Teaching Global History
eBook - ePub

Teaching Global History

A Social Studies Approach

Alan J. Singer

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eBook - ePub

Teaching Global History

A Social Studies Approach

Alan J. Singer

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Über dieses Buch

This updated edition of Teaching Global History challenges prospective and beginning social studies teachers to formulate their own views about what is important to know in global history and why.

This essential text explains how to organize curriculum around broad social studies concepts and themes, as well as student questions about humanity, history, and the contemporary world. All chapters feature lesson ideas, a sample lesson plan with activity sheets, primary source documents, and helpful charts, graphs, photographs, and maps. This new edition includes connections to the C3 framework, updates throughout to account for the many shifts in global politics, and a new chapter connecting past to present through current events and historical studies in ways that engage students and propel civic activism.

Offering an alternative to pre-packaged textbook outlines and materials, this text is a powerful resource for promoting thoughtful reflection and debate on what the global history curriculum should be and how to teach it.

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Information

Verlag
Routledge
Jahr
2019
ISBN
9780429679087
PART I
Designing a Global History Curriculum
1
WHAT IS A SOCIAL STUDIES APPROACH TO GLOBAL HISTORY?
This chapter defines a social studies approach to global history, discusses the key role of questioning in historical research and teaching, questions traditional approaches to teaching about global history, and introduces recommended historians.
The poem “A Worker Reads History” by Bertolt Brecht is really a series of rhetorical questions (https://allpoetry.com/A-Worker-Reads-History, accessed July 14, 2018). The poet asks readers to consider who built the fabled wonders of the ancient world and died in wars of conquest and voyages of exploration. His point is that historians generally describe the triumphs and tragedies of the rich and powerful, but ignore the lives of masons, cooks, workers, and the enslaved: ordinary people who did the work and fought the battles that made the events and developments of the past possible and created the world we live in today.
In the last line of the poem, Brecht reminds us that there are “so many questions” that need to be asked and considered. Asking questions, loads of questions, simple questions and hard questions, is what historians do. They then try to find answers to their questions through research, but the best ones know that each discovery about the past inevitably leads to a new round of questions.
Unfortunately, few secondary students ever see history as a process of questioning and discovery of which they can become part. Too often their textbooks and teachers present the past as a collection of facts to be learned because someone smarter than them decided it was important to know and because they will be quizzed about their ability to memorize information on a unit test or standardized assessment.
One of the global history textbooks I used as a classroom teacher was History of the World (Perry et al., 1990), published by Houghton Mifflin. The first reading passage in the book was titled “Why Study World History?” Although the passage begins with a question and asks questions throughout, they were just devices for providing students with a simplified “fairy-tale” view of the past. There was no evaluation of what was presented. It required no student thinking. In fact, the book did the thinking for students.
According to the Houghton Mifflin textbook:
In the 1760’s in America, people also studied world history. In those days, world history meant the history of the Middle East, Greece, Rome, and England. Some Americans studied world history then because they had military responsibilities. They needed to learn about the battles and wars of the past, in order to fight those of the present. Others studied world history because they were in business, buying and selling on four continents. Other Americans studied world history because they cared about the great poets and thinkers and artists of the past. How else could you learn to make poems or art of your own American kind?
(Perry et al., 1990: xx)
The statement suggests a level of literacy and education far beyond what actually existed in colonial British America at the time. Perhaps the elite studied world history, but certainly not the mass of people or the 25 percent of the adult population that was enslaved. Even those who studied history did not pretend to be interested in world history. They were attracted by the fabled empires of the ancient Mediterranean world and England from the Roman era onward.
Parts of the statement are simply wrong. The colonists certainly did not plan to emulate Hannibal and use elephants to cross the Appalachian Mountains. In fact, their experience during the French and Indian War made them suspicious of traditional European warfare. During the colonial and early national period artists in the Americas studied and reproduced European art forms. It was not until after the War of 1812 that they stopped looking toward Europe for inspiration and started to become American artists.
Later in the same section, the author tells students:
You are one of the relatively few human beings in the world today who is a citizen of a politically free nation. You therefore have a special birthright and a special obligation. You have been given a right to rule that once only kings and nobles had. You must learn from world history at least one lesson: the right to rule can be gained, and it can be lost.
(Perry et al., 1990: xxi)
My primary problem with this section is its ethno-centrism. In 1990 the population of the United States was 248,709,873. The population of the 12 nations in the European Union, which was also made up of “politically free” countries, was approximately 350 million people. India, with a population of 850 million people at that time, also claimed to be a democracy. To me, the argument for America’s unique mission reads dangerously like a justification for world domination, and while concern with the loss of self-government is significant, it is not the only or even the most important lesson to be learned from the study of history. What about the demands of the French Revolution for liberty, equality, and brotherhood or the Haitian Revolution for an end to slavery? What about calls for justice, democracy, freedom, peace, gender equity, and global sustainability?
If I were assigned to use the Houghton Mifflin textbook or a similar book in a global history class today, I would have the students read and discuss the passages. Then I would challenge them to uncover possible biases and to then draw up a series of questions for the authors and publisher expressing our concerns. Another approach is to have students write questions and comments on post-it notes and insert them into the textbook as they read. This encourages students to think critically and debate with the authors as they study history. Bill Bigelow and Bob Peterson advocate a similar approach in Rethinking Our Classrooms: Teaching for Equity and Justice (2007).
In linear notes in the teacher’s edition of the Houghton Mifflin textbook, social studies teachers are directed to ask students “how an examination of the world’s past can benefit a free nation.” That the United States is a free nation and uniquely so is not to be questioned. In fact, that is the key “lesson” to be learned from this textbook’s presentation of history.
Curiously, some of the world’s most renowned thinkers, “dead white European men” celebrated in many global history textbooks, have been skeptical about this approach to the study of history. In 1759, Voltaire declared, “The history of the great events of this world are scarcely more than the history of crimes” (Seldes, 1966: 714). Lord Acton of Great Britain, best known for the statement “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely” (36), also warned, “History is not a web woven with innocent hands” (38). Otto von Bismarck, chancellor of Prussia, disdainfully dismissed history as “simply a piece of paper covered with print; the main thing is still to make history, not to write it” (97), while Napoleon is believed to have asked, “What is history but a fable agreed upon?” (519). I wonder if as youths they were forced to sit in classes where teachers committed to the idea of immutable truth babbled on in great detail about the important facts of the past, and textbooks presented history as allegory in order to proselytize about the key lessons students needed to absorb?
A major theme of this book is that as teachers, we often understand history and its importance in the wrong way. We put the cart in front of the horse when we start with “facts” instead of questions. I advocate what I call a social studies approach to the study of history, an approach that starts with questions about the present and future, uses these questions to interrogate the past, and uses the past to help students answer their questions and formulate new ones. E. H. Carr, in his book What Is History? (1961), argues that we should think about the past and present as part of a continuum that stretches into the future. Carr believes that concern with the future is what really motivates the study of the past.
image
FIGURE 1.1 Global history as a river
Of course, history unfolds chronologically – it is vertical. While it moves in only one direction, it does not have only one starting point or take just one path, and sometimes developments in one place are shaped by seemingly disconnected things happening somewhere else in the world. A good example is the volcanic eruption of Krakatoa on the Indonesian island of Java in 535 AD that may have been partly responsible for the final collapse of the Roman Empire (Keys, 2000). I call this phenomenon “horizontal history” and discuss it in Chapter 13.
Prior to 1492 the histories of the Eastern and Western hemispheres were quite distinct and the histories of different regions within the hemispheres (e.g., North and Sub-Saharan Africa, East and South Asia, and Western Europe in the Eastern hemisphere) were following largely independent paths where change occurred at different rates of development. History is like a river with multiple sources that are flowing into the main stream at different speeds (Figure 1.1). And sometimes, unexpectedly, it leaps its banks and cuts new channels.
The Flow of History
While it is important to look at sequence, connection, cause and effect, and change over time in a global history curriculum, it is also useful to make leaps and comparisons between regions and time periods, to explore tangents and dead-ends, and to examine societies that developed alternative ways of governing, producing, thinking about the world, and living. While I respect chronology and the chapters of this book roughly follow the chronology of human history, I am not imprisoned by it. There is no reason teachers cannot jump around as we make comparisons across time and place as long as we bring our students with us. While this may make the study of history more complicated, a major theme I want students to explore is complexity. The world in all of its diversity, both past and present, is not a simple place to understand.
“Why Is the World the Way It Is Today?”
A social studies approach to global history starts with student questions; questions about why the world is the way it is today. It organizes the curriculum, units, and individual lessons in order to go back and forth across time, to examine case studies from the past, to help us gain insights into the human condition, and to stimulate questions about the present. Everyone in our classes is not going to become a historian; in fact, very few will. But educated citizens in a democratic society need to think about the past and raise questions about the present so they can be informed and active participants in shaping the future.
Almost two decades ago, I opened a lesson in Adeola Tella-Williams’ ninth-grade global history inclusion class by tossing out a soccer ball, an idea I adapted from a classroom activity developed by Bill Bigelow (1997), an editor of the magazine Rethinking Schools. Any student who caught the ball would tell us something about it and then toss it to someone else.
Adeola had told her class they would spend three days discussing the question “Why is the world the way it is today?” They would also try to figure out what their own questions were about things happening in the news.
The first student who caught the ball described it as a “sphere” and threw it to a friend. Other answers, roughly in sequence, were “round,” “multi-colored,” “the world plays soccer,” “octagon,” “covered with symbols,” “mostly white,” “it’s used to play a sport,” “patterns,” “filled with air,” “made by Adidas,” “barcode,” “used,” “made in Pakistan,” and “round like the Earth.”
Eventually, as finding something new to say became harder, I asked a student to pass me the ball. Adeola, who was writing student responses on the front board, read them back to the class. Then I asked, “Which of these answers has anything to do with social studies or the world today?” Someone said, “Well, it looks like a globe,” but no one else spoke. So I asked, “What about where it was made?”
Some students knew where Pakistan was and located it on a map. Many were surprised that it wasn’t just a “small” country. Students knew a few other things as well. “It was poor.” “They had wars there.” One young man asked if the soccer ball was made with child labor. He had heard that children worked in factories in many poor countries. Another young man, whose family immigrated to the United States from El Salvador, said children in El Salvador work, especially on the farms. I asked why that was important and discussion started anew. This time, students began to question me.
They wanted to know, “Is child labor really happening today?”; “Is this like slavery?”; “How did I know this soccer ball was made by children?”; “Why are some people so poor and others so rich?”; “Does global trade make the world better or worse?”; “Why is this our problem? Shouldn’t we just be concerned about what happens in the United States?”; “Won’t the soccer balls cost more if they are made by adults?”; and “Don’t we need more jobs in this country?”
I confessed I did not know the history of this particular soccer ball, but there was evidence that children stitched soccer balls together by hand in Pakistan and in other poor countries. I projected a series of pictures on-screen that I downloaded from websites sponsored by anti-child labor advocacy groups, as well as the United Nations, UNICEF, National Geographic, the International Labor Organization, and the United States Department of Labor. They showed children working in factories and fields, fishing, breaking rock into gravel, and making and hauling bricks.
While international pressure on companies that marketed soccer balls in other parts of the world ended some of the most exploitative children labor practices in Pakistan, according to the International Labor Organization, more than 215 million children worldwide were working in 2012. This included 158 million children between 5 and 14 years old. In 2017, UNICEF reported that 25 percent of children in the world’s poorest countries between the ages of 5 and 17 were forced to work (www.tdh.ch/en/news/more-215-million-children-are-still-forced-labour-throughout-world; https://data.unicef.org/topic/child-protection/child-labour, accessed July 30, 2018).
Discussion of the slides led to three additional questions: “Are rich countries like the United States helping or hurting the world?” “Does our great wealth cause them to be poor?” “If our wealth causes their poverty, what should we do about it?”
On the second day, student teams received newspapers, poster paper, and markers. They had to identify and write on the poster paper three newspaper headlines for international news articles that help explain why the world is the way it is today. Next they had to write down on a separate piece of paper why they chose each of these headlines, what the articles were about, what the articles tell us about the world, and any new questions they had. Student teams also had to locate countries mentioned in the articles on a world map.
On the third day, each team selected one news article to present to the class. There were articles on the drug trade across the U.S.–Mexican border, an attack on a hospital in Sri Lanka by a local militia, poverty, disease, and war in Zimbabwe, and economic problems in China. In follow-up discussion, students identified a range of additional questions. Why do people keep having wars? Who is a terrorist? Why would someone become a terrorist? Are national borders still important in today’s world? Can national governments stop international crime? Does global trade (globalization) make countries weak? How come the things that people need to live are too expensive for them to buy?
Again, I couldn’t answer their questions. I could not even start to a...

Inhaltsverzeichnis

  1. Cover Page
  2. Half Title
  3. Title Page
  4. Copyright Page
  5. Dedication
  6. Table of Contents
  7. Preface
  8. Acknowledgments
  9. PART I Designing a Global History Curriculum
  10. PART II Debating Global History
  11. PART III Waves of Global Integration
  12. References
  13. Index