Lately, my daughter has been peppering me with questions familiar to anyone who has ever spent time around children and/or been one. Who invented stairs? What was the first language? When did people start using toilet paper? You can add to this list yourselves, I’m sure.For kids of the middle school age and high school, I suggest the Connections series with science historian James Burke. I saw the first series as a youngster and loved them. I am planning on buying them for my daughters' history education because they helped me understand the connections between science, society and historical development.
When I reflect on my history education, I recognize two distinct problems. The first I have already mentioned. It was full of holes. It didn’t flow in any logical progressive order.
As for the history I was taught, I learned it well enough at the time, memorized dates, battles, presidencies, with ease and comprehension. But here’s the second problem. Over the years, I have retained little. Much of it has vanished from my memory. I’d blame it on age, but this forgetfulness hasn’t plagued me to such a degree in other disciplines. Even ones I didn’t enjoy nearly as much.
Now, thinking about history, about what I remember and what I don’t, I have a different reaction. I wonder if we aren’t using a hopelessly irrelevant, archaic framework to teach a subject that is absolutely vital to our children if we care about the future of the modern world. How about basing primary school history education on the evolution of the material, of inventions, of progress? From the evolution of toilet paper will come a thousand other history lessons, touching on everything from economics to politics to religion. And those lessons will be remembered, because they will be answering questions that children (and adults) naturally have.
Imagine a new generation of young people with a working, practical knowledge of the history of progress… We’d better do more than imagine them, because we’re going to need them.
Here are the espisode Guide for Connections, Connections2 and Connections3. As sample from Connections:
Volume 3: Distant Voices. Telecommunications exist because the Normans wore stirrups at the Battle of Hastings- a simple advance that caused a revolution in the increasingly expensive science of warfare. Europe turned its attention to making money to wage wars. As mine shafts were dug deeper, they became flooded, stimulating scientists like Galileo to investigate vacuums, air pressure and other natural laws to mine deeper silver. This led to the discovery of electricity and magnetism’s relationship and to the development of radio, and deep space telecommunications that may enable contact with galactic civilizations.Hisotry, presented as kids can understand it.