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How I learned history December 28, 2005

Posted by collaboration in Observations.
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I’ve grown up with a love for history. Part of it probably came from the fact that I lived in Southeast Asia most of my childhood, and traveled throughout visiting the sites and places I read about.

Part of it is also through reading historical fiction. While certainly much of what I read was untrue, the underlying facts in many gave me an understanding of what happened. The dry words of textbooks could never compare with a good account from a great author.

Our seventh graders are studying World War II now. To many of them, this is an event without merit and a vague event that has nothing to do with their lives. For many middle school students this is probably true with much of the world, but giving them a text book and having them read several chapters will do nothing to change this.

Have them read a few pages of James Clavell’s King Rat, or any other historical novel of the time. Dig into the relationship between colonial troops and their victorious Asian captors. Have them compare this relationship to current events, both domestically and internationally.

The descriptions, color, language and visceral images from an historical novel are what can turn on students to history and events in a way that few other tools can.

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