Disciplines

Sun Sep 7 22:43:05 2008
Is it really the job of an academic historian to teach people how to think historically? Or is that the job of every teacher in every schoolroom, regardless of their subject?

A strong case could be made that every teacher should help their students to think historically but I think it is particularly the job of the teacher of history and the social sciences. I agree with Fischer that history is not about teaching discrete facts. “There are no facts which everyone needs to know … Facts of this sort, taught in this way, are merely empty emblems of erudition which certify that certain formal pedagogical requirements have been duly met. If this method is mistaken for the marrow of education, serious damage can result.” (Historians’ Fallacies, p. 311) What needs to be taught in history classes is the discipline of history as outlined by Howard Gardner in The Disciplined Mind.

There are different approaches to any topic particular to each discipline. Gardner talks about the disciplines of Science, Math, Art, History and the Social Science and how their approaches vary and provide “multiple entry points to rich topics.” Distinct from the approach of Science, Math or Art, “the disciplined thinking of the historian is crucial if individuals are to draw their own inferences about what happened in an event, decide which historical analogies are apt and which are not, and express opinions and cast votes on issues of import in terms of reasonable criteria rather than sheer whim.” (The Disciplined Mind, p. 154) So while we all need to develop these skills, not just the historian, it is the practice and discipline of history that teaches them to us.

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~ by severalfourmany on September 7, 2008.

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