The importance of problems in the teaching of American history in high schools
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No invention, no conformity to a new mode of living, was ever brought about by an individual or community except to meet some definite need. Some obstacle, some difficulty, arose which had to be overcome. For example, the invention of the cotton gin was the result of a need for an improvement over the slow and tedious method of separating the seed from the fiber, by hand. In like manner, the edict passed by the Emperor of China in 1905 giving western education a place in the Chinese schools grew out of the feeling that China was in need of such a civilization. Granting this, the subject of history, which is an account of the development and growth of societies or nations, in its several phases, religious, political, social and institutional, is the result of various difficulties or problems which have presented themselves during this development. The best and most logical method of teaching history in the high school is to place it before the student in the form of problems, each smaller problem contributing to the solving of the main problem, or general movement. To do this, it is necessary to place the student, in so far as it is possible, in an imaginary situation similar to that in which those, who have been confronted with these difficulties, have found themselves. In this way, the student, knowing the chief difficulties and problems which have beset the race, comes into closer contact with the past, such thoughts and feelings are the real content of history. When the student is brought thus into contact with the thoughts and emotions, he is in a better position to interpret events because events are but signs of the inner thoughts of the race. The position that history should be taught in the form of problems will be maintained in this thesis, which presents considerations on the method worked out with a fourth-year class in American history in the Teachers College High School during the year 1908-1909.
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