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Just Another Tech Blog

Anything and everything having to do with technology, computers, science, and most of all... Linux! The documentation of my Linux endeavor.

History: Where Did The Fun Go?

Sunday, November 25, 2007

I sit here at my desk tonight, studying for an AP World History test. Bored out of my mind, yet stressed to the point of depression, I just have to wonder: what happened to the fun in history? Where did the "interesting" go, and who says that it has to be this dull? Throughout my entire schooling (up to now, 10th grade that is), I have noticed a disturbing trend in the teaching of history classes. It seems that teachers simply do not put forth the effort to make history a mentally stimulating or in any way compelling class.

Upon each onset of a new school year, I delve into a higher level history class hoping that I will stumble upon a teacher who actually cares about what they are teaching; One who makes an honest effort to present the curriculum in such a way as to make it appealing to the teenage mind, or any mind for that matter. Sadly, it seems that this year I have hit rock bottom. AP World History has proven to be a class so incredibly dry, yet so frustratingly difficult, that even the mention of it evkes a horrid sense of dread. DO YOU SEE THE IRONY? How, is it even POSSIBLE to make a class on the HISTORY OF THE WORLD so dreadful that a student fears the mention of its name? Quite simply, it is a complete and utter lack of teacher effort.

By all means, I am not one to criticize a class simply because it is too difficult or because the teacher is too strict. No. I enjoy a challenge and praise a structured class. However, when a teacher gives no effort in making a class interesting, it simply sickens me to no end! Case in point: AP World History. Although my teacher is an incredibly nice person, there is no love in her teaching. Class will begin with an "opening activity" of some sorts, usually asking us to apply our knowledge to reach broader conclusions. This is perhaps the only conceptual activity that we participate in all class. The rest of class is occupied by the teacher reciting to us, the exact same things which we had read the night before for homework. How is that teaching? If we are required to read up to 30 pages a night, then PLEASE, do NOT insult our intelligence by "REVIEWING" the exact same content. In an AP class, if a student does not read and partake in self study, then that student deserves to fail. It is NOT the teacher's responsibility to spoon-feed the students facts which were covered in more detail elsewhere. This is not fair to the students who were prepared and ready for a higher level of thinking. Things must change.

Incorporate discussion and higher level thinking skills.

I absolutely love discussion. If I could discuss a subject all class, I would regardless of the topic. I also feel that the only way in which one can grasp broader concepts about history, or any subject for that matter, is through active discussion. Now, I have seen many a teacher label something as discussion, when in fact it is not. Discussion is not asking a student, "Who founded the Tang Dynasty?" Discussion is not asking a student to spit back information which they memorized from the reading. Discussion is the active use and application facts and human, high level comprehension to achieve a more profound level of understanding and a reach conclusion, formulate a thesis, or propose an issue. Discussion is the analyzation of the "why" and how it relates to the "how." Discussion is the synthesis of knowledge and evaluation. This is what history is all about! As Bloom's taxonomy of thinking skills shows, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation comprise the highest levels of thought. An AP World History class cannot dwell on the lower level of simple knowledge, the teacher of such a class should strive to require the highest level of thinking skills possible. Assign an essay (yes, I am asking to have write an essay)... grade it ... discuss it! Stage a mock trail... discuss it! Debate an issue... discuss it!

Say no.

When a teacher asks a question, and a student replies with something that is wrong... then the teacher should say it is wrong! They should say that they aren't right, and EXPLAIN why. Unless the student is truly an idiot, in which case they should be ignored, it is not beneficial to learning when you are never told you are wrong. Even better, ask the CLASS to explain why! Often, I will ask a question and the teacher will simply beat around the bush, never saying I'm wrong, but never answering the question either. Perhaps the teacher doesn't know (in which case they should say they don't, and not waste time), but in any case, my feelings would not be hurt if I was told I was wrong. If it is possible that a statement be misinterpreted, then it should better not be said, especially when explaining intricate concepts.

Kick out the "faint of heart" and the low in intelligence...

What more is there to say? Those that are not intelligent enough for an AP history class or simply to lazy, should be kicked out of the class. An AP environment should be one of students interested in the subject. A teacher's faults can only be made more obvious through the accommodation of students not willing to learn.

Make it possible.

Now here is where I get truly annoyed: testing of concepts that the teacher hardly attempted to cover in class. In a class that conveys only factual knowledge, it should not be expected that a student do well on a test that examines only the more profound concepts of the subject. This may seem like an excuse for bad grades, but it simply another issue that I feel teachers do not address properly. I try my best to study hard and examine closely the intricate relations present in world history. Yet for a 10th grade student, it is extremely difficult to go from the lower levels of thought required in "honors" classes or below, to the high levels required in AP. Yes, I realized that these are college classes, but does that excuse the teacher from not making any attempt to help us in seeing attaining these higher levels of thought? I think not! I do not mind thinking! Where other students may groan at the thought of having to analyze, interpret, and apply, I rather relish the opportunity to expand my comprehension. However, when the occasional conceptual question is asked in class, it does not help if it the teacher never reviews it! Especially in this first semester, it is difficult to grasp the needed concepts to do well on the test. If a teacher poses a question which requires much thought from the student, then a teacher should spend the time reviewing that question. Here is where step one comes in. Discuss! I would adore my history class if we could simply discuss our work with the teacher, and with other students. If I have to write a detailed essay comparing political development in post classical China and the Byzantine Empire, then the teacher should make an effort to go over such things in class. No, I am not asking for the answer! I am asking for the basis from which to draw my conclusions. Simply reading won't do me any good, and hearing the same information spit back at me during class doesn't either. Again, discussion! Discussion reinforces the concepts. If a student gets something wrong in a discussion, then the teacher can go back and review the facts. However, it is a waste to repeat facts that we should already know, and which, in their raw form, won't help us any on the test! Please do not misinterpret this. I am a student who has, for the extent of his scholastic endeavor, made excellent grades and has ranked in the top of his class for the extent of his current high school schooling. I wish simply to facilitate learning in such a way as to better prepare the high school student for the future requirements of higher learning. Spoon-fed analysis and evaluation would be no better then spoon-fed facts! The key is finding the balance between "telling" and stimulation of thought, so as to make concepts accessible to the high school student.

Bring back the fun! (Please?)

As I have said before, history class would already be better if we could simply discuss things at a higher level of thought. However, I am sure that I am in the minority, and most students will again groan being required to think at a higher level. Regardless of the fact that these students should not be in an AP class, there are other ways to make history interesting. I have always found that watching a video on the subject is very beneficial to my learning. While broader concepts are stressed, small details are also gained which are very helpful in the writing of essays and answer of multiple-choice questions. However, this video cannot be from the text book or in any way affiliated with it... this would again be the reiteration of knowledge already acquired (yes, I realize that repetition will assist in the memorization of facts, but this can really be done at home). Also excellent are games. Games in an AP class? Why not? I'm not suggesting "heads up, seven up" but there are education games that the teacher can improvise which really aid the learning experience and again, incorporate discussion.
Rather opposite, there are also ways to make history a definite bore. Number one, extensive notes. Sitting in a class taking notes all day is not helpful if one is being tested on the application of knowledge. However, notes, when in moderation and properly formulated, can be extremely helpful. Still, this is yet another thing that can be done at home. One of the few things I actually approve of in my AP World History class is having to do "IDs" or "identification" vocabulary. Not only does this present an excellent opportunity to take notes, but it actually requires thought (*GASP*) to provide reasons for each ID's significance.

And so...

I'd love to have fun in history, and I find it impossible that a history class is even ALLOWED to be taught in such drab a manner. History simply IS interesting, there is absolutely no denying that. Those who say it is not important, say so out of blunt ignorance and idle apathy. I don't see how such a excellent school as the one I attend can hire such teachers who make history a painful matter. Perhaps they are very nice people, but I'd rather have a strict teacher who facilitates higher learning than a nice one who tarries over simple facts. History is such an important topic to understand, and every day we must analyze the past so as to make for a better future. If my generation grows up with such disdain and ignorance towards history, then I wish not to be around to experience the dreadful consequences! A change must be in order, and I call upon every teacher of history to truly put forth their all. Be it cliché, I must say that it is the least they can do to help the future of humanity. We'll need all the help we can get.

Please, do feel free to comment. However for the senile amongst us, I am not asking for an easier class. I am asking for more effort by the teacher and even by the students. An easier class would evoke the same dread in me were it taught in the same mind numbing manner. And for the lazy seeking solace and excuses, turn not to me! Express none of these thoughts in such a manner characteristic of your ineptness. If nothing else, I wish for a class in which history is once again fun, yet challenging and thought-provoking.
posted by linnerd40, Sunday, November 25, 2007


Thank you. You have basically put my exact frustrations down on paper (digital paper maybe...). You are definitely not alone.

commented by Anonymous Jake, 10:46 PM  

As with Jake, I have felt the same way about many of my classes. Teachers should cut through the "everyone is right" BS, and worry about fact.

commented by Anonymous Anonymous, 11:30 PM  

An interesting thought provoking article.

commented by Blogger Meghna, 9:40 PM  

Totally unrelated but I don't know where to put this.
I figured you're probably gonna appreciate this more than I do because I'm a math major and don't know much about physics.

There's a package named Schroedinger in Fedora so it's probably in other distributions too :).

This must be a big name for you physics people. Like we see Euler or something :)

commented by Blogger Paul, 8:32 PM  

Interesting blog!

commented by Blogger Melody, 4:13 AM  

this does make some very valid points, but since it is an ap class it should be like a college class, and most college classes aren't discussion classes. In fact my sister is in her senior year and she has had a total of four discussion classes. So not to rain on your parade or anything, but that is what most classes are like outside of high school. Or at least that is what I have been told.

commented by Anonymous Anonymous, 6:07 PM  

True! I am happy to take all Honors classes, but the "everyone's right" mentality should have died long ago.

commented by Blogger colonelcrayon, 4:45 PM  



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