I am a history/social science teacher in Northern California and I believe that history education needs to be improved in, not only my state, but around the country. History has to get away from being seen as the rote memorization of names, places and events, and into a realm of why these names, places and events are important not only to the background of our country, but for the understanding of future events. History can be a prediction of the future.
We are held to some tightly written standards which point towards doing well on a standardized test written by some so-called ‘experts,’ with whom I have little fondness. These writers of both the standards and the test writers have their own agenda on what is important and what is not. How many times must a student be told, or watch a video on the bombing of Pearl Harbor before they say enough is enough, and they really do know all that junk? Rather, it needs to be emphasized that years before Pearl Harbor, the relations between the US and Japan were not good. Did poor relations between the two countries point to an impending problem? You bet, but students have a hard time seeing that. A good teacher presents information to the student and tries to get them to come to the conclusion that maybe there is something getting ready to happen, something really big. The rest is history as they say.
Methods of teaching must be improved to keep up with the technology that students use on a regular basis right now. Charts on the wall are hardly as valuable as they were just 15 years ago. Rather a computer portfolio of the same material could be used. In my classroom, I use PowerPoint presentations on a semi-regular basis. Preparation and presentation not only leads them to their own conclusions, but also sharpens their skills in existing technology. These kids are going to rule the world some day.
Lastly, the tired old practice of the football coach being a history teacher, because ‘anyone can teach history,’ has got to stop, unless of course that coach has a major in history and/or social sciences.
I love history. I buy history books at the store and read them on breaks and my summer vacations. I do it primarily so I can enlighten my students on new theories and information, or additional insight of what I have taught in the past. I am always learning.