Sunday, August 28, 2005

School of Blogger needs your help!

Diane Ravitch had an op/ed in the NY Sun on Friday about how dismally bad American students are at History. She blames this, in part, to the fact that so few high school history teachers actually majored in history.

Well friends, I'm part of the problem. Next week I'll start taking classes at night toward my certification in high school social studies. But my college major was Urban Studies, and the only history class I ever took in college was one on the urban crisis in the U.S. post-WWII.

So over the course of the next two years while I do my coursework, I'm going to attempt to recreate the history education I never had. But I need your help in putting together the syllabus. In the comments section, please post the top 5 (or more, or less) most important history books you have ever read.

My future students thank you.


Leo Casey said...


You should be well read in history, but I would think you proably are. You should also be well read in political science, political philosophy, law, economics, anthropology and sociology. For institutional reasons, historians present themselves as the alpha and the omega of high school Social Studies [they eventake offense at the name, claiming it should be History], but their case is not one I find convincing. It would be one thing if they complained that too many Social Studies teachers are glorified sports coaches without any real background in any of the Social Sciences; that unfortunately is true in many school districts. It is another thing to claim that only a background in history will do. By this logic, I was ill-prepared to teach Social Studies when I started, even though I had completed everything but my disseration for my Ph.D. in political science.

julie said...

Thanks for the advice, Leo! I agree, and Chris REALLY agrees, that majoring in a subject in college does not necessarily mean you are qualified to teach it, and vice versa. But I think that, in my case, I could really stand to relearn (or, in some cases, learn) certain topics in history.

Anyone else have any thoughts? Don't let the word verification feature daunt you! Thanks!!

Instructivist said...

I don't know where to start. There is certainly no dearth of books -- from outlines to surveys and then of course in-depths treatments of any given topic. Any recommendations depend on where you are at and where your interests lie.

If you need a sweeping survey of world civilizations and history I highly recommend the two volumes: THE HERITAGE OF WORLD CIVILIZATIONS by Craig et al.

Consider Martin Gilbert for a look at the 20th century.

For an engaging, sketchy question and answer type look at US history consider DON'T KNOW MUCH ABOUT... (history, geography) by Kenneth Davis (if you can stand the leftist bias).

For an outline of world history, consider the HarperCollins College Outline World History series Allen & Allen.

And then there are in-depth treatments of topics....

Uglicoyote said...

A People's History of the United States by Howard Zinn. You don't need to totally buy into Zinn's philosophy to appreciate this work. He is correct when he suggests that history is too often told from the white male perspective. Your Students deserve better. BTW, I usually ignore most of what Ravitch has to say.