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Rewriting History


A fifth-grade teacher in Mesa, Ariz., is speaking out against her district’s adoption of a new U.S. history textbook that neglects to mention (among other things) Alexander Hamilton, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Patrick Henry’s “Give me liberty or give me death” declaration, according to The Arizona Republic. “These are like the core things that are just etched on the American psyche,” says Laurel Moore. Mesa district officials have responded that the book, titled History Alive! America’s Past, sufficiently covers the state’s recently revised standards in U.S. history and that, in any case, teachers will be given supplementary materials to fill in any information that’s passed over. Bert Bower, the president of the organization that produced History Alive!, adds that the book is intended to be supplemented by Web sites that are cited in the curriculum. Moore, however, questions whether all teachers—especially novices—will have time to dig up and effectively incorporate the supplementary materials.


I don't know what History Alive book Ms. Moore is using, but I can assure you that the 8th Grade edition of History Alive has full discussions of each of the historical figures Ms. Moore is concerned about. In addition, I have taught from History Alive as a beginning teacher and I made extensive use of the web and other curricular resources. History Alive has been extremely well received by my students who have shown outstanding retention of the information taught with the interactive and engaging methods of the History Alive Program.

Same old complaint. Here's a hint fellow history teachers... no textbook wil have everything you want in them. That's why you're not supposed to rely 100% on them. You want specific people? You want a speech? Make a handout of it! Use something from another book! If we made a textbook that would include all of the topics and people that every history teacher wanted presenting every historical viewpoint teachers want then it would likely be a 100-volume set.

Find a good textbook and then do some work to introduce supplementary materials into your class.

I completely agree with another response that you can not rely on a text 100%. It is also important to note that texts are not 100% accurate in the information they do choose to include. My first years of teaching offered no set curriculum to follow and our materials were built collaboratively using what we had as a team to impart state standards and learning objectives.

We need to teach in a way that allows us to "bring history alive"! I encourage each of us to take this information past the handout and create meaningful and engaging opportunities for the students to interact with the information and the content. None of us are teachers because of the tests and handouts. We are teachers because of the projects, hands-on activities and teachers who taught us to care about something beyond the words on a page. I find it more important to support life-long learners who know how to access and evaluate information rather than to fill a head full of names, dates and facts. This "trivia" means very little to that student because there is no schema or connection to what's been learned.

I taught high school history and we used the text that year from back to front. I supplemented the text with webquests, simulations, debates and other activities that also served as performance assessments. It was through this accidental experiement that I saw a connection was fostered that could be built upon as we learned more and moved "back in time" so to speak. I learned more about history that year and finally made it past WWI or WWII which was something we did not accomplish during my time in a history classroom. We may not have made it back to the beginning in time in world history that year, but those students learned how to question and make connections. I argue those skills to be more important than regurgitation of facts on a standardized test.

This demonstrated part of the problem in education today. Teachers want some turn-key set of items that teach their state or local curriculum standards. They do not! Textbook companies write for NY, Texas, Cal, etc which is where the bulk of their purchases come from. My advice is to use the text as a supplement only and develop your own materials, worksheets, assignments, presentations, and readings to meet whatever standards are required.

Wow - I just had to post after reading John's and Robert's comments! Thank you to the both of you!! :) Finally - educators who seem to understand what it really takes to be a teacher: time, dedication, and a WHOLE lot of effort. Teachers who run in the building at 7:50 and run back out at 3:05 don't have the "time" to plan, research, make handouts, etc. It's so sad how many teachers just want, basically, a script that they can recite to their class and a ready-made test they can hand out and then prop their feet on their desks while e-mailing friends about weekeend plans.

As a former teacher (English and psych) I can tell you that I RARELY used pre-done handouts; most of my teaching material came from actual student work and class discussions, in fact. It was greuling, hard work, but I loved it for 5 years. Unfortuantely, I burned myself out, but I know that my kids deserved the best from me, and I made sure that all of them learned what they needed to - not just what my Teacher Editions told me to give them.

I applaud the efforts of teachers like John and Robert - we need more like you for our kids!

Had to pause when I read DMTM's comments about the extra effort required to meet the needs of your students, and not relying on the textbooks to provide everything.

"It was grueling, hard work, but I loved it for 5 years. Unfortunately, I burned myself out..."

This is the sad but true story for so many new teachers; teachers who really try to make a difference in the lives of their students. 50% leave the profession within 5 years.

Why? No passion? I don't think so. Teachers don't enter the profession unless they have a real desire to teach. (It's not the money that draws them; this much we know is true.)

Robert and DMTM are the kinds of teachers we all say we want in our classrooms. We need to make the profession more attractive and tenable for teachers, and especially those who are just trying to find their way through the blizzard of administrative tasks piled on top of the demands of teaching, on average, 150 students a day.

Nation-wide, fully half of public school employees occupy non-teaching positions. With 50% of the working staff dedicated to "administrative" duties, it has always puzzled me why teachers are required to do so much of the paperwork associated with each student in the system. If "the other half" would do their jobs with half the passion found on the teaching side, perhaps teachers could spend their time actually doing what they signed up to do; namely: teach.

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Recent Comments

  • David Wear: Had to pause when I read DMTM's comments about the read more
  • DMTM: Wow - I just had to post after reading John's read more
  • Robert Brown: This demonstrated part of the problem in education today. Teachers read more
  • Eric Schmitz: I completely agree with another response that you can not read more
  • John Silva: Same old complaint. Here's a hint fellow history teachers... no read more




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