The Things We Didn't Learn

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A few days back I asked my Twitter and Instagram crew to help me out with a little project. In an effort to fill in some blanks, not only in my own classes but for those on the Interwebs, I asked: "what did you not learn in US history class, but wish you had?" Now...I went to high school in the early 80s, and I do not recall learning much of anything about Reconstruction, Native Americans, Women other than Rosa Parks, or the Civil Rights movement...again, other than Rosa Parks. And even then, we just learned about a tired lady on a bus. 

It looks as though I had a pretty typical experience. Many responded that their high school history education lacked a balanced narrative, one that included indigenous peoples, women, people of color, and diverse ethnic groups. Historiography was a big missing piece as well, what left students with the notion that, I suppose, history is just a bunch of facts told in order...with no bias or analysis - just big names and the usual dates. So I guess there's nothing new to report. Though I did most certainly appreciate the shared virtual eye-rolling experience when I first posed the question.  

But here's the good news: so much of that has changed. My colleagues who teach at the high school level engage social history, they give equal attention to the "traditional" narrative as they do everything and everyone else. The next line of inquiry in this story is to examine how and in what context all of this changed, the degree of the change, and precisely how high school teachers have infused diversity, complexity, and nuance into the historical narrative. 

What's still missing? It seems that historiography gets less attention than it probably should...not across the board maybe but enough to warrant attention. I'll ask you this: is historiography important at the high school level? I certainly think it least I hope so, because I am pitching a "topics in US History" course to my admin that will include a major historiography component. 

Teachers: please comment below