It’s a word that has seemed to permeate our lives this year. For many families, even Thanksgiving (or, at least, the traditional way we’ve celebrated it) is likely to be, well, cancelled. The thousands of events and plans that had to be struck down because of the pandemic aren’t the only things suffering cancellation.
We are cancelling people, ideas, causes, brands, art, and more as a way to call out poor behavior and bad decisions. Cancel culture has grown legs, reaping both constructive conversations and destructive consequences across our nation.
This can be a healthy and productive way to exercise our freedom of speech and free economy. We as a people can be outspoken and make societal change with our words and our wallets. The danger comes, though, when we destroy parts of our history without understanding the full story and the consequences that proceed from that.
Should (or can) any part of our nation’s history really be “cancelled?” From the great victories to the shameful atrocities, from the birth of our nation to the ancients who paved the way, each season of the people who came before us teaches us something important about who we are today.
In many schools around our country, the teaching of history has evolved away from a robust understanding of the people and events in the past, trending more toward social studies. When we relegate the study of history - the very facts, chronologies, and truths of what happened in a given time and place - to a conveying of ideas in carefully selected short narratives, we do our children and our nation a disservice.
In a classical Christian education, history takes a front and center role from the earliest grades all the way through graduation. Grammar school classrooms take on a historical theme and abide in their time period for their entire year. Omnibus curriculum is a cornerstone of our secondary program, examining history in conjunction with literature, theology, philosophy, and civics.
Why do we make such a big deal about history? Because knowing our history is crucial to moving forward into the future.
This two-part blog series features insights from a Veritas administrator and a teacher on why it's vital that our kids learn history well, and how Veritas seeks to make that happen.
In this installment, Ty Fischer gives his perspective on the matter. Tomorrow, we'll hear from Sixth Grade Teacher Kristin Potteiger, who before coming to Veritas taught seventh grade American history for more than 15 years in a public school.
TY FISCHER, HEAD OF SCHOOL
Social Studies vs. History: What’s the Difference and Why Does It Matter?
First, let’s get an understanding of what history is, in the truest sense.
History looks back, examining specific events, people, and movements that happened in the past. Studying history stirs the imagination helping us know ourselves, our country, and other people and cultures better.
Social studies, on the other hand, is a grouping of subjects that includes social sciences (like psychology) and humanities (like history). Its aims are different from the aims of history. It is not so much looking back; instead, it is looking down, focusing on the current day and striving to understand a people and a culture based around their social connections and responsibilities. It does seek to understand history, not so much for the content but rather so that we can better understand our own or other groups.
Social studies criticizes history and historians for having a perspective. They are perceived as having bias, and sometimes that is a valid concern. The biggest blind spot in social studies, however, is that it can be under the illusion that it can avoid bias and come to its study with no values.
Why Studying History is So Important to Christians
We study history because the Bible requires us to study it. Almost half of God’s revelation to His people comes in the form of history or story. We can learn about Him as we study this history. In the Christian West, these biblical ideas about history guided Christian historians as they penned histories of their own day.
In a classical Christian school, history is typically taught from the perspective that claims that we can learn about God’s providence from the past. We learn this not only from biblical history, but all throughout the great story of our world.
Outside of Christianity, however, the West in particular has been fascinated with the study of history. This began with the Greeks, like Herodotus and Thucydides, but it continued through Rome and was handed off to Christians in the Middle Ages. All cultures have stories, but the West, especially in Thucydides, started conducting historical research to make sure that stories told were true, stories from which the historians would draw principles and lessons. Thucydides claims that his book on the Peloponnesian War was written “for all time.”
Why We Teach History the Way We Do
We study the past the way we do because it helps us know ourselves, our place, and our mission.
As Solomon finished the work of his father, David, so we are called by our ancestors to build upon their work and do so in a manner that shows us to be sons and daughters who respect the hard-earned wisdom that their stories teach us.
Sometimes this can be challenging. Martin Luther King Jr. is looking back at history, particularly the American Founding, when he claims that the Declaration’s promise that “all men are created equal” has become “a bad check” for African Americans that has insufficient funds to deliver on its promise.
If we are to learn from our history - both the mistakes and the triumphs - and move forward to better things, then we must have a full understanding of our past for what it is.
Click here for part 2 of this series, as Veritas 6th Grade Teacher Kristin Potteiger shares her observations from her experience teaching American History in the public schools for 15 years, and why she feels Classical Christian Education truly gets it right for students.
If you're looking for a school that teaches your child how to think critically and instills a passion and joy of learning - one that dives into the truth of history and provides a rich and robust experience - then we invite you to check out Veritas Academy!
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