Creating An Historical Revolution in Teaching

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If an ignorance of history dooms one to repeat the mistakes of the past, America could be in a lot of trouble. As countless studies and Jay Leno skits demonstrate, Americans do not have a good understanding of their historical roots. Now one history professor and cognitive psychologist is arguing that the way in which history is taught in elementary and high schools is contributing to a generation of Americans with little real knowledge of the events of the past.

History is generally taught as a chronology of people, dates, and events, say Sam Wineburg. Tests are frequently multiple-choice, and students leave for their summer vacation with no context or real understanding of the facts they learned all semester. By contrast, Wineburg says historians view history as a method for developing an understanding about the relationships of peoples and events in the past. Wineburg argues teachers need to infuse their students with a greater understanding of the issues and arguments of history, not just a list of key players and events.

This hour, Sam Wineburg argues for a revolution in the way that history is taught in America's classrooms.


Sam Wineburg, professor of Cognitive Studies in Education and Adjunct Professor of History at the University of Washington, Seattle

author of "Historical Thinking and Other Unnatural Acts: Charting the Future of Teaching the Past"

This program aired on March 18, 2002.


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