Dr. Kelly has asked us to complete the following activity:
In this activity, begin by reflecting on your reading of Sam Wineburg’s “Why Historical Thinking is Not About History.”
Given the current discussion about facts, real or “alternative”, how should we use what we know about historical thinking, public perceptions of the past, and what we can do with digital media, to promote a more accurate understanding of the past? Write a blog post that explores these questions.
Sam Wineburg notes on page 15 of his piece, “The most critical question facing young people today is not how to find information. Google has done a great job with that. We’re bombarded by stuff. The real question is whether that information, once found, should be believed. And according to some recent studies, young people are not doing so well in that department.” As both a professor and a librarian, I agree with Wineburg’s assessment.
Wineburg’s piece also notes the challenges for both teachers and students in this digital world. As Wineburg and others have taught us this semester, and I have learned from experience, asking questions is key. We can’t take anything at face value. I have taught many courses in critical thinking, and I’ve often heard students say that they had not had courses like those before. We need critical thinking about the present and about the past, and courses in these topics are crucial for both potential teachers and students.
Since there is so much Information available, information literacy is another key component in an accurate understanding of the past. Where can we find information, and how should we evaluate its quality? A few weeks ago, my eleven year old niece was working on a project about Abigail Adams. She had been looking for information about Abigail, but she hadn’t been taught to brainstorm about how to find that information. Fortunately, she was coming to my area the next weekend and had thought to ask her historian godmother. I ran home, grabbed two books about Abigail off of my shelf, and returned to where she was. After showing her several different types of online resources, we discussed how to utilize and evaluate resources, I asked what she thought about Abigail, and I learned that she had been disappointed about having to present about her (Deborah Sampson had been her first choice), since she was just John Adams’s wife By the time she left, my niece was excited about Abigail, she had books in her hands and online resources to consult, and she was doing a lot of thinking. I can’t wait to see what she came up with! If students, and all of us, know where to find the information and are able to ask critical questions about the different opinions we read about the past, and the present, we’ll be better off.
Media and American Politics is another course that I’ve taught. As I may have mentioned in an earlier post, we spent the election season of 2012 evaluating the ways that several media outlets covered the same candidates and daily events. The varying perceptions of media outlets, a topic which is so popular today, is no surprise to any of us who watched the election so closely that year. After lots of reading, watching, and sharing information, and through fascinating discussions, we were able to see what was happening with the media and in the election season. I only wish that more people were utilizing the many resources available to read and watch not only what they believed, but what they disagreed with as well.
My Speech Communication Skills course began last night, and we spent the night focusing on communication. The students in the course come from many cultures, so we discussed cultural differences and learned quite a bit about each other. Reflective listening was one thing we studied last night, and we all practiced it.
Critical Thinking, Information Literacy, close evaluation of the many available digital resources, and communication are keys to a more accurate understanding of the past…and the present.
Wineburg, Sam. “Why Historical Thinking is Not About History.” History News 71, no. 2. 2016