The war against humanities at Britain’s universities

What makes a subject worth learning? Worth teaching? Must there be a profitable end point for those learning? Can subjects have intrinsic value? These are some of the questions surrounding issues around subjects in the Humanities (History, Social Sciences, Human Sciences, etc.).

“The liberal education which seeks to provide students with more than mere professional qualifications appears to be dying a slow and painful death, overseen by a whole cadre of what cultural anthropologist David Graeber calls “bullshit jobs”: bureaucrats hired to manage the transformation of universities from centres of learning to profit centres. As one academic put it to me: “Every dean needs his vice-dean and sub-dean and each of them needs a management team, secretaries, admin staff; all of them only there to make it harder for us to teach, to research, to carry out the most basic functions of our jobs.” The humanities, whose products are necessarily less tangible and effable than their science and engineering peers (and less readily yoked to the needs of the corporate world) have been an easy target for this sprawling new management class.”

http://www.theguardian.com/education/2015/mar/29/war-against-humanities-at-britains-universities

History Class and the Fictions About Race in America

If nothing else, the incident may serve as yet another example of why social studies—and history in particular—is such a tricky subject to teach, at least via textbooks and multiple-choice tests. Its topics are inherently subjective, impossible to distill into paragraphs jammed with facts and figures alone. As the historian and sociologist Jim Loewen recently told me, in history class students typically “have to memorize what we might call ‘twigs.’ We’re not teaching the forest—we’re not even teaching the trees,” said Loewen, best known for his 1995 book Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong. “We are teaching twig history.”

http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2015/10/the-history-class-dilemma/411601/?mc_cid=bed065a83a&mc_eid=34e2887073

South Korea to replace all school history books with single state-approved textbook

“Opposition politicians and some students have already been protesting against the move, accusing the government of ‘distorting history'”

“I think also the UK have a very interesting approach. We tend to avoid controversial history in our curriculum, we’re very keen on looking at more distant history and somehow, for some reason the less controversial it becomes.”

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-10-13/south-korea-to-replace-all-school-history-books/6849970?mc_cid=bed065a83a&mc_eid=34e2887073

How Texas Teaches History

An interesting article on a familiar topic but this article delves into the use of language to obfuscate historical truth. Below is a passage from the article about some of the phrasing from a textbook commonly used in Texas.

Families were often broken apart when a family member was sold to another owner.

“Note the use of the passive voice in the verbs ‘were broken apart’ and ‘was sold.’ If the sentence had been written according to the principles of good draftsmanship, it would have looked like this: Slave owners often broke slave families apart by selling a family member to another owner. A bit more powerful, no? Through grammatical manipulation, the textbook authors obscure the role of slave owners in the institution of slavery.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/22/opinion/how-texas-teaches-history.html?_r=0

Publisher Promises Revisions After Textbook Refers to African Slaves as ‘Workers’

“It talked about the U.S.A. being a country of immigration, but mentioning the slave trade in terms of immigration was just off,” Ms. Dean-Burren said in an interview. “It’s that nuance of language.”

“This is what erasure looks like,” she added.

“This program addresses slavery in the world in several lessons and meets the learning objectives of the course. However, we conducted a close review of the content and agree that our language in that caption did not adequately convey that Africans were both forced into migration and to labor against their will as slaves.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/06/us/publisher-promises-revisions-after-textbook-refers-to-african-slaves-as-workers.html

How Textbooks Can Teach Different Versions Of History

“Eleventh-grade U.S. history teacher Samantha Manchac is concerned about the new materials and is already drawing up her lesson plans for the coming year. She teaches at The High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, a public school in Houston.

“The first lesson she says she’ll give her kids is how textbooks can tell different versions of history. “We are going to utilize these textbooks to some extent, but I also want you to be critical of the textbooks and not take this as the be-all and end-all of American history,” she imagines telling her new students.”

http://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2015/07/13/421744763/how-textbooks-can-teach-different-versions-of-history?utm_source=facebook.com&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=npr&utm_term=nprnews&utm_content=20150713

The Problem With History Classes: Single-perspective narratives do students a gross disservice.

“Perhaps Fisher offers the nation an opportunity to divorce, once and for all, memory from history. History may be an attempt to memorialize and preserve the past, but it is not memory; memories can serve as primary sources, but they do not stand alone as history. A history is essentially a collection of memories, analyzed and reduced into meaningful conclusions—but that collection depends on the memories chosen.”

http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2015/03/the-problem-with-history-classes/387823/

Why Our Children Don’t Think There Are Moral Facts

“What would you say if you found out that our public schools were teaching children that it is not true that it’s wrong to kill people for fun or cheat on tests? Would you be surprised?

“I was. As a philosopher, I already knew that many college-aged students don’t believe in moral facts. While there are no national surveys quantifying this phenomenon, philosophy professors with whom I have spoken suggest that the overwhelming majority of college freshmen in their classrooms view moral claims as mere opinions that are not true or are true only relative to a culture.”

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/03/02/why-our-children-dont-think-there-are-moral-facts/