Monday, March 21, 2011

History, Stories, and Classical Education

The blog "Curriculum Matters" recently posted an article about concerns that history teaching may be on the decline. One particular comment caught my attention: "At the primary level, the report [on history education in England] found that some pupils found it difficult to place historical episodes in a 'coherent, long-term narrative.'"

In light of that, I'm especially proud of our CC history students for their efforts to see history as part of a coherent, long-term narrative, and I want to recognize their hard work.

Between kindergarten and sixth grade, in the Foundations program, students memorize more than 200 points on a time line of U.S. presidents and world events. The video below from 3 years ago shows my son William reciting the 160 world events on that time line.

These "pegs" give students a broad framework so they can then build deeper, more complex ideas about history. Knowing the context of a particular event helps them understand it as part of a long-term narrative. We also read lots and lots of stories from history to reinforce the time line and get students excited about the stories that make up our past.

This prepares students for the Challenge Program, where our in-depth study of American and world history is part of a belief that subjects should be taught not in isolation, but in relationship to one another. Science ought to correlate to math, theology, history, philosophy, and literature. Math should find its application in the sciences. Literature analysis should not be separated from history, philosophy, and theology.

We want students to develop a narrative about how all knowledge works together to make the universe, not a disconnected "multiverse."

Want to know more about studying history using the classical method? Check out this article from the CC Writers' Circle: "Lessons from the Past: The Core of History," by Jennifer Courtney. Along with thoughts about the "why" of studying history, Jennifer gives great practical tips about the "how."

Do you have a video or other story about your history studies? I'd love to share it with our readers! You can leave a comment here or email it to

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