10 Elements for Teaching History 7

7.  Using Dates and Names Right

If your eleven year old son asks you before bed, “How can I be like MacArthur? What do I have to do to become a big general?” You know you have done something right. He knew the name, he knew to honor the man, he knew the man made a difference, and he applied it to his life.  

The fact of the matter is, with the internet at our fingertips and the answer to any question we can imagine immediately available by asking “SIRI,” dates and names are only as important as the reason we need it. At what point do we need to know more?

We may need to know dates and names on the AP History exam and CLEP History exam.Yes, you may perhaps be required to match the date to event.

But even still, most of the questions are conceptual.  Time-period, sociological, cause and effect, intellectual atmosphere. These make up most of the questions on the official exams and are far more important than matching date to event.

If the student has studied the era, debated over the issues, considered the individuals and their worldviews, looked for causes and forces that control events and men, they will be able to grab that information “off of their clothesline” and select the correct answer with ease. They will also be able to write the essay with fluency, even if they forget some specific date.

Dates are only as important as the changes that happened afterwards. The dates 1066, 1492, 1776 should stir up feelings of tension and concern or excitement and dialogue.  If it is an important date, it needs to be packaged with the tension of the time, and names of people who fought for their land or their ideas during that time.

Can I say this? Don’t waste your time on memorizing dates. Instead go for comprehension of ideas and the consequences of ideas. Alongside the ideas are the names of people.  Some people were worldchangers, and should not be forgotten.

A really great resource for the development of ideas and the effect on history and art and culture and music is Francis Schaeffer’s How Should We Then Live.  I bought the audiobook and we listen to short excerpts in the car.

8.  You Do Not Have to Know it All–>

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