Creating an Environment that Supports Diversity

This post originally appeared on Teaching the Past

A couple of weeks ago I was discussing teaching Aboriginal history with a colleague.  We had both heard stories from some Aboriginal students who at some point in their education had heard their people discussed in the high school and university classroom in a derogatory manner. Aside from the sad news that racism is still alive and well in some of our classrooms, the person with whom I had a conversation – someone with much more teaching experience than I – emphasized that often these concerns are not directly addressed with the teacher and professor. Continue reading “Creating an Environment that Supports Diversity”

Power and the Questions We Ask about History Education

This was originally posted on Teaching the Past.

Last month on this blog, Samantha Cutrara asked a challenging question that gets to the fundamentals of history education.  Who, she asks, is history education for?  This question is more complex than it seems, because, depending on the answer, it has a variety of implications for historians and history educators.  Implicit in this question is a set of power relations that often remain undisclosed in discussions about history and how it is taught.  By probing the implications that develop from the question of ‘who history is for’, it becomes apparent that we must ask a more basic question that helps us better understand the uses and abuses of the past. What do we mean by history education? Continue reading “Power and the Questions We Ask about History Education”

Historical Quests: An intergenerational tool for connecting school and community

This piece was originally posted on Teaching the Past.

Whether we have an informed view of the past or not, an understanding of history is an important part of how we situate and re-evaluate our position in local, regional, national and international contexts.  Because the past is so important to connecting and situating ourselves to others and the places where we live, it cannot be taught entirely from the classroom.  History, I believe, is best taught collectively and collaboratively, with lessons that anchor into a student’s everyday experience and understanding of the past.

This point was driven home last week when my family and I – looking to better understand our new home in the upper Connecticut Valley – participated in a historical walk in the nearby community of Hartford Vermont.  The walk was one of over 150 Valley Quests, a place-based educational program devoted to building community in the Upper Valley.  Like many historical walks, this quest was led by a local resident who provided details about the community’s history, geography and everyday life.  Unlike other historical walks that I have been on, however, the Valley Quest also integrates local schools and encourages regular public participation. Continue reading “Historical Quests: An intergenerational tool for connecting school and community”

Building Digital Literacy and the University Curriculum

This post was originally published on and Teaching the Past.

The digitization of information, and the growing technologies used to manipulate and analyze it, is rapidly changing the context of the classroom. A couple of weeks ago Ian Milligan, one of my fellow editors at, reported on the growing debate over the use of laptops and other technology (like cell phones) during class time.  Milligan makes a compelling argument for the importance of allowing students the use of their computers in the lecture hall. Although I agree with much of what he has written on the subject, the use of technology in history courses poses a more complicated problem than simply addressing whether it should or should not be used: Where does digital literacy fit in the university curriculum and how should it be taught? Continue reading “Building Digital Literacy and the University Curriculum”

Conversation, Contradiction and Conflict in ‘The Historical Present’

This post was originally published on

A couple of days ago Christopher Moore posted British historian Richard Overy’sThe Historical Present” from The Times Higher Education on his blog.  This short reflection captured my attention because of the dichotomy that Overy makes between academic, policy-oriented and popular histories.   Splitting history up into these categories misrepresents the value and purpose of practicing history and fails to acknowledge many of the contributions that shape the discipline as a whole. Continue reading “Conversation, Contradiction and Conflict in ‘The Historical Present’”

Active History and learning from the early-Canadian past

This post was originally published on

Two weeks ago the  Telegraph in the United Kingdom ran a story announcing that due to government cutbacks the department of history at the University of Sussex has decided to end research and in-depth teaching on topics related to pre-1700 English social history and pre-1900 European history.  Under the new paradigm, topics such as the English Civil War, French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars would no longer be a focus of study. Continue reading “Active History and learning from the early-Canadian past”