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Liliána Oszlányi Writing and Teaching American History in the U.S. Tibor Frank Teaching History in the U. S.

There are three main factors in connection with learning: the material itself, the teacher as the primary source of information and the organizer of learning, and the textbook and other pieces of equipment used in the process. Though overgeneralizing is a common mistake stereotypes are still alive. Television shows and Hollywood movies claim that Americans are stupid. From a more academic point of view American school kids are left behind in public schools, there are problems with the teachers’ methods, the textbooks and the school system especially when it comes to the teaching of history. Another perspective is presented by Lendol Calder who is associate professor of history at Augusta College. According to Calder the problem is that the teaching of history is wrong; it does not make the subject different from biology or sociology, meaning that only the data that has to be learned is different. The author of the article “Uncoverage: Toward a Signature Pedagogy for the History Survey” explains usual methodological steps like listening to the lecture, reading the textbook and taking a test. The issue is elaborated further describing negative trends such as problems of teaching and its connection with the professional rewards system, large classes which are still obligatory and in addition to these points teaching is rather mechanical. It is clearly visible that in a technically so equipped world if the teacher cannot engage students, they will seek for “entertainment” on their own. All of the students possess mp3 players, laptops and cell phones and schools are only trying to come up with adequate policies to control the usage of them. On the other hand though there are positive trends as well; teachers do not want to cover everything any more and teachers realized that circumstances of the past need to be brought closer to contemporary students.

period propaganda films. So called “history workshops” are also organized during this course where each students has to write an essay. medicine. president of Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching claims in the same article that signature pedagogies are more common in fields like law. has to come up with . historical Hollywood drama. but it makes sure that students learn that history can be interpreted in many ways. Lee S. then the teacher comes up with “hypos” and students are asked to come up with the legal background and justify their reasoning. Some other false ideas of teachers seem to be problematic as well. On the other hand he find it important to note that signature pedagogies’ main objective is to make students able to “do things” instead of only “knowing things”. For instance in law schools. Ideally. both of these factors should be treated equally. Schulman. Another main goal of the course is to teach asking good historical questions to students.The author also gives examples of signature pedagogy. and engineering. The problem is the conditionality of this plan. usually teaching of thinking. This is clearly aiming at one of the main questions of contemporary pedagogical discourse. The goal of this method is to teach them to “think like lawyers” and professors also have to make sure that students learn that they do not have to decide if a law is ethical or not. this course is created to change the concept of history. then they want to teach kids to think. “what to teach” is often put into focus as opposed to “how to teach”. so in general. reliable audiovisual material. there is a huge methodological gap in the whole process. one student is put into the focus of the group. Furthermore. this cognitive work never happens. The professor emphasizes the usage of good documentaries. the question of applicable knowledge versus lexical knowledge. This course teaches history not as a rigid collection of knowledge. first teachers want teach students the necessary facts. Calder then explains his course in more detail. professors often use the case-dialogue method which consists of the following steps. he or she has to present a case.

the whole group reads documents and students are trained to come up with historical arguments. According to Loewen a clear sign of the problem is that high school students put history to the last position of their favorite subject’s list. for instance. If the content is interesting. historical movies. The author of the book Lies My Teachers Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong. the problem must be in the way it is transmitted to the kids.questions. DC. A good amount of methodological knowledge and continuous learning is required. Students claim that it is the most irrelevant subject. There are also many groups who could not achieve socioeconomic success. According to the author textbooks are really boring. Loewen points out that American “history is full of fantastic and important stories”. The problem must be related to history teaching as this is not a common phenomenon in connection with other subjects. and Visiting Professor of African-American Studies at the University of Illinois in Urbana/Champaign. college teachers do not count on a solid base of knowledge when it comes to history. Visiting Professor of Sociology at Catholic University in Washington. girls and non-whites. This negative tendency has logical consequences at the level of higher education. From another perspective. but outside the school this tendency changes drastically: Americans love historical novels. Minority or non-white students do even worse than white students meaning that the attitude towards history may also be a question of identity. but they forget what they have learned in one or two years. James Loewen is Distinguished Lecturer for the Organization of American Historians. they never display hardships of the nation but everything is solved. From the teacher’s point of view this means a lot more preparation and planning. This kind of attitude towards the obstacles of live can be pedagogically criticized. This . Possibly the attitude towars history in school is also problematic. they do not get bad grades. The importance of history is simple it shows the nation’s journey to the present. that are left behind or alienated. or about to be solved.

Textbooks contain way too much information. and then they forget even the most basic facts. These people do not acquire the necessary skills that would enable them to discuss important issues of the society in a meaningful way. rewriting textbooks is not a low-prestige activity among historians. By this phenomenon. clearly. history is once again interpreted by kids as a lot of facts that have to be learned. There are also huge numbers of “Skill Activities”. they do not have additional questions. some of them are over 800 pages. There is no analytical perspective or curiosity which would be beneficial in the learning process. “Key Terms”. Another crucial problem is that errors in textbooks usually stay uncorrected as teachers do not even go through them. The show belongs to the 20/20 series that deals with sociological issues aiming at the public for further discussion. the investigative journalist and consumer reporter put students into focus of the problem in his 2006 television show titled Stupid in America. Writing. this can have a disadvantageous effect on their performance. When authentic materials are examined. In great contradiction to the above mentioned scholars. “Fill in the blanks” sections and “Thinking Critically” questions. diaries or letters. Obviously. According to Loewen this “godlike tone” leads to the phenomenon that students do not question the content of the books.over optimist view does not teach children how they should cope with difficulties. Within the circles of these professionals this is simply a waste of time compared to real research. In general the vast majority of American citizens do not learn history outside high school. Students learn what they have to for each test. textbooks unfortunately lack original material like speeches. songs. If students are required to learn from textbooks that contain mistakes. so the quality of history teaching is crucial. a television show is always primarily .

this fact also explains the provocative title itself. to get the students focused. is well-known to the average viewer in the United States. but the creator’s aim is only to shock and “prove” that there is no real going on in the classroom. The scenes filmed by students cannot be used as a reference either as there is no justification for either the place or the people starring in them. After a few seconds. perspectives. The show starts with the stereotypical image of the participants of the learning process. The survey measures applicable knowledge of 15 years old children. the students who are stupid and the teachers who are simply boring. namely that 57% of the parents give their kid’s high school an A or a B. the reporter adds that the scene was filmed after the finals and every teacher knows that discipline gets harder and harder for teenagers as the summer break approaches. All of these stereotypical images are often displayed in Hollywood movies strengthening the statistically not provable picture. Scholastic Assessment Test. Development of children is measured worldwide. seems to impress. the sentence stress is unambiguously on the shocking factor. in the following paragraphs the arguments of John Stossel will be analyzed. On the other hand. or the name of the survey remain . but unfortunately the critical questions related to the conductor of the survey. In some cases the placing of the focus is what can falsify the whole sentence: Monopoly as a learning tool could easily be used to cool down the class. The reliability of the sources in the report are often controversial. Even though. these are only hypotheses. The statistical data. Another generally accessible test often mentioned is the SAT. the students who are wild. these media products can contain relevant point as well as very biased ones. Some of the students testimonies in connection with their schools like “This is a hell-hole” are extremely one-sided as there might be other students with other opinions. The reporter mentions studies without telling specifically that he is talking about the PISA. the Program for International Student Assessment was initiated by OECD in 2000.about profit and the number of viewers.

To prove this reason to be wrong Stossel mentions a Kansas City high school that managed to get extra funds but in the end students could not meet the state requirements. a positive feature of this construction. The other alternative school. parents and other experts interviewed in the report claim the lack of money for the failures of the public schools. who is actually a professor of education reform at the University of Arkansas. but his presence definitely an ambiguous presence. School officials. Miracle . this particular school has no computers. Greene. but it does not have any effect on the students’ achievements. For further reasoning the reporter asks Jay P. These easily falsifiable and shocking ideas. like a brainstorming. are designed to catch the viewers’ attention and to make them stay in front of the television set. but sport facilities could help students’ health education. This expert tells the audience that greater funding results in greater administration. two alternative schools are shown next. no gyms or pools. it does not surely transmit an exclusively positive message. teachers. This story is without any reliable reference once again. Saving money is a positive result of this system. but giving students money for good answers is more problematic. The comparison with the Belgian kids cannot really mean anything to the average American viewer as they are not familiar with the educational system and the regional differences with the country. If it is not representative to pick one student group from New Jersey and draw conclusions based on their achievements about the United States. The principle is present in the classrooms.unanswered. the school lost its accreditation. no security guards. no cafeteria staff. As counterexamples. The fact that he is not some kind of phantom in the school who cannot be seen or contacted is once again. involving them in organized work is also beneficial. no cleaning staff. greater sport facilities and extra-curricular programs. Rewarding scholar achievement with money is a much deeper pedagogical issue. Author of Education Myths. then it is not representative to pick one student group from Belgium and come to way too broad conclusions either. so his relevance in this debate cannot be questioned.

and possible qualification of the special staff. What the creators forget to mention is the price of this course. these cannot be dealt with the same way as ordinary schools. the television show takes him to a special private learning center. Reform pedagogies . On the other hand. The tragic story of Dorian Cane the 18 year old student who can barely read on a fourth grade level is supposed to involve the viewer emotionally. Christian schools and Muslim schools are fine. the fist question should be if Dorian has any kind of learning disabilities that could easily explain the fact he is left behind. It is true that the American system is district-based. but Montessori school is once again. what he misses to mention that it is a religious school with a “unique Bible-based curriculum for children K5-12th grade”. an alternative school. The next important issue addressed is the freedom of choice that parents lack in the American education system. On top of this superficiality. from the pedagogical point of view. Public schools. As Stossel says. but the examples are a little bit shaky. Reform pedagogies are very popular nowadays. Unfortunately. and just like in the case of the two previously mentioned examples. as there is definitely greater freedom of choice when it comes to choosing a school for the child. this information may simply be useless for an average middle-class parent and even for an educated one as well. Omission of this very important piece of information is clear bias. The comparison with Belgium is controversial again. The situation when parents and the school cannot adequately cooperate can easily be imagined. As the principle says: “Learning should be fun” so children should be made enthusiastic about studying. lead by Teresa Middleton has a very different attitude. where his reading improves two grades in a 72 hours course. but on the website of National Center for Education Statistics all sorts of information is available from student/teacher ratio to the ethnical composition of the schools. experts argue for and against them.Academy. this school is an independent one.

who could not be fired because of all the protection achieved by the unions simply crosses the line of rationality. One of the most shocking phenomena in the report is the aggression and unbelievable pressure of the Teacher Unions. because as in the case of every profession there must be good professionals and bad professionals. others simply do not care. The inequalities of social background cannot only be measured like the documentary the Waldorf-method or the Montessori-method focus on the student. Another crucial point is the question of firing incompetent teachers. The socio-economic status of a child is a great factor of his or her life in general. and others come into the class intoxicated. According to teachersunionexposed. On the contrary. this is the most reasonable idea in the whole report. education reformer “Shutting down schools is healthy”. general insecurity are major problems even if they live in a good school district. Viewing the story with an essence of common sense this . According to Kevin Chavous. According to teachersunionexposed. This is once again. concerning a teacher molesting a young girl. but such a sharp image simply cannot be drawn. according to intervied students. these institutions have to compete for the students. Joel the two most problematic teachers’ unions are the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers. but the case mentioned on the show is irrational. they have to come up with extracurricular classes and extras. Stossel investigates and finds out that Belgian public schools have to please the parents. the longest serving school chancellor of New York City. poverty. some teachers work for health benefit. by wealthier kids’ ability to move to better school districts. domestic violence. still in office at that time must have seem many interesting and important cases. The one mentioned in the firing these unprofessional professionals is an up to date problem. over generalized. encourages skilldevelopment by other ways than the original fact-based education. The next idea comes from the ideology of consumer society: competition.

as the main resources in the learning process. also need to be changed. From the pedagogical point of view. what they do. . Textbooks. The last part of the show is focused on charter schools that are state financed and serve as an alternative to public schools. they can get bonuses and those who are bad teachers can be fired. they have to be improving continuously. this is how human mind and psyche works. These schools have to reach certain level of academic progress that is the base of their existence. The principal himself knows that they cannot settle for “good enough”. A greater competition could be beneficial for not only the students but the teachers as well.teacher should be imprisoned not fired as a story like this is about committing a crime. Motivation is not only a key factor for children in the learning process. Teachers of American history have to rethink their methods of teaching so that students can acquire certain necessary skills such as historical thinking and critical thinking. Washington D. state very important and pedagogically necessary things.C. this is the most adequate system displayed in the documentary. but it is essential for a grown ups professional progress as well. because teachers make learning fun. The selection of subject material is the teacher’s responsibility and the essentials should be presented in interactive ways. not about being incompetent. Students say that they love learning there. Teachers say that they do well. The people interviewed in Friendship Collegiate Academy.

Web. 23 May 2011 . Lies My Teachers Told Me. Web. 23 May 2011 National Education Association. Journal of American History. National Education Association. Web. Web. Web. 2010. 2011. Andy. Association Montessori Internationale. 23 May 2011 Newman. 23 May 2011 National Center for Education Statistics. Print Miracle Academy Preparatory School. 1995. 2009. “Hearst Official to Replace Klein at Helm of City Schools”. 23 May 2011 Calder. 2011. 23 May 2011 Kevin P. 23 May 2011 Association Montessori Internationale. Web. Lendol. Miracle Academy Preparatory School. American Federation of Teachers. James W. Chavous. April 2011. New York Times. 23 May 2011 Loewen. Jay P.S. Web. New York:The New Press. New York Times. 7.Works Cited: American Federation of Teachers. 2011. City Room. Greene’s Blog. U. Web. “Uncoverage: Toward a Signature Pedagogy for the History Survey”. Department of Education. Web.

23 May 2011 . 23 May 2011 Why Waldorf Works.Teachers Union Exposed. Association of Waldorf Schools of North America. 2011. Web. Center for Union Facts. Web.