Friday, December 27, 2013

Rewriting History

This class would deliver much of the same content as any history class, and likewise, any history class could be adapted to the “Rewriting History” approach. The difference would be structural, in how the content is delivered and received. Instead of spouting off a bunch of bullet points of dates and names and policies and places, the class will have to critically think about the information they are given.
Ken Robinson discusses the wasted human resources our schools leave woefully neglected, one of which is our imagination--a tool given exclusively to humans who can use it to do literally infinite amounts of things. Without imaginations, we would have never made it past hunting and gathering. But if we don’t exercise them when we’re young, imaginations can get rusty and become inflexible. We need to teach our students how to use them, and use them constructively, because the sheer amount of possibilities within our own imaginations is enough to send anyone running. Some students may be overwhelmed within their own imaginary worlds, and in doing so may lose touch with reality. Either way, taming our imaginations is a difficult and mystifying process, one in which students could really use some guidance.
The way that I propose we do this is by first introducing a handful of various influential leaders, for instance Adolf Hitler, Mahatma Gandhi, Machiavelli's Prince, Queen Elizabeth I, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther, Martin Luther King… the list of course goes on and on. The beginning of the class will be dedicated to familiarizing students with the patterns of action taken by each leader, and their values and beliefs, the impact they ultimately had, and what they wanted to achieve. After that, the history class will proceed as any other, covering historical events and eras. Only, the students won’t just memorize the content for the test and then forget it. They’ll apply it. They’ll apply the information they learned about the different world leaders to the content of the class, and they’ll also make use of their own imaginations. They will consider how events would have transpired differently in the hands of different leaders. What would other leaders do based on their values and political agendas? What would be the ultimate result? How would the world we see today be different? ...What would Jesus do? What would you?
Simply teaching history from this perspective exercises invaluable skills, including speculating, understanding the world in terms of cause and effect and all the interdependent factors that contribute and the ways that they connect, and the vast diversity of values and beliefs exhibited by different people and the extent of the individual impact of a single person's actions, and the degree to which they change the course of history. Instead of testing them on arbitrary details, like dates, we’ll grade the students on a comprehensive analysis of the history in question in the hands of someone else. Perhaps the student must decide which leader they think would have dealt with which scenario the best (or worst), and compare against the actuality, or discuss how they themselves would have responded in the same circumstances. This empowers students to “be the change they want to see” because it teaches students that their actions make a difference, and in doing so, it also teaches them to critically think about the things they do and the ways their actions affect others, and also the actions of others, and the ways that they’re affected. This will equip them with an elaborate understanding of the world we live in that will help them to make sense of what may happen in the future, and likewise, what to do about it.

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