Why Teach Students to “Think Like Historians?”

Sam Wineburg will be familiar to many of you. If not do try to read his stuff. Sam is at Stanford University, and  is the author of Historical Thinking and Other Unnatural Acts: Charting the Future of Teaching the Past. He argues that:

Students need to be taught to “think like historians” not because they will become professional historians but precisely because most won’t. The goals of school history are not vocational but to prepare students to tolerate complexity, to adapt to new situations, and to resist the first answer that comes to mind.

When a video uploaded from a cell phone in Tehran can be transmitted to San Francisco in half a second, history reminds us to start with basic questions: Who sent it? Can it be trusted? What did the camera angle miss? There’s no shortage of forces telling students what to think. In this daily avalanche of information, students have never been in greater need of ways to make sense of it all.



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