How I'm really handling history

Stone bust of an Egyptian pharaoh
Photo by Daniel Tong / Unsplash

I recently posted that for history, I’m just having Wanda watch Blackadder. That was of course facetious (though she does love Blackadder). Here’s how I’m actually handling history:

History is hard. From the time they’re babies, kids start figuring out language, math, physics, biology, you name it, through their own interactions with the world. History (and to a lesser extent its close cousin Geography) is different: you are only able to experience it through other humans’ unreliable narration. Our ability to do that, to preserve and share experiences, is what makes us humans so very-very-groovy, but oooooof, we all know the shortcomings.

History is a frickin’ multiverse, billions of humans with different perspectives that just won’t! hold! still! It’s impossible to cover and understand everything worth covering and understanding. There is no one single overriding “truth,” there is no way to get it “right.” The mind swims at the attempt to consider it all. It would be easier to ask Wanda to get to know every detectable star in the universe.

A whole lot of folks are realizing they would like a do-over on their own history educations. There are new history curricula for younger learners available that take a whack at that course-correction. Every few months I pore over the curriculum options, and every time I hit the same conclusion: I don’t like ‘em. They’re well-intentioned, a ton of effort has gone into them, but for various reasons, they fall short of what I want.

And jeez, what do I want?

Near as I can figure, here’s what I want for Wanda:

  1. General background knowledge about history, to increase her reading comprehension
  2. A rough mental map and timeline of what’s happened when and where
  3. A recognition that power warps storytelling, and a drive to counter that
  4. A strong preference to hear experiences of people told by those people
  5. The critical thinking skills necessary to adjust her understanding of history as new information arises
  6. Lasting curiosity about history, enough to fuel her to want to read and understand more through her whole life

I’ll write more in the future about what resources I’m using to meet those goals, but honestly I could go on for hours, and this is enough typing & reading for now.

In short: I’ll do my best of course, but I’m going to fuck it up, because everybody gets history wrong, it’s the nature of history. So I better make sure Wanda has the skills & tools she’ll need to un-fuck it as best she can—and I better not turn Wanda off history entirely in the process.

Join the discussion of this post over on Facebook.