Thoughts on Summer Reading Part 26: Angry History

Thinking I was Larry Bird or some other really good basketball player, I attempted to shoot the empty toilet paper tube into the garbage can in my bathroom this evening.  You don’t want to know where I was sitting at the time.  That’s besides the point.  Anyway, I tried to get the tube into the can and failed miserably.  At first I was appaled at how atrocious my basketball skills have gotten over the years, but then I realized, that my basketball skills don’t define me.  It’s just a game and I was just trying to have some fun.  But really, I missed so badly.  The tube hit the cabinet, totally missing the waste basket.  The saddest part of it all was that I was less than two feet away from the trash can.

So, while I was frustrated with my poor shooting abilities, I certainly didn’t get angry.  However, after reading Sarah Albee’s entry in Kate Messner’s book 59 Reasons to Write, I was filled with much rage.  First, she claimed that most students view history as being their least favorite class.  Well, perhaps in schools where they still use textbooks and have uneducated teachers teaching.  At my school, history is one of the highlights for our students.  They love their history classes across the board.  They love history because we make classes fun and engaging.  They are filled with much discussion and debate.  We don’t focus on the facts and figures.  We examine the big ideas and start to help students understand the hows and whys of history.  They love it.  I was appaled that Albee made this false accusation in a published book.  It sends the wrong message to readers.  History is and should be one of our students’ favorite classes, if it’s done right.  

Now, my anger didn’t end there.  While she did say that most texbooks used in schools today are boring, she went on to basically say that schools still need to use textbooks to teach various subjects like history.  It’s baffling to me how wrong she is.  In fact, textbooks are one of the reasosn why our students are failing to grow into creative problem solvers.  Textbooks spoon feed everything to the students.  They take critical thinking out of the equation.  We need to remove textbooks from classrooms.  I haven’t used a textbook in the sixth grade for several years now and my students are all the better for it.  I teach my boys to think for themselves, question everything, and find creative solutions to problems.  Textbooks do just the opposite of those big three ideas.  So, no Ms. Albee, we don’t need textbooks in schools, we need dedicated and motivated teachers in schools who want to support and help students think critically about the world around them.

I’m now beginning to wonder how closely Kate Messner vetted the entries in this book.  It seems as though any crazy idea made the cut as long as that person was a published author.  It takes a lot more to be an authority on a topic than just having a book published.


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