Writers Criticize Publication of History Commentary

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To the Editor:

Having respected Education Week as the newspaper of record in education for many years, I was truly sorry to see the Commentary "Let's Overhaul How We Teach History" (Jan. 30, 2013).

As a retired social science teacher of 38 years, I have no particular problem with the issue Vicky Schippers raises, i.e., the teaching of history. Nonetheless, it is her lack of supporting data that makes her opinion that of the uninformed, and of those least qualified to make the type of judgment she makes.

For every one of the type of student Ms. Schippers describes, I can name hundreds of students who love how their history teachers engage them in relevant learning activities.

Does not an Education Week editor bear some responsibility for presenting opinion that is fully informed and grounded in evidence? If Education Week wants to publish Ms. Schippers' Commentary, should an editor have not required her to narrow her focus to her own students without generalizing about the "vast majority"?

Would Education Week publish a Commentary written by me about the state of special education in schools today without first affirming I have certification, experience, and, most of all, supporting data to inform my Commentary? I hope not.

Moreover, I hope Education Week has not stooped to presenting Commentary simply for the sake of contention. The argument she makes is old, stale, and has been leveled against teachers of history as long as I can remember—and I began studying to be a teacher of history in 1967.

If Ms. Schippers wants to further the issue of what constitutes good teaching of history, she needs to go about it in a very different way. Her Commentary and Education Week's publishing it do virtually nothing toward that end.

Richard E. Morales
Kerman, Calif.
The writer taught at the K-12 and higher education levels.

To the Editor:

As a former high school history teacher I was initially glad to see the title of Vicky Schippers' Commentary on teaching history. While others have already addressed the substance of her piece, I am writing to express my deep disappointment with your decision to publish it.

Teaching history is exceptionally important for a wide range of reasons, from developing critical-thinking and communication skills to building an understanding of who we are in the world. We should be talking about how we do it and what makes history teaching effective.

There are brilliant, innovative, and articulate educators who can speak to this issue. Ms. Schippers is articulate, but her limited anecdotal experience should not qualify her to call for a complete overhaul of how history is taught in U.S. high schools.

I can't imagine a similar call for an overhaul of the teaching of writing or mathematics based on such limited experience being published in your newspaper.

John Beebe
Toronto, Ontario
The writer is a former teacher and social studies department chairman at Yarmouth High School in Yarmouth, Maine.

Vol. 32, Issue 23, Page 28

Published in Print: March 6, 2013, as Writers Criticize Publication of History Commentary
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