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Reading and teaching history todaya new sense of cultural context


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#31 Juliette

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Posted 18 March 2004 - 04:38 AM

Indeed Estelle the schedule changed about two years before I went to High Scool (I began High School in 1997, thus it must have been around 1995) and it was interesting to see that my "classe préparatoire" (it's a particular kind of class after High School, perhaps Estelle could better explain) teacher told us to take a look at former High School History books, whose schedule was for some points better.
BattementCloche, French universities are often good (and Sorbonne's teachers are very interesting and there are a lot of foreign students) and if you like History, it's really interesting because you don't really have to study another subject (except a little geography and English the first two years). I began my university course only in 3rd year (because I made this "classe préparatoire" during two years before), but I can tell you how it is working the first two years.
First year of University: Modern Times (from 16th to the end of 19th century) and Contemporary erea (19th and 20th centuries)
Second year: Antiquity and Medieval times.
Third year: you study the four main periods (that I mentionned before), but you choose one particular aspect in each one. For instance, Louis XIV's reign or 16th century England in Modern Times, 2nd World War or Cold War in the Contemporary Erea.....
Fourth year: you choose only one of the four main periods and you are making a very specialized study about one aspect. It's a research work.

That is for university. Estelle, I let you explain what is not really correct or clear in my text.

Edited by Juliette, 19 March 2004 - 03:35 PM.


#32 BattementCloche

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Posted 19 March 2004 - 11:38 AM

Computer difficulties...

#33 BattementCloche

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Posted 19 March 2004 - 11:40 AM

Thank you, Juliette, for explaining how History is taught at French Universities. After reading that, I wonder if I should even bother with anywhere else...

#34 Mel Johnson

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Posted 20 March 2004 - 04:56 AM

Much as France has the Revolution and the Napoleonic Period as transforming experiences for the entire nation, the America has the American Civil War as a similar transformative and universal period in its history. Practically all that came before and all that came after has connection to that period. Using that as a point of view, two teachers and I developed an extracurricular program of interdisciplinary study of the Civil War. It quickly took off, and has been seriously engaged in two different school districts as a methodology for reaching understanding in approaching an area of history. We have found our students arguing seriously and earnestly that things that Americans had long forgotten in their heritages from other lands, as the Crusades, were manifested during the Civil War. When they take this route, they are often rushing back to sources (They have learned from experience that primary is best) to look for materials relating to the Crusades. The librarians hate us.

"What do you mean you want the "Layes of Blondel of Richarde ye Kinge?"

Sometimes I have them over to my house, and we talk about almost anything under the sun, and suddenly I'll drop into the conversation, "How does that sound like Napoleon's experience at the Battle of Austerlitz?" They all hit my bookshelves for sources! They know not to take my word for anything, but look and conclude themselves.


This is no grand curriculum, but it IS an effective tool for getting students to learn history. It DOES, however, require a lot of field work, and extracurricular activity.

(PS. BattementCloche, George S. Patton said it better, more briefly, and more pungently!)

#35 BattementCloche

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Posted 23 March 2004 - 01:17 PM

Is that a reference to my horrendously long quote?

I meant to change it sooner...I'll do that next time I'm on. My apologies.

~*~Rosalind

Sed quid duces et principes nominem cum legiones scribat Cato saepe alacres in eum locum profectas unde redituras se non abitrarentur? Pari animo Lacedaemonii in Thermopylis occiderunt, in quos Simonides:
Dic, hospes, Spartae nos te hic vidisse iacentis,
dum sanctis patriae legibus obsequimur.
Viros commemoro. Qualis tandem Lacaena? Quae, cum filium in proelium misisset et interfectum audissest, “Idcirco,” inquit, “genueram ut esset qui pro patria mortem non dubitaret occumbere.”
…Admoneor ut aliquid etiam de humatione et sepultura dicendum existimem…Socrates, rogatus a Critone quem ad modum sepeliri vellet, “Multam vero,” inquit, “operam, amici, frustra consumpsi. Critoni enim nostro persuasi me hinc avolaturum, neque mei quicquam relicturum…Sed, mihi crede, (Crito), nemo me vestrum, cum hinc escessero, consequetur. …
Durior Dogenes Cyncius proici se iussit inhumatum. Tuam amici, “Volucribusne et feris?” “Minime vero,” inquit; “sed bacillum propter me, quo abigam, ponitote.” “Qui pteris?” illi; “non enim senties.” “Quid igitur mihi ferarum laniatus oberit nihil sentienti?””
—Cicero, Tusculanae Disputationes 1.42.101-43, 104, excerpts)

#36 BattementCloche

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Posted 23 March 2004 - 01:20 PM

Is this quote better? :wallbash:

~*~Rosalind

"The more the words, the less the meaning, and how does that benefit anyone?"

#37 Mel Johnson

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Posted 23 March 2004 - 03:29 PM

Much, thank you!

#38 GWTW

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Posted 24 March 2004 - 06:20 AM

BattementCloche, before you run off applying to French universities, a word of caution: as far as I understand it (and Estelle and Juliette must correct me) the style of teaching in French universities is much more 'old-fashioned' than in American ones. Most classes are frontal lectures and are run in an authoritarian style, at least compared to American universities. My husband is in his first year of grad studies here in the US and he says it is quite noticable that the foreigners (except for brash Israelis like himself) are not that used to partiicpating and initiating class room discussion.
I think you wrote that you are home-schooled. It would be a big shock to your system to jump into the Old World style of instruction.
Imagine learning history like we learn ballet!!! :blushing:

#39 BattementCloche

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Posted 25 March 2004 - 01:35 PM

Thank you for the tip, GWTW!

Maj. Mel, What did George S. Patton say? This must be that "How does that sound like Napoleon's experience at the Battle of Austerlitz?" trick you were speaking of. :helpsmilie: Give the least amount of information possible, and you've got their attention for as long as it takes to tell them the whole story!

In my new History of English Literature book (English Literature: Its History and its Significance for the Life of the English-Speaking World, A Text-Book for Schools by William J. Long, Ph.D.), I found the preface, of all things, striking in that the author seems to know the reasons for the problems of children not liking literature or history.

(…) Indicates portions I have not included due to length.

… Throughout this book we have remembered Roger Ascham's suggestion, made over three centuries ago and still pertinent, that "'tis a poor way to make a child love study by beginning with the things which he naturally dislikes." We have laid emphasis upon the delights of literature; we have treated books not as mere instruments of research--which is the danger in most of our studies--but rather as instruments of enjoyment and of inspiration…

…many authors who are and ought to be included in this history need not be studied in the class room. A text-book is not a catechism but a storehouse, in which one finds what he wants, and some good things beside. Few classes will find time to study Blake or Newman, for instance; but in nearly every class there will be found one or two students who are attracted by the mysticism of Blake or by the profound spirituality of Newman. Such students should be encouraged to follow their own spirits, and to share with their classmates the joy of their discoveries. And they should find in their text-book the material for their own study and reading.
A third suggestion relates to the method of teaching literature; and here it might be well to consider the word of a great poet,--that if you would know where the ripest cherries are, ask the boys and the blackbirds. It is surprising how much a young person will get out of the Merchant of Venice, and somehow arrive at Shakespeare's opinion of Shylock and Portia, if we do not bother him too much with notes and critical directions as to what he ought to seek and find. Turn a child and a donkey loose in the same field, and the child heads straight for the beautiful spots where brooks are running and birds singing, while the donkey turns as naturally to weeds and thistles. In our study of literature we have perhaps too much sympathy with the latter, and we even insist that the child come back from his own quest of the ideal to join us in our critical companionship. In reading many text-books of late, and in visiting many class rooms, the writer has received the impression that we lay too much stress on second-hand criticism, passed down from book to book; and we set our pupils to searching for figures of speech and elements of style, as if the great books of the world were subject to chemical analysis. This seems to be a mistake, for two reasons: first, the average young person has no natural interest in such matters; and second, he is unable to appreciate them. He feels unconsciously with Chaucer:
   
And as for me, though that my wit be lytë,    
On bookës for to rede I me delytë.

Indeed, many mature persons (including the writer of this history) are often unable to explain at first the charm or the style of an author who pleases them; and the more profound the impression made by a book, the more difficult it is to give expression to our thought and feeling. To read and enjoy good books is with us, as with Chaucer, the main thing; to analyze the author's style or explain our own enjoyment seems of secondary and small importance. However that may be, we state frankly our own conviction that the detailed study and analysis of a few standard works--which is the only literary pabulum given to many young people in our schools--bears the same relation to true literature that theology bears to religion, or psychology to friendship. One is a more or less unwelcome mental discipline; the other is the joy of life.
The writer ventures to suggest, therefore, that, since literature is our subject, we begin and end with good books; and that we stand aside while the great writers speak their own message to our pupils. In studying each successive period, let the student begin by reading the best that the age produced; let him feel in his own way the power and mystery of Beowulf, the broad charity of Shakespeare, the sublimity of Milton, the romantic enthusiasm of Scott; and then, when his own taste is pleased and satisfied, a new one will arise,--to know something about the author, the times in which he lived…


All of this is pertaining to literature, but really, most of it corresponds directly to history. Personally, I think that the best way to learn history is to read books and biographies, etc. written during the time they relate to; it is very easy for a modern author to criticise what people thought and did during the time he/she is writing about, but if you read something written by someone who actually lived the history, you get an insight to how they thought and how they regarded things.

I am afraid I might have repeated myself there... sorry!

#40 Mel Johnson

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Posted 25 March 2004 - 02:57 PM

Actually, Rosalind, if you turn a child and a donkey loose in the same field, the child will head for the donkey!

And what Patton said, in an address to his officers in September 1944, after the Liberation of Paris was in contradistinction to Simonides' "Tell the Spartans that we lie here, obedient to their wishes." Edited, what he said was:

No (invective) ever won a war by dying for his country.  He won it by making some OTHER poor dumb (invective) die for HIS country.  I see in the papers that we're "holding the line"... Well, we're not HOLDING any(profanity)thing.  We are ADVANCING, and we won't (obscenity) stop until we get to (profanity) Berlin and catch that (profanity) paperhanger and his (collective invective).  Then we're gonna grab 'em by the throat, and we're gonna (GROSS INDECENCY!)  That's our mission.  That's all.


I think that there was a little more bad language in it, but that's the tenor of it.

And Napoleon's experience at Austerlitz was the sudden realization that the Austro-Russian forces were so close to his front, found by direct personal reconnaissance of the enemy's deployment on his left. A secondary realization came about when the Allies attempted to attack his right, but in so doing exposed their own right flank, allowing the Emperor to bypass Pratzen and cut off the entire column after it had advanced.

#41 GWTW

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Posted 25 March 2004 - 07:40 PM

Totally off topic:

:offtopic:

BattementCloche, if you are studying WWI at the moment (or just reading some War poetry), I think you would really enjoy Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain. It's an autobiography of a young Englishwoman who was supposed to go up (or is it down?) to Cambridge just when the War broke out. I think it was recently discussed on the board.

#42 BattementCloche

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Posted 26 March 2004 - 12:04 PM

Maj. Mel, thank-you for the history lesson and the (albeit very much edited) quote, and thank-you, GWTW, for the book recommendation!

Perhaps instead of going to University and studying History I could go to a Canadian University and study Political Science (ah, politics, the fourth great love of my life next to history, literature, and ballet!). Then I could go to a University somewhere in Europe and study Computer Sciences... to Rome to study Latin and to Greece to study ancient Greek (you have to learn the languages where they originated! I could sit next to the very spot where Antony said his spech over the dead Julius Caesar's body, and read all of Cicero's thirteen orations denouncing Antony as a traitor!!!)...

And for history, I could just log on to Ballet Talk and have you educate me! Maj. Mel could write up biographies of the people I'm learning about, and everyone else could teach me the facts and recommend good books to read. Then, once a week, we should all get together and have good long arguments about history... :D :) :D

P.S. GWTW, "In Flanders Fields" has been my favourite poem ever since I read it when I was 5. I memorized it at age 8 and it has stuck with me ever since; that's the only reason I used it in my signature. I'm actually studying the Medieval Ages right now, but thanks for the book recommendation, anyway :wink:

#43 Juliette

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Posted 27 March 2004 - 03:40 AM

Battement Cloche, indeed, as GWTW said, the French way of teaching is "old-fashioned". The professor makes a frontal lecture and students usually don't participate during his class (anyway we often are too many). But, beside the professor's class (1 hour, sometimes two), you are attending a TD class ("Travaux dirigés"), which last two hours and complements the professor's lecture. You are in a small group, with a less-qualified teacher, and you are expected to participate: we are studying documents and it is the students who are explaining them or who are making an oral presentation about a specific aspect.
I don't know how American universities are exactly working (during the classes)and how different it can seem.

#44 BattementCloche

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Posted 13 April 2004 - 01:03 PM

Juliette, my deepest apologies for not responding sooner. Due to computer problems :rolleyes:, I haven't been on in nearly three weeks!

Thank-you for the briefing on how the French system works. I'm actually not sure if I will be able to take History courses once I get into University...there's too many other courses I want to take! Political Sciences, Computer Sciences, a Second Language (French), perhaps more languages (Latin, Greek, Russian, German, Italian, Spanish, Dutch, Japanese, Chinese, Arabic languages and Hawiian are all high on my list of 127 languages I want to learn). History would be a must if I decided to get a degree in Archaeology, which I am considering, but otherwise I'm not sure if I could fit it in.

#45 GWTW

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Posted 14 April 2004 - 05:14 AM

At the risk of turning this into a chat - if you major in Archeology, you will probably be required to study an ancient language too. :D


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