Frances FItzgerald "Reading American History""Rewriting American History" concerns how history is represented to modern readers. Based on your own experiences with history textbooks, do you share...

Frances FItzgerald "Reading American History"

"Rewriting American History" concerns how history is represented to modern readers. Based on your own experiences with history textbooks, do you share FitzGerald's concern that "each generation of children reads only one generation of schoolbooks. The transient history is those children's history forever--their particular version of America"? How do you think the process of history education might be changed to address this concern?

Asked on by elulo0

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James Kelley | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

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I wonder about the accuracy of Fitzgerald's claim: "The transient history is those children's history forever." Just as American history is constantly being rewritten, at least every few decades, so too can the inidividual rewrite her or his own understanding of that history. School children aren't just products of an assembly line, stamped and forever bearing that mark. They continue to develop, especially if they go on to college, and part of that development includes coming to understand their own eariler experiences (including their early education) in new ways.

Having said that, I think that Fitzgerald does raise important concerns about how and what we teach. Pohnpeil397's comments are good. In addition to comparing textbooks from various periods, a history instructor might compare conflicting contemporary views of an event. The experiences on the American home front during World War II, for example, may look very different when they're recollected or summarized by a white person or a black person, a woman or a man, the child of Japanese immigrants or the child of a Plymouth colony descendant, etc.

 

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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When I teach, I bring in old textbooks at times to talk about how the interpretations of various historical events and periods has changed over time.  That is one way to show people other perspectives.

However, we shouldn't always assume that we want to teach other generations' views.  For example, the views of slavery from the texts that I have from the '30s are pretty offensive.  (That's good to teach to HS students, but younger kids might have a hard time understanding the idea that this is no longer what we believe...)

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