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Using the lessons of History to teach high school students better ways of approaching their social lives.

Being a student teacher at the high school level, one of my goals is to continuously improve student engagement. Remembering back to my days in high school, and also noticing that students today still seem to prefer their social lives over learning the lessons of the past, I began thinking about the different ways that the social lives of students could be merged and improved through social lives of unknown, "everyday people", historical figures.

Basic Possible Steps:

Introduce primary document posing everyday problem (Diary, letter, etc)
-Give students basic historical info to begin

Have students write or discuss how they would approach the issue

Discuss as a whole class and introduce more complex historical details

I am still ruminating on the different paths this could take, but imagined a course that was grounded in primary sources of everyday people, with everyday problems. Students would learn about the historical framework that these everyday people lived in and would begin to answer how they would handle their issues. The class would then discuss as a whole in order to reflect on all of the possible influences due to the time and place.

I believe that this approach to history would make history more realistic to students so that they can begin to see the similarities of past people. Also so students may see how the success and failure of past people can teach them better ways to improve their immediate lives, social or otherwise.

This is a very new thought of mine and I would love any discussion over the benefits, drawbacks, possible improvements, and any other relevant talking points.

Topics: education history

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    Nov 22 2012: The purpose of secondary education, in so far as I believe, is to create adult citizens who think more clearly, and with a larger pool of knowledge to draw from. I'm not sure that improving their social lives is endemic to that.
    • Nov 22 2012: I agree that the aim is to create educated citizens, but I disagree that social lives do not play a role in that. The information that has been passed down to us, as a people and as individuals, has done so ín part because we are social creatures. Also, It does not follow that just having a large pool of knowledge is worth anything in itself. This large pool of knowledge is most always tapped into in order to solve some sort of problem. Starting small by applying history's lessons to social lives shows students the potential for using history in order to better understand and approach any problem. Real world application could begin with what matters to them. This is one way to pique their interest.

      Maybe my most valued goal of secondary education is to instill the PASSION of learning in students so that they may continue learning about our constantly changing world. Also, to show them the creativity involved in such things as History.

      Having students look at some unique problem or challenge they face in their own life and apply different historical lessons will 1) encourage students to learn more about the specific historical topic, and 2) force them to think creatively and abstractly in order to extract what historical information is personally valuable to them.

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