Wednesday, October 22, 2014


I've had any number of discussions about the teaching of history in American schools. It's not like I went to some down-on-its luck high school where there weren't high quality teachers and solid course offerings. Those course offerings, though, were coarse - and a lot of it was just repeated at the college level. Such amazingly deep subjects like America Before 1865 and America After 1865.

What gets taught - drilled, roted - to youth is a timeline that looks something like this:

Columbus and the Pilgrams to America (at about the same time) > Revolutionary War and cruddy details > Eli Whitney and the Cotton Gin > Slavery > The Civil War > maybe a mention of Teddy Roosevelt > Pearl Harbor / WWII > the Kennedy assassination and other Kennedy stuff  > Vietnam >  Nixon / Watergate > Reagan > Some stuff up until the first Gulf War.

That's it, don't kid yourself. It's too easy to look back at what we may have read and learned since our high school or college days and think that we learned it way back when. Or, to think that our educational institutions weren't better or different than the majority of what's out there. We didn't learn anything in context to the events across the rest of the World. What was the state of the rest of the World during the Revolutionary War - and by that I could easily just mean the Western World since we don't spend any time learning about Asia. Africa? Nothing. I'm always amazed and full of wonder to listen to X riddle out some historical figure and associated time period through a process of costume and fashion. "Well, the collars, fabric, and hairstyles indicate the blah blah period, so the Han Dynasty would have been in power in China." I think that she can sort history by looking at someone's pants. But, that's exactly how history should be learned: what aligns with what across the globe.

The reason I'm back on this subject is because I've starting listening to Dan Carlin's Hardcore History podcast. Brilliant. He's got tons of episodes, but I'm into the ongoing series he's doing on WWI, Blueprint for Armageddon. It's absolutely stunning. Each podcast is over 3 hours long - he's just posted the fourth in the series - and they are addictive. It's the way history should be taught, even if this is a very specific period you get the idea that there is so much a student could take from just that four-year period and extrapolate associated subjects that provide areas of understanding and research. I can't recommend it enough. Of course, I have two hours of driving a day so I've got the time.

I'll eventually go back and listen to his other Hardcore podcasts, and probably his Common Sense offerings. Sometimes you find what appears to be the most amazing thing.

By the way, Columbus and the Pilgrams didn't come over together. Who doesn't know that?

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