such as Dances with Wolves, JFK, Saving Private Ryan, and Gone with the Wind and books like Gore Vidal’s Lincoln and David McCullough’s John Adams.

Recent examples would be movies Lincoln and Zero Dark Thirty – or books like Unbroken and Killing Kennedy.

He was very clear about it:

Kids don’t hate history. They hate the way we teach it.

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Teaching What Really Happened and 3 other interesting books you should be reading

Like many families, mine spends part of every evening re-hashing the day – sharing experiences, discussing current events, solving the world’s problems, and arguing whether the X-Men are actual super heroes.

Earlier this week, during a discussion about school, my daughter blurted out:

“I really don’t do anything at school. I’m asked to learn stuff that doesn’t mean anything to me in ways that are incredibly boring.”

She and I have had this discussion before. She plays the game very well – straight A’s, great test scores. She knows the rules. And the traditional view of school would suggest that because she has a nice GPA she actually knows something. But every time I hear about worksheets, answering questions at the end of the chapter, or high school students reading out loud from the textbook to one another, I’m not convinced. Research is telling all of us that these sorts of instructional strategies don’t impact long-term learning.

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