Truth. History. Hitler. (With apologies for the clickbait title.)

I’m not sure insisting that the past can be known or that we should focus on “how it actually was” is the most helpful way to deal with blatantly factless stories. Instead, I would call for the more difficult path of cultivating greater discernment when it comes to speaking or hearing history in the public sphere. Unsurprisingly, I think part of the solution lies in history education – in emphasizing the importance of evidence (over opinion), plausibility (over truth), and complexity (over simplicity) in the interpretation of history.
However, I do wonder if Smith’s insistence on leaving aside storytelling and the significance of historical phenomena, and pursuing history as “an arbiter of truth” actually exacerbates the issue instead of mending it. To suggest that we can pursue historical truth without storytelling belies the nature of historical evidence and promotes the uncritical division of historical claims into “truth” or “not truth” (storytelling, for Smith).

In which I spoke too soon…

So, I complained just yesterday that Calder and Steffes, the authors of white paper on history from the Measuring College Learning project, didn’t seem concerned with the application of historical concepts and competencies to general education courses. Well, lo and behold, Calder chaired a panel/discussion about history gen ed courses at the January 2016 AHA conference. (Summaries of the […]

Spreadable Media in the Classroom

I’m getting back into the swing of things with the dissertation this week and my book and website of the moment are Spreadable Media: Creating Value and Meaning in a Networked Culture (Henry Jenkins, Sam Ford, and Joshua Green, 2013). The work is aimed at media/culture critics, communication scholars, and businesses (an exceptionally inclusive audience already), and I think […]

“This is hard. It isn’t very linear.”

Class Blogging and Non-Linear Storytelling The World Civ I classes I teach are embarking on the final stage of their blogging project this semester. This is a thoroughly self-directed project. Students can choose any topic within the time frame of the course (10,000 BCE to 1500 CE) and they can present their topic however they choose. Thus far, […]

A Moment of Empathy

There is a moment every semester in which a student steps up to the desk after class to ask, “Prof, I heard a lot of different answers to the discussion questions today. Which one was the right answer?” At which point I smile in my most professorial manner (which may or may not include a […]

Google Gradebook Templates

Over the weekend, I went hunting for a gradebook to incorporate in my class website. I was looking for something intuitive (for me) and accessible by individual students (obviously I don’t want them to see everyone’s grades). I hoped to use Google sheets, as I already run activities and assignments through Google Forms in class […]