“I saw something on the internet; I’m not sure if it’s true, but people were drinking milk out of plastic bags.” “Oh yeah,” I said to the teenager sitting across from me, “I remember that. Sometime around second grade, I think it was.” “Why would people do that?” he asked in astonishment. I shrugged. “Budget … Continue reading The Bonds of Nostalgia
The lessons we draw from the past often do more to shape the future than the past itself, even if they are the wrong lessons. Most of our errors and exaggerations contain more than a grain of truth. We are highly capable of taking a valid insight and pushing it a bit too far, or … Continue reading Don’t Blame Everything on Imperialism
President Obama recently made headlines with some off-the-cuff historical commentary at the National Prayer Breakfast. In discussing the challenge posed by terrorist groups like ISIS, Obama cautioned: “Lest we get on our high horse and think (violence in the name of faith) is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people … Continue reading Interpreting Obama’s History Lesson on the Crusades
“Why do we bother to study the past?” Like many other teachers, I sometimes begin the new school year by putting this question to my eager young pupils. It could be considered The Great Challenge of All History Teachers Everywhere—getting kids to see the relevance of something that happened a thousand years ago, when they (like most of us) … Continue reading How Much Can We Really Learn from History?