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HISTORY EDUCATION IS IN DECLINE because it fails to provide knowledge useful in the future as other school subjects do.Â This book calls on history educators to take charge of history education and restore the power of historical learning.Â
Â Â Â Education exists to impart knowledge useful in the future.Â School subjects other than history provide knowledge useful in the future by identifying general principles derived from their subject matter that describe how the world works, principles such as addition and subtraction in mathematics, punctuation and grammarÂ in language, and photosynthesis and gravity in science. These disciplines pass on their general principles to teachers who pass on this knowledge to students.
Â Â Â Historians, however, concentrate on describing events of the past rather than identifying principles useful in theÂ future. Without general principles to impart, history teachers are left to recount one-time events of the past, most of which have little orÂ no relevance to the lives students will live in the present and future.
Â Â Â Without principles useful in the future, history isÂ unable to fulfill the purpose of education the way other school subjects do; society has no practical means to learn from the past; and the cycle of historical ignorance can perpetuate indefinitely. As Santayana said, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."
Â Â Â Â Educators commonly try to compensate for history's lack of subject-matter knowledge useful in the future by emphasizing skills knowledge instead: critical thinking skills or the job skills of professional historians. Other school subjects also have their critical thinking skills and professional practices, but in these other disciplines general principles constitute the foundation of learning because knowledge of how the world works is a necessary prerequisite to critical thinking. In history education that necessary foundation is missing.
Â Â Â The truth is, history has been supplying humans with useful principles of knowledge for at least 2,400 years, since the time of Thucydides in Greece and Sun Tzu in China. In earlier times, history could involve more than the act of describing past events; it could involve the ambition to derive from events principles useful in the future, an ambition that the history profession has largely abandoned. This loss deprivesÂ historical learning of the powerÂ possessed by other intellectual disciplines.
Â Â Â The historical record can be a source for several more kinds of knowledge that are also relevant to the future.Â If historians wish to concentrate on the role of describing events of the past, that's their business. Then the task of providing knowledge useful in the future falls to history educators, because that'sÂ theirÂ business.Â
Former journalist and history teacherÂ Mike MaxwellÂ undertook a seven-year investigation to discover how history education could be made more useful to students andÂ society. The result isÂ future-focused history, theÂ commonsenseÂ idea that knowledge from the past can inform judgment in the future.
Â FUNDAMENTALS OFÂ FUTURE-FOCUSED HISTORY TEACHINGÂ INCLUDEÂ
- Â Five basic principles of history education,Â
- Â A coherent and useful purpose to guide instruction,Â
- Â Four kinds of historical knowledge relevant to the future,Â
- Â Criteria for weighing the importance of historical events,Â
- Â Four essential cognitive learning strategies. Â Â
Â Â Â Â Maxwell believes thatÂ Future-Focused History TeachingÂ has the potential to restore to historical learning the power that it once held but has since lost; to return history to its rightful place of prominence among the fundamental realms of knowledge taught in school and college; and to provide important knowledge of how the world works that can help students and society to function effectively in the future.
Â Â Â For more information, click "Look Inside."