Historical Thinking and Other Unnatural Acts Charting the

Historical Thinking and Other Unnatural Acts Charting the Future of Teaching the Past Critical Perspectives on the Past Wineberg is lively But you can tell he has never had to teach using state mandated standards Anyone can make Rosa Parks or the Civil War interestingwe have primary sources that our kids can access including photographs It's exponentially difficult to make the nullification crisis palatable to my 13 year olds My partner assigns this book in her Teaching Historical Thinking which is how I found out about it I became hooked within the first few pages because of its relevance to thoughts I have had concerning the book Presence of the Past the study upon which it is based is mentioned in the final chapter of this bookI do have some criticisms I feel like he is a little unclear about what historical thinking is and why it is unnatural At times it seems as though he and I agree that the sussing out of motives critical thinking concerning other human agents and emotional empathy are the core threads of historical thinking merely being applied elsewhere But he seems to judge historical thinking as unnatural despite this simply because it they are learned processes I mean walking is a learned process but it is also perfectly naturalI also take issue with his saying that Presentism as he calls it is our natural mode of thought where we assume that the past is like the present without justification that people think in the same ways etc While he early on acknowledges that sometimes people exoticise the past instead assuming dissimilarity with a similar lack of justification he seems to then ignore that fact for the rest of the book The whole reason that an Edward Said can write a book like Orientalism is because people engage in such Exoticism instead I would suggest that Presentism isn't our natural state but Reductionism is instead the assumption that the past is simply alike or simply different rather than a complex mix of both We reduce another society to our own or reduce it to otherness rather than take the time necessary for real understandingWhy are we reductionist? Well I certainly don't think it is our natural state We are reductionist because we are lazy we are lazy because we are impatient we are impatient because we don't have free time And oh look I'm talking about socioeconomic causes againAnyway I'll also mention that his reading of Collingwood and historicism early on is completely incorrect Collingwood does not believe that a person's thought is trans historical because human beings are always the same uite the opposite It is because people change how they think that makes history a difficult endeavor a field of its own worthy of respect The only way in which human thought is trans historical is because the logical structure of the thought can in principle and only in principle be reconstructed This does not mean that past societies used the same logical procedures we do He explicitly denies this in other places Simply that a logical structure isn't ontologically dependent on the brain of the first person to think in that structureSimilarly historicism doesn't propose that the past and the present are alike It proposes exactly the opposite It proposes that an historical fact cannot be understood outside of context There is another causal historicism to which I do not refer but it also doesn't make the mistake Wineburg accuses it ofAll that being said the material I complain about above doesn't prevent the extraction of value from this book at all The material of each chapter is fascinating and provocative Anyone interested in public history historical consciousness or pedagogy should read this bookPS I do think that it is entertaining that he casually attributes at one point all the advances in all the fields of academia to the cognitive revolution in psychology That seems like a rather extreme claim One of the critiues I have read about this book is that it does not provide a how to of historical thinking I'm not sure why this is a critiue of the book because Wineburg doesn't put forth that he will be trying to give teachers tools on how to teach historical thinking This book is an exploration of what historical thinking is Other scholars have engaged this material to develop tools for historical thinking pedagogyIf you really want to learn how to teach historical thinking go to the next NCSS conference Read for class Actually a fairly decent book It's the collected papers of a cognitive scientist who specializes in how we learn and teach history He offers a variety of studies that look at generational differences in how history is understood and taught He investigates what does it mean to think historically rather than suffering from present ism or ascribing to others motives and priorities that have to do with modern sensibilities than seeing the person as a product of their time and judging them by that historical standard Etc While it does not tell you how to teach history well it offers examples of case studies of teachers who do and an idea of what their classrooms are like It looks at the role of the media in shaping kids ideas of the past etc An incredibly useful book for history teachers and anyone interested in history education In this book Wineburg uestions the way people tend to think about history and the way it should be taught He argues persuasively for viewing history as a set of skills and a way of thinking rather than simply a list of facts names dates and events to be memorized using a number of different approaches to make this point and to show how this method of history instruction can be achieved This would entail movement away from textbooks a means of conveying knowledge that Wineburg critiues and views rather unfavorably and towards creative uses of primary sources in the classroom This book has really helped shape the way I think about history education and I would highly recommend it to anyone else in that field I'd like to believe that everyone would find this book as interesting and relevant as I do but alas I know that's not the case THEY SHOULD THOUGH Loved the insights into the theory of teaching history; was hoping it would have advice or practical take aways but that wasn't ever the point I don't think Particularly memorable bits research on how teenagers' historical understanding is built around familiespop culture specifically movies; his broad defense of the necessity of thinking historically and teaching students to read critically uestion texts and build new understandings; his detailed accounts of professional historians reading uestioning and using sources fascinating to hear them narrate their thought processes; and suggestions about forcing students to wrestle with history by creating new stories themselves which isn't something I make them do Oh and one last thought his case studies tracking history teachers classes through a year of school make me petrified of ever letting anyone do research in on me teaching my classes As an IntermediateSecondary teacher I found some of what Wineburg said to be very interesting and in some cases helpful in planning long range units However the text seriously shows its age published in 2001 it basically points to flaws in the way the history and social studies curriculum is delivered mainly in the United States and discusses outdated technology Its chapter on universal design is still relevant Backwards Design but little else is pertinent to Canadian educators who moved away from traditional 'lecturing' history classes years ago It is a text which reuires follow up research from the past 20 years to see what has changed and include the mobile technology that was not around in 2001 As a history teacher in alternative learning environments homeschool co ops this book gave a really good view of what is not working in how history is disseminated to the next generation I think one solution would be to stop trying to fit 5000 years of history into one school year Take a page from classical homeschool education and break it up into digestible time periods Knowledge of history is important Don't rush through it Since ancient times the pundits have lamented young people's lack of historical knowledge and warned that ignorance of the past surely condemns humanity to repeating its mistakes In the contemporary United States this dire outlook drives a contentious debate about what key events nations and people are essential for history students Sam Wineburg says that we are asking the wrong uestions This book demolishes the conventional notion that there is one true history and one best way to teach itAlthough most of us think of history and learn it as a conglomeration of facts dates and key figures for professional historians it is a way of knowing a method for developing an understanding about the relationships of peoples and events in the past A cognitive psychologist Wineburg has been engaged in studying what is intrinsic to historical thinking how it might be taught and why most students still adhere to the one damned thing after another concept of historyWhether he is comparing how students and historians interpret documentary evidence or analyzing children's drawings Wineburg's essays offer rough maps of how ordinary people think about the past and use it to understand the present Arguing that we all absorb lessons about history in many settings in kitchen table conversations at the movies or on the world wide web for instance these essays acknowledge the role of collective memory in filtering what we learn in school and shaping our historical thinking I assign this book every fall for my Teaching Historical Thinking course While some of the articles in it are decades old the concepts are still fresh because unfortunately students still find historical thinking unnatural

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