What if?

Rich Czyz must rise very early each morning to work on his blog, 4 O’Clock Faculty. I guess this because by the time I am up and ready to write, he has already posted some pithy observation for me to read. And this morning was another one of those days.

Calling his post: What If Wednesday? He asked two questions: What if we eliminated subject areas in schools? How could students still learn necessary skills?

Over my first cup of coffee I was shouting: Yes!!!

I could write volumes on these two questions having homeschooled my younger daughter. No teaching by subject. Lots of project-based learning, more often than not self-directed. Books that she wanted to read. Unlimited bathroom breaks without permission! Oh wait. I guess that’s beyond the scope of Rich’s question.

What Rich’s question did stir in me was this continual thought I have had about how we teach history. History classes often feel like linear marches through time. What if we taught history through the lens of human behavior?

For example, what are the commonalities of uprisings? What are the commonalities of leadership–good and bad? What similarities exist causing the movement of people across countries, continents, oceans?

Not lost on me recently is how many people in the United States have swastika-ladened armbands enveloping their biceps. This tells me that Holocaust studies weren’t and aren’t robust enough. I corresponded with my own classmates about our experiences studying the Holocaust. The essence of the studies were focused on World War II–why the war, how it was fought. The studies were not focused enough on the atrocities perpetrated on human beings by human beings.

I referenced in another post that my own learning on the horror of the Holocaust came in gradutae school during a documentary film class where we watched Night and Fog. It was horrifying. The class was an undergrad/grad combined class. Another grad student and I ran from the room in tears, so overpowered by the inhumanity.

While working with my daughter, I was reading The Zoo Keeper’s Wife, a book based on the diaries of the wife of the keeper of the Warsaw zoo. She is a huge bird and animal lover. We talked about the scene in the book where Nazi soldiers essentially used the zoo as their own safari, killing animals in their habitats–think cages.

And it’s not just the Holocaust where we witness the inhumanity of human beings. Think about China’s Cultural Revolution. Think about the internment of the Japanese in our own country. Think about the names in history associated with the killing of others: Saddam Hussein. Manuel Noriega. Pol Pot. Muammar Gaddafi.

What in nature, life, location, whatever creates these kinds of less-than-human human beings?

We should be exploring the nature of hatred. Instead, what do we do? We tell kids not to bully, for example. Maybe they need to see the consequences of bullying on a grander scale.

Yes, I truly believe the teaching of history in a linear fashion is a big mistake.

And on another day, I could tell you why we teach Biology wrong too. What do the majority of kids love? Animals. How do we start teaching Biology? We introduce students to plants and microscopic creatures. Give them an animal to explore and back out from there. Every animal eats. You’ll get to plants at some point.

Thank you Rich! I love using my brain. Now, I have to go play mom.

Drawing of a parrot.

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