High School History Teachers, er, I mean Coaches

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FIVE THINGS THEY SHOULD (BUT WON’T) TEACH MY KIDS ABOUT U.S. HISTORY

Bad-teacherI am not going to lie, I don’t have one child, let alone kids… But I completely understand where Field Notes From Fatherhood is coming from. I would tell you to go check out his blog, but once I finish giving you the bullet points from this recent post, you will find yourself clicking over to his site anyway. 🙂

When I was growing up (and I doubt much has changed) elementary school US history consisted largely of mythologizing the beginnings of the country and its Founding Fathers. (Besty Ross designed the US flag? Dead wrong. The citizens of the colonies were unified in their fight against the British? Not even close.) Middle school taught us that America had saved civilization in two world wars. High school history continued that theme in more detail, and was dull, dull, dull. History shouldn’t be conflated with mythology, and it should never be dull. The study of history is messy, complex, and frequently skewed by national interests and priorities. It’s complicated, and oftentimes the most interesting subtleties and subtexts are ignored for the sake of streamlining, simplifying, and even indoctrinating.

Yes, yes, yes! I wish that on day one of school, each teacher would receive a memo with this sentiment on it. High school history teachers, we love you, but tighten up and lock it down!

scumbag-teacher-ironyI ran across a picture last night entitled ‘scumbag teacher,’ which you will see on your left. Often, this is truly how kids feel about their teachers, especially those in high school. It’s coming to a point where I feel that the old expression “those that can, do; those who can’t, teach” needs to be “those that can, do; and the rest get paid–from your tax dollars–to read straight from the book.”

There is a stereotype that comes with high school history teachers. If you tell someone that you teach history in high school, the next question out of their mouth will be, “What do you coach?” And I find that most times it is true; it was at my school. Even my favorite history teacher (who was working on his Masters while I was a student, was an excellent teacher, and really knew his stuff) coached. It was just bowling–but coaching nonetheless!

I was unsuccessful in my attempts to find statistics on how many high school history teachers are coaches; however, I did find this little gem. The American Historical Association–the AHA for crying out loud–has a coach preparation “playbook” to teach history, Preparing Non-Historians to Teach History: The Coaching History Playbook. It actually gives the following as one of its reasons as to why coaches teach history:

…teaching about people and the past doesn’t seem overly complicated…

Awesome. Just so long as it isn’t hard for the coaches, and the school has a winning athletic program. The AHA even goes on to say that,

…in all likelihood, their history teachers were coaches, too. Because we tend to teach in the manner in which we were taught, many coaches who teach history tend to lecture and rely on the textbook, because that is what they remember their college professors and high school teachers doing.

So by all means, let’s not fix the problem. There is an obvious cycle of poor teachers teaching poor teacher. No wonder the younger generation is clueless about history, government, and politics. Below is a video, “Americans don’t know why we celebrate 4th of July.” He basically goes on to ask people what they think about July 4th, as we celebrate our independence from Nazi Germany and the Roman Empire… Yes…the following video is embarrassing.

If you liked his video, here is another one entitled, “People sign ‘I am a moron’ petition without reading the headline,” which is also embarrassing.

But back to this wonderful blog I ran across. There are five main points that Field Notes From Fatherhood wants to get across:

  1. Christopher Columbus was something of a bumbling idiot and a lot more than something of a murderous sadist. (For a piece I wrote on a related topic, check out The Spanish Requirement of 1513.)
  2. Benjamin Franklin was an exuberant bon vivant and a bit of a pervert.
  3. The French won the American Revolution.
  4. Thanksgiving Day is also a National Day of Mourning.
  5. The bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were completely unnecessary.

So if any of those interest you (you know #2 does), go check out his post for the full explanation! If you have children in school, see what they know… Don’t let poor educators ruin your children’s future. How embarrassing would it be if one of your kids ended up on a video like the one above? Don’t let it happen.

11 COMMENTS

    • How could I not…

      “History teachers tend to be coaches, so one might be tempted to believe that history teachers—taken as a whole—are not terribly intellectually curious, and there is some truth in this.”

      It perfectly ties in…

  1. I’m going to disagree on point 5.
    In my life the Japanese in WWII have played several roles
    Dispicable little, though deadly, pests.
    Victims of a racist hegemony of Europeans that kept them fromthe oil that fed their burgeoning middle class; the force behind their invasion of their neighbors.
    An overly complacent and polite population forced into Western style aggression by misguided apers of Euro behavior.
    Then in the early 80s I met a man who claimed to have been in Bataan and told stories of canabalism of Allied troops by Imperial Forces; which I wanted to disbelieve and have come to take as fact.
    and I read the Rape of Nanking and accounts of civilian suicides at Okinowa…..
    Truman had no choice but to use nuclear weapons- anything else would have led to 1,000,000 Allied Casualties.

  2. I would be embarrassed if my child ended up on one of “those” videos but not as embarrassed as having an adult child who wrote the above.

    “When I was growing up (and I doubt much has changed)” “I doubt much has changed?” You obviously didn’t do much research in college if you got away with that gem. Have you spent time in a school since you graduated?

    “Often, this is truly how kids feel about their teachers,” “Often?” Another example of great quantifiable research.

    “there is a stereotype that comes with high school history teachers.” “I was unsuccessful in my attempts to find statistics.” Because you couldn’t find statistics you decided to continue the stereotype, why? If you would visit a school or research the latest history teaching methodology and see what is going on in the education world your articles would be worth reading.

    With no quality research of your own you quote the AHA, a quality organization which should give your point validity. “The AHA even goes on to say that, …in all likelihood…” “in all likelihood?” If your student used that in an essay how would you grade it?

    “many coaches who teach history tend to lecture.” I assume this is based on your unsuccessful attempt to find statistics. You did TRY to find statistics, right?

    I strongly recommend attending an AHA, NCHE, NCSS, or other major conference that addresses these issues. Once you do and compare what you have written with the elements of quality historical research and writing you won’t be so embarrassed by these articles.

    • 1) “When I was growing up (and I doubt much has changed)” “I doubt much has changed?” You obviously didn’t do much research in college if you got away with that gem.

      Sorry you don’t recognize quotation marks, I clearly didn’t write that part…I am sorry that you don’t like my quote.

      2) “We found that 51 percent of eighth-grade civics students and 57 percent of eighth-grade history students report that their work is often or always too easy.” (Center for American Progress: Do Schools Challenge Our Students? Page 2. http://www.americanprogress.org/wp-content/uploads/issues/2012/07/pdf/state_of_education.pdf)

      There is that word, “often.” I got you a statistic…. Looks like you need to step up your teaching and quit boring the youth of America.

      3) “in all likelihood”…if you have a problem with that, then take it up with the AHA. It is another quote, directly from their “handbook.”

      4) “many coaches who teach history tend to lecture.” Again, this is a quote directly from AHA. It unfortunate that in all your years of education you never learned what quotation marks were…

  3. So yet again it’s the teacher’s fault? I don’t agree with Bill Gates often, but he said this quite well, “We are raising a generation of enablers.” Are there teachers who are not great performers at their craft, yes. Are there incredibly energetic and vibrant teachers who keep their students engaged, heck yes. Our society created and continues to create the “those who can’t teach,” because the abuse, constant attacks and caving into special interests has made those who “can” say why should I put up with the kind of crap people are throwing at teachers today.

    If you want the best and the brightest to become teachers, support those who are already working with your children. Turn off the TV, encourage reading. Drive your kids to the nearest historical site, engage them and make history come alive. We, that’s right if you didn’t figure it out I’m one of them a High School history teacher and dam proud of it.

    History lives in my classroom. We participate in History Day, write eulogies, develop time capsules, debate issues and discuss elections. We look at the blemishes in history as well as the halos. Our society has to do its part and stop making teaching a dirty word. Take part in your child’s education. My love of history has been fostered by my parents, family, teachers, professors, friends and public historians. Stop playing the blame game, stop complaining and do something. Only together can we make education better. And yes visit an AHA, OAH, NCHE or NCSS meeting to see those working to learn more and improve at their craft. It won’t be new standards, tests or curriculum that will change everything. It is creating the best and the brightest and then cherishing them. Colleges bear just as much blame in not preparing future teachers better as do those who have “retired on active duty” as we used to say in the Corps. To all teachers I say Semper FI, stand tall, be proud and keep working. Support your local teacher, they are helping to create the citizen of tomorrow.

    Peter Porter

    • Thank you for stopping by, and more importantly, thank you for not attacking my actual writing. (Unlike the above, grumpy commenter.)

      Do I believe that at least 50.1% of the problem is because of the student, teachers, and government involvement? Yes.

      I wholeheartedly agree that the majority of issues in teaching are NOT due to teachers. That being said; however, there is a small percentage of history teachers that fall into a specific category. From the comments I have received at LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook, I am finding that this is a southern problem. So teacher, such as yourself, may not experience much of this in Montville, NJ.

      It is, however, a large enough problem for the AHA to write a ‘How to teach history guide for coaches.’

      This is from an article in Florida, bragging about how their coaches teach AP…like it is a modern day miracle.

      “Three coaches who are AP teachers. That doesn’t happen too often. This is a unique situation … unique skills,” McCabe said. “These guys are true educators.”

      (Read more at Jacksonville.com: http://jacksonville.com/community/clay/2011-02-24/story/coaches-teaching-ap-clay-high-coaching-teaching-and-vice-versa#ixzz2DOratGbt)

      Here is a job listing in Oklahoma. They are specifically hiring a “High School History Teacher / Coach.” (http://www.oklahomacoaches.org/index.php/job-board)

      All that being said, I am glad that your students are fortunate enough to have you as a teacher. You appear to care and make teaching your top priority. 🙂

  4. I started school in the post WWII era, 1946 to be exact. History always fascinated me and it always was one of my best subjects. I was lucky in that I went to parochial schools and the nuns were all highly educated. In fact in high school the majority of the nuns had masters degrees in the subject they taught and many had Phds. Many of these women went on to teach at the local state university and a couple even became department heads. Yes, there were a few civilian teachers but the majority were nuns. The nuns had an advantage over the civilian teachers in that they had no families so they could go to school in the summer to obtain advanced degrees in their subjects.

    In those days the emphasis for teachers was on subject matter not “education classes”. Personally I believe that if todays teachers (especially high school) would take summer school classes in specific subjects rather than education they could be better teachers and be able to interest their students in the subject they are teaching, especially history.

    As an ROTC instructor at the University of Idaho I developed a Military History curriculum that provided the students with “hands on” experience in military arms for various periods in this country’s history. It was just a matter of thinking outside of the box. The students became more engaged when they had something to relate to for the period we were studying.. The lesson plan later became standard for the Sixth ROTC region.

    In many cases I believe that todays history teachers are not allowed to experement with teaching methods or curriculum. They are constrained by school district or other government regulations or requirements. The cookie cutter approach if you will.

    I believe that a competent teacher can provide the necessary information in an interesting format to their class without having to follow some bureaucratically established format.

    • “Personally I believe that if todays teachers (especially high school) would take summer school classes in specific subjects rather than education they could be better teachers and be able to interest their students in the subject they are teaching, especially history.”

      That sounds amazing to me! There is no academic field in which change doesn’t occur. In my (hypothetical) high school…all teachers, especially science and history teachers, will take continuing education during the summer.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  5. The website you quoted: http://www.historians.org/publications-and-directories/perspectives-on-history/may-2005/preparing-non-historians-to-teach-historythe-coaching-history-playbook
    it wasn’t excusing teacher-coaches with those reasons. it was just stating the reasons why they choose that subject. Not saying that they are good reasons. And they are concerned about fixing the problem. If you read the entire article, it says that

    [quote]This sets the stage for what is facetiously referred to as “the coach’s lesson plan”: Monday: read the chapter in the textbook; Tuesday: outline the chapter and take notes; Wednesday: take a quiz on the chapter; Thursday: study for the chapter test; Friday: take the chapter test. Simple? Yes. Effective? Most assuredly not. To walk into the classroom, pass out worksheets and recycled tests, and “entertain the troops” for 55 minutes is no longer acceptable, especially in this age of standardized testing and teacher accountability.[/quote]

    it says this is not acceptable, we need to fix this problem.

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