Thursday, August 21, 2014

On the Subject of History Books in Education


I believe that history textbooks are one of the worst and most heartless ways the modern education system has deprived the children. No adult wants to read something as dry and as boring as a middle school or high school textbook; at least, unless the adult has never read a true living history book. 

Disclaimer, I grew up on living non textbook history books. I also was introduced to true history textbooks during high school. I could not read past the first page of the text book without feeling rather insulted, and frustrated. Frustrated they they were giving no opinion -- that it was lifeless. That in the attempt to be non biased, they were teaching nothing worth while. That they meant nothing, taught nothing, and just filled up pages with meaningless text only separated by random pictures and maps -- the only interesting part of a text book. For indeed, the writing cannot stand on it's one two feet without the help of pictures, for it would be too unbearable for anyone to read in just plain text. After expressing my frustration to my mother, she agreed with me, and though it may have been easier to find just one history standardized text book, it was rather pointless and a waste of all our time. So back to the good non textbook history books I ran.

The great difference between a textbook and a living book is that the textbook is written in such a way as to relay numerous dates and names and events out in much of a similar way one would recite the times tables. Living books are written in an engaging manor, have depth to them. They use a good vocabulary, a good written style, and are timeless.

What is history, is the question we must beg to ask. Is it an assortment of dates and names, of people in cold photographs and paintings, of old maps and battlefields, kingdoms and countries? Is it not the story of real live human beings who lived and breathed the same air we breath. People who dreamed to become bigger than what was within societal norms perhaps? Is it not a thread of tightly wound stories of human lives across all of time? Can we not see things from the past and feel a stir in our own souls -- a sort of deep connection to them? An understanding, or a sympathy? Is it not the greatest tale ever told -- as our God holds it all together in His almighty plan? Is it not the tales from people whom we should do well to take heed of --  and people we should try to emulate? Is it not people who, ignorant in their times, fell prey to the tyrants? Is it not full of warnings? And finally, is it not what we will someday become?

We should give children wholesome books full of great ideas penned from great thinkers from the past, to paraphrase Charlotte Mason. Books that live on, that are passionate about what they teach. There is something majorly wrong when a great or even small event in history is described in a book in the same dry manor as one would ask to pass the butter or state the price of gas. Only adults who really want to learn about history very much at all will bare to swallow a dry textbook. How much less so a child? 

Children are very smart and very bright but when given a dumbed down lifeless book it stifles any thirst for knowledge. It mocks them to their face as it were and that only makes them irritated at it for it stifles the questions of why and how come? Instead, they study meaningless names and dates in order to pass a meaningless text. But for what? If the child does not care will he remember? And if there is no real meaning, or real questions that the child may come up with on his own in his own way of discovery, will it matter if he did remember? For to him he is just memorizing a fact without being any the wiser.

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