How Were You Taught History?

Posted by: bloomsby

How Were You Taught History? - Tue Jan 29 2013 05:44 PM

Were you taught history chronologically or by theme(s) or did you (at least at secondary/high school level) do largely unrelated projects? Did your course include any local history?

Was your history course primarily about the country or continent that you were in or was it wide in scope?

(This thread is inspired was a discussion in another Forum).

It would be helpful to give your country at the time of your schooling.

I'll kick off. I received all my schooling in England. At primary school (age 5-11) history was not a timetabled subject until about age 10, but was taught unsystematically as part of reading. So we read about 'King Alfred and the Cakes', the Battle of Hastings, Nelson holding his telescope to his blind eye, Trafalgar and Waterloo. At age 10-11 there was a very small timetabled slot for history, but learning about history continued in reading. As far as I remember, from age 10-11 we learnt a little about the Industrial Revolution and conditions in 19th century Britain.

At secondary school (11-18) history was taught chronologically up to about age 16. We began with the Ancient World and worked our way up to 1920. We were solemnly told that anything after that couldn't be studied academically as most of the key documents were not yet available to scholars. (At that time most government papers were kept under lock and key for fifty years rather than the current thirty.

The course was very Eurocentric ... The course contained quite a lot about the history of the British Empire(!), from a British point of view.

By age 16 we had quite good timelines in our heads for British history and European history. In adddition, we had some idea about the growth of democracy in Britain, the Agrarian Revolution (c. 1760 onwards) and the Industrial Revolution.
Posted by: ren33

Re: How Were You Taught History? - Tue Jan 29 2013 06:04 PM

Mine was very very similar to yours, John, (English Grammar School)and not too inspiring I must say. I gave up history at O level, and wish now that I hadn't as it now fascinates me, especially after I realised it was all about Real People. Most of what I read now are biographies and historical accounts. I love TV series with presenters like Simon Schama. It's a pity we were not taught through those, but given really dry text books and lists of dates (although those are useful for trivia!). The really exciting lessons(ie, ones I remember) were during my time at a small private Nursery school where we dug pits in the garden to learn about the prehistoric Pit people and had hands on art and craft lessons, constructing Medieval castles etc. The rest is a blur really.
Posted by: agony

Re: How Were You Taught History? - Tue Jan 29 2013 06:20 PM

I was educated in Canada (Alberta) in the '60s and '70s. I never took a course called "History" - in elementary school, it was called "Enterprise" and from grade seven on called "Social Studies". It included History, Geography, Civics, Economics, all that type of thing.

In elementary school, we tended to "do" a country and include the history along with everything else. I can't remember them all, but there was Japan, New Zealand, Ancient Egypt, Canada up to Confederation, India, and I'm sure there were others.

Later, in Social Studies, there was less History included in general, as we tended to focus more on, oh, "Foreign Ownership of Canadian Industry, and its Effects on the Economy, Ecology, and National Identity of Canada", that's one I remember. We spent a lot of time on following events in the news - I remember the October Crisis, elections, and so on. For straight History, we spent half a year on the history of England, going king by king. We also did a pretty intense look at the American Revolution. We also tended to follow ideas, rather than timelines, so that we'd "do" Democracy, for instance, following up from the Ancient Greeks to the most recent election.

I understand the focus of the curriculum has changed a lot in the last few years, but my own kids, who are now in their early twenties, had much the same sort of thing I did. Major units I remember from their schooling would include the Cold War, WWII, the Industrial Revolution, the French Revolution.
Posted by: TabbyTom

Re: How Were You Taught History? - Tue Jan 29 2013 06:26 PM

My recollections of school history lessons are very similar to bloomsby's (which probably isn't surprising since we're both English and much the same age).

I frankly can't remember any of the history taught in my primary school . I don't think it was a timetabled subject at all.

At the secondary school, history was taught chronologically. The first year took us from early times up to (I think) the Norman conquest of England. It was largely centred on the British Isles. I certainly don't remember learning anything about ancient Greece, India or China (though I have a vague idea that the “wanderings of the Jews” in early Biblical times figured somewhere in the year).

The next two years took us from 1066 or thereabouts to the end of the Napoleonic Wars. Again, the focus was largely on Britain and especially (before the eighteenth century) on England. The outside world was considered only if it impinged on Britain. So, of course, we covered the American Revolution (or American War of Independence as we called it) and the War of the Austrian Succession fairly well, because the British were heavily involved, but I don't recall much coverage of conflicts that didn't involve the British.

In the next two years we prepared for the O-level history exam. Although the Cambridge Syndicate O-level paper offered a fair choice of periods of study, in our school we were always prepared for “European History 1815 to 1914” and “British History 1815 to 1914”, and we studied European history in the fourth year and British in the fifth year. I think we had a fairly good overview of nineteenth-century Europe (highlights being the 1848 revolutions, the unification of Italy and Germany, the “Eastern Question” and so on). The British year gave us, I think, a fair coverage of political and social history in the nineteenth century.

Unlike bloomsby, I was never given a reason for the termination of the syllabus in 1914, but it didn't seem strange. After all, there were plenty of people still living (including my father) who could tell me at first hand about World Wars I and II and the period between them.
Posted by: bloomsby

Re: How Were You Taught History? - Tue Jan 29 2013 07:15 PM

I certainly don't remember learning anything about ancient Greece, India or China ...

We didn't learn anything about ancient India or China, but I vividly recall writing an essay in my first term at grammar school (secondary school) on the topic I would rather have lived in Athens than in Sparta. Discuss. It was my first ever essay where I had to discuss a statement. Our history master - who was outstanding, and soon rose to head of the history department and then became the headmaster of a major fee-paying school - made it clear that we could argue, with reasons, for either Athens or Sparta or best of all present the pros and cons of both.

I remember, already at that age, arguing vigorously for Athens against Sparta. The essay came back with the comment: 'Good. Sparta was certainly militaristic, but military training might have got your weight down.' smile
Posted by: Copago

Re: How Were You Taught History? - Wed Jan 30 2013 01:07 AM

I did my high school schooling in Australia in the 80s.
To tell the truth I don't remember much about the earlier years but I think it was largely unrelated topics ... Australian History and both world wars I remember. From year nine onwards we could choose to an extent different subjects and I chose both modern and ancient history.

[quote]Was your history course primarily about the country or continent that you were in or was it wide in scope?[quote/]

here I am 25 years later just about to have a whinge about it .. LOL ... in year 12 (last year of high school) a group of us picked "three unit modern history". it was known to us that there were a few topic that we could study that year .. one being Australia in the War and another being Chinese Boxer Rellion. They made us do the Boxer rebellion. I still can't understand that choice .. why not get us to study something that was relevant and a lot easier to 'know'? Working my way around all the different Chinese pronunciations and names was tricky. To this day I can't tell you anything about it. Bit of a waste of a year really.
Posted by: Santana2002

Re: How Were You Taught History? - Wed Jan 30 2013 05:35 AM

Like Tabby Tom, Bloomsby, and Ren, primary school lessons in history covered basically the three "ages": stone age, bronze age and iron age. We also got an overview of our Irish celtic history and touched on subjects like Brian Boru's era, the Viking invasions, and feudalism. I don't remember it being in any sort of chronological order.

Secondary school up to age 15 we went a very little more in depth and learned about the English rulership in Ireland, the fight for independence and eventual autonomy then touched on the unification of Italy and of Germany.

World War I and II were not a big element of our education, then again, Ireland was neutral during both of those wars, and indeed, took advantage of them to work towards eventual independence.

The most notable thing I can say is that our history lessons, while not exclusively so, were very much centred around Irish history, with very little time given to the broader world situation at those times. I dropped history after my Intermediate Certificate (15 years), but think the final two years concentrated more on the World Wars and American history to a smaller extent. I do think it was extremely controlled and limiting as an education and left me sadly lacking in knowledge about broader world affairs. I can safely say that Asia,Chinese and American history remain more or less a mystery to me, except for what I have picked up through reading or TV documentaries since then.

I put this down to the fact that a freshly independent country had a policy of reinforcing the national identity and this was reflected very strongly in the school curriculum.

Edited to add: I received my education in Ireland (republic of) in the 70's and 80's.
Posted by: Chavs

Re: How Were You Taught History? - Wed Jan 30 2013 08:43 AM

Santana, I had exactly the same experience and I am shocked and embarrassed at the lack of my historical education -- I didn't even get to Irish Independence in school and am still a bit muddled! The Group Cert didn't seem to need it?! We covered the Industrial Revolution for a few weeks, but mostly we learned about the Celts, & the Vikings & Normans in Ireland.

Most of my primary education was in England in a progressive school that didn't separate subjects but integrated them, so it was never called "History" per se, however all I can recall is English-centred ...King Henry VIII, 1066, and ...nope that's it really.
Posted by: sue943

Re: How Were You Taught History? - Wed Jan 30 2013 11:47 AM

I guess as another UK pensioner it is not surprising that mine is more or less the same as the other ancient Britons here. smile

In primary school we didn't have history, or geography, lessons but were obviously taught some of both. I have recollections of learning a lot about the South Sea Islands, wherever they are! smile

Grammar School, at 11+ I feel sure that we more or less started with 1066 but might well have done up to that stage in the first year, I don't remember. I know we had to learn a lot of dates and I am useless at such things.
Posted by: spanishliz

Re: How Were You Taught History? - Wed Jan 30 2013 06:29 PM

I studied in Ontario, Canada in the late fifties and throughout the sixties. In elementary school, at first, we had Social Studies (not the same as agony's class of that name, though) and I loved it. We did explorers like Vasco da Gama, Diaz, Prince Henry the Navigator and Marco Polo. Later we did the explorers who opened up Africa, and the conquistadores in the New World (I guess we must have done Columbus too). Around the same time we were learning about the French in New France and Henry Hudson and the rest searching for the Northwest Passage.

By Grade 7 and 8 History and Geography had been separated out, and now it was more Canadian and political. The Corn Laws (as they applied to Canada), Responsible Government, 1837 Rebellions and all that jazz.

In high school, except for Grade 10, I really don't know what the set course was, because we had a great, inspiring teacher who through the books aside and taught us interesting stuff - loosely based on what was in the books. A lot of it was Canadian, but we also learned about Finland in the Winter War smile and focussed a lot on current events (including the Pueblo incident, the Vietnam war, the Six Day War and also the conquest of space). Grade 10 I had a different teacher and we did boring Civics and one pretty cool project on WWI.

You might have guessed that I love history, and always have. Went on to study Modern European with a side of Canadian History in university, but that's outside the scope of this discussion.
Posted by: agony

Re: How Were You Taught History? - Wed Jan 30 2013 10:34 PM

Ah, yes, I remember doing the explorers, too - Vasco da Gama, Magellan....

And I loved the New France stuff - Cartier and Champlain and Father Brebeuf and Radisson and Groseilliers.
Posted by: spanishliz

Re: How Were You Taught History? - Wed Jan 30 2013 11:00 PM

Radishes and Gooseberries! Yes! smile

Of course, I should also have mentioned the War of 1812 - we even visited Queenston Heights on a class trip.
Posted by: ozzz2002

Re: How Were You Taught History? - Wed Jan 30 2013 11:35 PM

I enjoyed history at school, back in the 60s and 70s (which is now itself a part of history!).

In primary school, we had one teacher looking after the whole school-it was only tiny, maximum enrolment was about 25 kids. History and Geography were blended together, so we learned all about Australian rivers and states, some of the more prominent explorers, Cook, Flinders, Burke and Will, Blaxland Wentworth and Lawson.

High school was vastly different. Besides the fact that there were 900 students as opposed to 25, the curriculum was much more rigid. We studied Commomwealth history- Australia in more depth, about 1000 years of UK history, South African stuff such as Cecil Rhodes, Boer War, and the colonisation of Africa, Asian colonisation- India, Malaya, Ceylon, East and West Pakistan, and a bit of New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and Canada.

There was also extensive teaching of Europe, WW1, WWII, and the between-wars period, all of which had a decidedly British slant to it. We probably studied more history of China and Japan than we did of the US. In the later years, it was mainly about the Cold War and the threats from Russia, and the Korean War.
Posted by: salami_swami

Re: How Were You Taught History? - Wed Jan 30 2013 11:49 PM

History was always US based for me (I'm 20, this is recent).

If ever we learned about others countries, such as Britain, it was learning about how it affected Amerca and all that stuff. Any explorer we ever learned about was one who connected to America in some way. Even those who circumnavigated the globe, the emphasis was on the Americas.

During my schooling, yes, we learned of the world. But all my teachers ever seemed to care about was how the world shaped America. That's fine and all, but I like to learn about the word's history as well, unbiased. It's all from the US point of view.

I hadn't even heard of much of the world's famous history until FunTrivia. I never learned about Tasman, or the great fire of 1666, or Hastings 1066. All that information was from here.

So, I am by no meas saying I didnt study the world. All I am saying is that the schooling was very biased. Nothing mattered in the world unless it had an impact on America in some way.

I actually cannot recall anything I learned about the world that wasn't warped into an American bias.

Oh well. That's what FunTrivia is for.,. Helping me learn what school neglected to teach. wink

I can't recall when I learned what. I was in online school for much of my education, so with the same teachers several years in a row, I cannot recall everything. I remember not having history in 12th grade... That's about all I remember.
Posted by: salami_swami

Re: How Were You Taught History? - Wed Jan 30 2013 11:51 PM

As I'm reading, it seems I was taught with an American slant, and quite a few others learned about near everything but the US. Lol.

Education. FunTrivia does it best. laugh
Posted by: WesleyCrusher

Re: How Were You Taught History? - Thu Jan 31 2013 06:00 AM

German system of the 1970s (primary) / 1980s (secondary) school:

Primary, grades 1 to 4: Some snippets of local history woven in with general education, but no formal focus on the subject.
Secondary, grades 5 to 6: Not taught
Secondary, grades 7 to 9: One chronological run-through; focus on Europe, but not that much on Germany except for the World Wars
Secondary, grades 10 and up: Three to five main topics per year, not in any specific order. We did US history (mostly independence and civil war), 30 years' war, ancient Greece/Rome, crusades, some Arab history, industrialization, Nazi Germany / WW2, explorers... - a pretty big spectrum. The only really big gap was Chinese / Japanese history where we did very little.

As a small curio, history as it was taught to us ended with the 1969 moon landing. Anything beyond that was considered present time and thus a case for social / political science by the history teachers but anything older than 5 years was past and thus thought irrelevant by the politics folks. This led to our year essentially missing out on any knowledge about the events of 1970 to approximately 1977-80 (the latter being the age when most of us really started watching news or reading the papers).
Posted by: spanishliz

Re: How Were You Taught History? - Thu Jan 31 2013 08:38 AM

Don't get me wrong, salami, we did learn stuff about the US too, but I find it hard to separate what I learned in school (e.g. the Louisiana Purchase), from being a Davy Crockett fan (e.g. the Alamo) and reading on the side (e.g. Battle Cry - USMC in WWII). A lot of the current events we discussed in high school had a major US slant (Vietnam, space). When I was about twelve I was annoyed that I had a complete list of Medal of Honor recipients (in a book that I owned), but not of Victoria Cross recipients. I set out to compile one of the latter... But that wasn't school, that was for fun smile
Posted by: salami_swami

Re: How Were You Taught History? - Thu Jan 31 2013 09:15 AM

Not to make you feel old or anything....

But most of my school's history ended around 1990s.

I DID learn about the Berlin Wall, briefly. We didn't really study Germany or anything, but we did learn about the wall.

So, my history went to at least 1989. :P
Posted by: George95

Re: How Were You Taught History? - Thu Jan 31 2013 09:40 AM

In Ontario, elementary school was Medieval Times, and the development of Canada, pioneers, and a little bit of the War of 1812. History is not offered to Grade 9 students, (that's the Geography year) and in Grade 10 is a Canadian look at the two World Wars, the Great Depression, and the Korean/Vietnam Wars (although I remember we did not get that far). Grade 11 is a more international history, a more global look at the same things, and then communism/capitalism. At least that was what it was supposed to be, our history teacher was a very proud Canadian, who spread his propaganda throughout the course. Grade 12 is an older history, looking at the Industrial Revolution, all the way back to the Romans.

There is an American History course now offered through the Internet and this thing called e-learning. I didn't take it, but it's about the American Revolution, Civil War, all the way to the World Wars, Korea, and Vietnam.

The Grade 11 History course has the most American content (with General MacArthur, Iwo Jima). In elementary school, there is a more British and French history, as is the time period that is discussed.
Posted by: spanishliz

Re: How Were You Taught History? - Thu Jan 31 2013 09:57 AM

Is this all quite recent, George95? It differs quite a lot from my era in Ontario. (I even had to do Grade 13...).
Posted by: George95

Re: How Were You Taught History? - Thu Jan 31 2013 11:19 AM

Yes, this is quite recent. I was born in the 90's, and I've got a younger brother in middle school. Elementary is quite hazy. No more Grade 13.
Posted by: Mariamir

Re: How Were You Taught History? - Thu Jan 31 2013 11:58 AM

I've used a US curriculum all my (short) academic life.

I recall bits and pieces of history being taught from kindergarten to grade 2.

Grade 3 was a Child's History of the World, or something like that. Basically it was a bit of the stone, iron, etc ages to the Medieval Age to the Revolutionary War to World War II, all very brief.

Grade 4 was Build Our Nation, from the Native Americans, exploring, and pilgrims to modern US.

Grade 5 was A Message of Ancient Days, Egypt and the pyramids, Persia, Austria, Stonehenge, Lucy, the Ice Ages, Greece, all that.

Grade Six was Across the Centuries, ancient Rome, the Angles, Saxons, Danes, Huns, Vandals, Dark Ages, plagues, Medieval Age, Queen Elizabeth I, The Sun King, the Age of Exploration, British Empire, whatnot.

Grade 7 was a more in depth Grade 4 history, the US again.

Grade 8 was a more in depth recap of Grade 7, more US history, and even more "Ra, Ra, USA" in attitude.

And...the rest was so long ago I've forgotten it. Not really. laugh I'm not quite past Ninth Grade yet.
Posted by: malik24

Re: How Were You Taught History? - Thu Jan 31 2013 12:24 PM

I did some history in primary school, but to be honest all I can remember of it was that I wasn't able to be around for the dinosaurs section and I wanted to know about the dinosaurs and how they became extinct. (basically, during the time dinosaurs was being taught, I had to be elsewhere).

Erm, secondary-school wise, we had a history session twice a week, I think. I dropped history as soon as I got to GCSE as history was the only lesson that had ever properly managed to put me asleep! I'd have stopped at 15 or 16. So, what can I remember... (this next section is a bit of an info-dump and probably isn't structured very well)

In terms of the Brits, we did Jack the Ripper. The gunpowder plot was definitely covered at least once. British monarchy-wise, I think Victoria got a fair bit of attention, since she was the first monarch to live in the Buckingham Palace and I used to imagine the palace as being see-through and made of glass (why? I've no idea...). And, of course, we must have looked at Henry VIII and his several wives at some point too. The abdication of Edward VIII was 'mentioned' at the very least. The Battle of Hastings definitely came up at some point too, as did the coverage of the bubonic plague and the Great Fire of London with Samuel Pepys' diary. The Industrial Revolution was looked at too, as the image of the young kids working for peanuts in workhouses had always stuck with me. Not sure about the Stone/Bronze/Iron ages... maybe. I think we had a look of Boudicca of the Iceni as well, but not sure when. (well, to be fair, I don't know when I learnt any of this stuff exactly :p )

Other than that, we did the French Revolution. I guess that's when we covered the storming of the Bastille too. We did a LOT on World War II, and maybe a little on World War I too. I think we might have covered the Vietnam War at some point too, but I can't remember if it had just come up in a fictional book somewhere... I vaguely recall there was some emphasis on the change of the name from Saigon to Ho Chi Minh City (I think?) but under what context, I couldn't say... We covered some ancient Roman history, too, I believe. We definitely covered the eruption of Mount Vesuvius and the burying of Pompeii at some point, as well as gladiator culture. The Boston Tea party might have come up at some point too, but not sure... but I do believe we covered the moon landing. Although Custer's Last Stand was covered, it may have been elsewhere as I remember watching a video about it, so... yeah. Christopher Columbus and his expeditions were looked at at some point for sure, as I remember his ships Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria. The north pole expedition was also covered too, I think, and the climbing of Everest might have been mentioned at some point. Magellan and Marco Polo too, perhaps. Marie Antoinette? Maybe. Vikings? Maybe.

We didn't look much at Africa, Australia or South America at all, or at least I don't remember it if we did. Oh, having said that, we must have looked at the Egyptians at least once because of the pyramids... but the rest of Africa, probably not.

So, to answer the other questions in the original post...

1. My memory for timelines is awful, so I couldn't say, but I think we flitted back and forth between different time periods. Local history? Nope.
2. I think the scope was pretty good, but obviously it's bound to be a bit Brit-focused! Either way, I don't remember many of the details of these events.
Posted by: adams627

Re: How Were You Taught History? - Thu Jan 31 2013 01:08 PM

I'm not sure I've ever posted on these forums before--though I do browse through them occasionally--but I didn't want Salami's to be the only idea people had of US schools, since I guess I had a somewhat different experience. smile I went to public school in a well-off area of the country, so that could explain parts of it.

In earlier years of school, I remember most of elementary school being devoted to US history, but middle school was split up pretty well--we would cover history and geography of Latin America, Europe, and Australia in 6th grade, Africa and Asia in 7th, then US in 8th.

Looking at HS more relevantly, we had 9th grade US Government for a semester, and everyone took a US History class in eleventh grade. I personally took AP US History. For those not familiar, AP is a national program which allows universities to give credit for high school coursework depending on a student's performance on an end-of-year rigorous, comprehensive, exam. I remember doing a fair bit of other history in that class too, though: we covered a few European wars for instance, as long as they had some impact on the US. I'm sure that lower-level classes probably didn't go into as much detail as AP did into relevant European and Asian history, but I learned something.

However, I also took AP World History, which deliberately incorporates only 25% of info from North American and Europe, if I remember correctly, so we covered those Chinese dynasties and African kingdoms. Other schools in the area (not mine) did AP European History as well. I think rigor is a big deal here--if you're not at a particularly good school, it's perfectly likely that you're going to get the stereotypical "We're USA, Rah Rah Rah" message. But we did analysis in my classes, and sometimes the answer was: yes, My Lai was horrible, firebombing Dresden was horrible, the US does awful things sometimes. We covered up through probably 1990 in those classes.

I think the most interesting class I took in high school was AP Comparative Government and Politics, though. This isn't widely taken in the US, and it's a shame. We learned about other systems of government--spent 3 weeks each on the governments of the UK, Russia, Nigeria, Mexico, Iran, and China. I learned how parliamentary democracy differs from presidential systems, how political history impacts contemporary issues and politics. Heck, we read The Economist every week. We learned about political history STARTING in 1990, to the present. We simulated "Question Time" in class, did a debate about the Chinese welfare system, watched the Russian presidential [cough dictatorial] inauguration. It was fascinating. I might even still remember enough to write about a few countries' governments (erm...doubtful), but I think offering more classes in general Political Science and Comparative Government would go a long way toward combating the stereotype that American students are morons who don't know the first thing about the world around them. It might also get the younger generations interested in politics again--the apathy of people my age is astounding and disappointing. Though, frankly, I had very little interest in politics before that class.

Point of interest: in my high school of 2000 students, there were 12 in my AP Government class--average class size in the school was probably well over double that. That's how bad political apathy is.

Now, get me on to how they teach math in public schools, and that's a completely different story. smile
Posted by: TimBentley

Re: How Were You Taught History? - Thu Jan 31 2013 03:58 PM

I went to school in the US in the 90s and first couple years of the 2000s. I don't really remember what history I learned in elementary school, but I believe it was primarily American. In sixth through eighth grades, social studies (which may have included culture as well as history) covered three different areas of the world (I believe one year was Canada+Latin America). I had to take two years of US History in high school, a semester of US government, and a semester of some other social studies class (I took Criminal Law). I believe World History was offered, but it was not required.
Posted by: ren33

Re: How Were You Taught History? - Thu Jan 31 2013 07:36 PM

Adams, welcome! What an interesting post.
Chinese students here learn mostly only Chinese History and very few go on the further study in History. Sorry to sound bitter and twisted, but learning history doesnt earn you lots of money. That's it.
Posted by: bloomsby

Re: How Were You Taught History? - Thu Jan 31 2013 08:04 PM

I'd also like to welcome you, Adams, and thank you for your very informative post.

There seem to all kinds of differences in the teaching of history in schools in the US.
Posted by: agony

Re: How Were You Taught History? - Thu Jan 31 2013 08:10 PM

It certainly varies from province to province in Canada, so no surprise at variance from state to state in the US.

I've never met anyone from another province who had the "Enterprise" class we did in elementary school, and now that I'm older and know what the word means, I wonder why they called it that. It's long gone - they have "Social Studies" right from first grade, now.
Posted by: Lones78

Re: How Were You Taught History? - Fri Feb 01 2013 01:26 AM

We had 'Social Studies' in primary school as well - it seemed to include a mixture of History, Geography & Politics. This was in the late 80s, but now the same 'stuff' is called 'Society and Environment' (or 'S&E' for short smile )

The only things I remember learning about were dinosaurs, local history (my home state) and Australian history. There was a LOT of rehashing around ANZAC day of each year and we concentrated a LOT on WWI but that's about all I remember. I guess there's not that much history in a country that (at the time) was considered to be only 200 years old! The kids now learn a lot about Aboriginal history and they learn about the way of life of the native people of Australia, and spend a lot of time doing art projects in the same vein. I think we may have touched on it when I was at school but I can only vaguely remember the basic idea of a few dreamtime stories.

In high school (early 90s), Social Studies got divided up into History, Geography & Economics - although they had different names for each unit and History, Geography and Economics weren't terms we even used until year 11 and 12. We learned more in depth about Australian history (yep - more regurgitation & rehashing!). I do remember learning something about the industrial revolution, but it wasn't really that interesting to me at the time so I guess I just didn't pay attention smile

Somewhere in there I think I remember learning something about Ancient Greece and the Roman Empire and also a bit about Ancient Egypt. But that was more from the point of view of the buildings and what they were used for in ancient times. There was something there about Sparta but I can't remember what. History was also more based around people and their achievements. People like Captain Cook (and his cohorts), Christopher Columbus, Marco Polo, etc. Although only Captain Cook was bashed into our brains from a young age.

I am more interested now in history than when I was young. I find it fascinating that people lived with no electricity, grew their own food, slaughtered their own animals, lived in slum-like areas - and this was all considered normal - and to look at where people are today is a great thing. I'd love to go back now and learn about history but Australian history now bores me to tears. If someone mentions Gallipoli, WWI, or the word 'Digger' to me, I have to stop myself from cringing and rolling my eyes. I mean no disrespect to those people who lost their lives but it was so drummed into us at school that I cannot stand the mention of it anymore frown
Posted by: Lottie1001

Re: How Were You Taught History? - Fri Feb 01 2013 06:52 AM

My history lessons in the UK were mostly in the 1960s.

In primary school I remember learning about the Stone Age, Bronze Age and Iron Age, the Romans, the Angles, Saxons and Jutes, and the Vikings. Although I don't think there was much more to the Angles, Saxons and Jutes than that they came between the Romans and the Vikings!

In secondary school I think we started at 1066 (the Battle of Hastings) and worked through British history chronologically until it was time to start the O-level syllabus; we got as far as the end of the Tudors. For O-level we studied British History 1775(?) to 1865 (which included the American War of Independence) and European History 1775(?) to 1871. So I've always had a huge gap because I never learnt anything about the Stuarts, the English Civil War or why we came to have Hanoverian kings and queens. I've also never learnt anything about the ancient civilisations, or prehistoric times.

Apart from the gaps, there's something to be said for learning history chronologically. Nowadays children seem to jump from the Victorians, to the Romans, to the Tudors, without any idea where they fit into the timeline. And what's really off-putting, when I invigilate public exams at the local school, is to find the History A-levels covering events which have happened since I left school!
Posted by: agony

Re: How Were You Taught History? - Fri Feb 01 2013 11:03 AM

I do have to say - much of what I learned about history as a child I got from reading Geoffrey Trease books.
Posted by: spanishliz

Re: How Were You Taught History? - Fri Feb 01 2013 11:30 AM

Our local library had a great section of biographies written for kids, that I devoured. Geoffrey Trease taught me a bit too smile
Posted by: Jabberwok

Re: How Were You Taught History? - Fri Feb 01 2013 02:46 PM

Oh yes, agony, and Rosemary Sutcliff. Henry Treece for Vikings...
Happy memories.
Posted by: Lones78

Re: How Were You Taught History? - Sat Feb 02 2013 03:51 AM

The best history lessons I had were in TAFE (college) where I did fashion design. We did the entire history of dress & clothing since caveman. It was obviously not based on events but the use of fabrics, why and how they were available, and the influences on fashion in particular times. I absolutely loved it! Not your standard history, but history none-the-less smile
Posted by: croatoan

Re: How Were You Taught History? - Sat Feb 02 2013 01:49 PM

All of my schooling was done in the southern US in the 90s and 00s. When I was younger I remember that history was taught as a part of 'social studies' which seemed to be anything that wasn't science, math, or English. I seem to remember it being more geography-based than history-based, but I do know we learned a good bit about pre-history and also some important American milestones. We talked about the pilgrims an awful lot, I think.

In junior high, seventh grade was Louisiana History and we learned absolutely nothing about anywhere else unless it had bearing on our state (France, Canada, Spain, and so on). It pretty well covered everything from Native Americans up until about the time of Huey P. Long. The strongest memory I have from the whole class (beyond my very cute, young, curly-haired teacher) was having to learn all 64 parishes and where they were on a map. He would also set up little games that combined trashcan basketball and trivia. Overall a pretty good year for history for me. Eight grade was US History and that entire year was so miserable that I don't remember much. It was entirely US-centric.

In high school I moved into a smaller, private school. Ninth grade was World Geography which was expanded to include some important history for each continent. The 'social studies' classes for tenth grade were Civics and Free Enterprise, and the government focus in Civics was also entirely American. Eleventh grade was US History again and was taught chronologically all the way up until about the 1980s, though there was a heavy focus on the Great Depression and WWII. There was no senior history class but I had a free hour and couldn't drive, so I elected to take an independent study World History class. Learned more that year about non-US history than I had learned in all my schooling up to that point.
Posted by: AlonsoKing

Re: How Were You Taught History? - Mon Feb 11 2013 05:29 AM

I received my education in Belgium (Flanders), late 70s and 80s. Before the age of 12 not a lot of history was given. I remember there was a course that involved a mish-mash of history, geography, science and economics. The few things I remember was learning about the 'battle of the Golden Spurs' (1302), the independence of Belgium and the fact that Flanders was dominated by the French speaking part of Belgium until about the 1960s. I vaguely remember learning about a couple of historically important figures. The only one I recall is Gandhi.

The first year in highschool gave a general course in history in which we were taught divisions of historical periods: stone age - bronze age - iron age - ancient times (ended 476 CE, fall Western Roman Empire) - medieval times (476 - 1453, fall Eastern Roman Empire or 1492, discovery America) - newer times (1453/1492 - 1789 French Revolution) - newest times (1789 - 1945 end WWII) and modern times (1945 on).

In the second till sixth year of highschool we chronologically saw the periods mentioned above starting with ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome the second year, then (quickly and largely ignored) the middle ages, Renaissance, discovery of America, Reformation and counter-reformation (especially concerning the consequences it had for Flanders, the 'statue storm' and the governorship of the Duke of Alba), enlightenment, French revolution, industrial revolution, rise of nationalism, rise of socialism, German unification, WWI, interbellum and WWII.

Although history education (in my days) wasn't bad, it was only given one hour a week, which was not nearly enough in my opinion (I admit being biassed because I loved history and hated math and science). I found the history education I had superficial and lacking in non-European history.

From my mid-twenties I started filling in the gaps through self-education. 80% of my history knowledge I taught myself through reading and watching some excellent BBC documentaries. There are still a few gaps though, especially in USA history, which I discover all too often when doing some of the history quizzes here.
Posted by: bloomsby

Re: How Were You Taught History? - Wed Feb 13 2013 05:36 PM

Although history education (in my days) wasn't bad, it was only given one hour a week ...

That is very little indeed! As far as I remember, from age 13-16 we had three 40 or 45 minute lessons a week.
Posted by: bitterlyold

Re: How Were You Taught History? - Fri Mar 08 2013 10:21 PM

Second southerner here (US) 60s-70s. I always loved school. I come from a family of educators, and I am one now. Obviously, the one social study I learned little from was economics. That, or I love being poor.

In elementary, we had more "themed" type history (social studies). Until about fifth grade, history was fairly well combined with science and reading. Math was the odd one out. We stayed with one teacher in a classroom, and she (almost exclusively female) taught all subjects.

In fifth grade, we got to "change classes" and go to specialized classes. As I recall, fifth grade pretty much centered on famous people (biographies) to teach history. And for a southern school, ours was pretty liberal: we learned about people from all over the globe, including *gasp* black people. Sixth through eighth grade was more time-line. We began in ancient Mesopotamia and worked our way up. I loved it that way, because it was easier to understand why one war would lead to another and another and another.....

The best part of all of this was that my father was a huge history buff. We didn't have money, but he did his best to take us to historic places: Indian grounds (Native American), Civil War battlefields, homesteads, etc. Anything that was within reach, he took us to see first hand. He would make up stories about arrowheads or miniballs (civil war bullets) we found and bring the past to life.

In those days, people were much more approachable and were happy to share stories about an old butter churn, model-T Ford, portrait, what-have-you. We got to hear first-person stories of history. My father was no respecter of race, so we met blacks, whites, native Americans, a family of Japanese internees from a local internment camp, etc. Mother was an English teacher and loved books and libraries, so we spent hours combing public and private libraries for obscure works: journals, diaries, cookbooks, family Bibles, you name it.

My brothers and I may have had to study history in school, but we got to live and learn it away from there.

Then my father died unexpectedly when I was 13.

My mother took a job in a private school in Memphis, so I was able to attend a private school for my high school years. And the work began in earnest. 9th grade was World History I (Hammurabi to Shakespeare). And Bible I: The Old Testament (two separate courses). 10th grade was World History II: Shakespeare to the founding of Jamestown. And Bible II: The New Testament (again, separate courses). 11th grade was AP American History and my second course (because I loved social studies) was 1/2 psych, 1/2 sociology. I didn't have to take any social studies my senior year, but I chose to take economics and advanced Bible studies.

I consider myself very fortunate.
Posted by: bloomsby

Re: How Were You Taught History? - Sun Mar 10 2013 09:54 PM

A most interesting contribution.

I was also fortunate in having a father who was interested in history, and when he had the time he took me to all sorts of interesting places. We lived in London, so there was no lack of places of historical as well as general interest, such as the Tower of London, the Imperial War Museum, Hampton Court, the British Museum, St. Paul's Cathedral, Westminster Abbey, Windsor Castle ...

We also visited the Geffrye Museum (devoted to the history of the home and home life), the London Museum (then in Kensington Gardens) on the history of London. (It's been amalgamated with the Guildhall Museum and moved to the Barbican in 1976).

Then there were also the various cathedrals within a 60-mile radius or so, such as Canterbury and St. Alban's. (We also visited Guildford Cathedral, which I didn't find so interesting).

I also remember a trip to the well preserved, quaint, picturesque old Cinque Port of Rye.

On the whole, my father left the business of taking me to art galleries to my mother. I think he saw art as a matter more for women. wink (It was also my mother who took me to the Geffrye Museum on the history of the home).

Most of these places were of course also of wider, more general interest. With most of these places, there were multiple visits - one when I was quite young, then subsequent visits later when I was able to understand more.

My parents were also very supportive in other ways, too. At about age 11/12 they gave me my first - somewhat basic - historical atlas. At about 13-14 this was no longer adequate and I asked for a really good one. My father made enquiries and it emerged that the kind of historical atlas I really wanted cost £3. 17s. 6d - a staggering sum for a book in the late 1950s. I never expected they would give be able to give it me, but fortunately a great-aunt of mine - a retired schoolmistress and scholarly lady who was relatively rather better well off than the rest of the family - heard about the problem and contributed a little over half the cost, so I received it as a joint present.

This long, rather personal contribution to the thread was inspired by bitterlyold's post.

(Obviously, actual history teaching was provided by my secondary school (high school) as described at the beginning of this thread).

Edited to correct typo.
Posted by: bitterlyold

Re: How Were You Taught History? - Mon Mar 11 2013 08:34 PM

Thank you, Bloomsby. I enjoyed your story, too. I hope we meet.

Posted by: bloomsby

Re: How Were You Taught History? - Tue Mar 12 2013 04:09 PM

Many thanks, Thom. Perhaps one day we'll meet. Who knows? smile
Posted by: C30

Re: How Were You Taught History? - Wed Mar 13 2013 11:59 AM

Mainly I suppose 75% of my knowledge of, and love of, history was gained after leaving school.

At Primary school, we were taught about stone age, bronze age, and by the time I left to go to Secondary Modern School, we has progressed to Boadicea! It seems our local school meadow rejoiced under the name "Bloody Meadow" and was reputed to be where said Queen and her Celts demolished the Roman 9th Legion. This was "local myth" as historians seem to favour Godmanchester, Huntingdon are most likely site - however I digress.
When I started higher school.....we were taught about Stone Age, the time we moved house and location which entailed attending a different school, we had progressed to............Boadicea!
My new school, had taken things a bit further and were up to Saxon period as I recall..........when I left school to become a Junior Seaman, Royal Navy at age of 15, we had managed to get to 1066 historically.
Thus anything after that time period, I have taught myself, having inherited a love of history from my late mother.
Posted by: bloomsby

Re: How Were You Taught History? - Fri Mar 15 2013 07:04 PM

That sounds rather like French language teaching in some parts of England. I've heard and read stories about kids starting French from scratch in First School, then again in Middle School and - incredible as it sounds - yet again in Secondary School!

The reason given is that middle schools take in some kids who have learnt some French and some who have not, and that that this occurs at secondary school level. Even when it finally gets going for the third time it often moves at a snail's pace.