At the beginning of each semester I ask my students to tell me if they like or dislike history. More students answer negatively than positively. My second question is why they do not like history, and the usual replies are that history is boring, it does not matter because it deals with dead people, or they had a history teacher in high school that thought teaching was to have students read the book for themselves and take a test on Friday.
History can indeed be boring. Part of my job is to prepare future social studies teachers to succeed in the classroom, and to avoid the mistakes of so many history teachers who have failed to engage students in historical thinking. Students also bear responsibility. If students enter a classroom expecting to be bored, then my best efforts may not overcome their expectations.
When we are young and take history classes in school we have no sense of history, everything in our lives happened yesterday. As we age, our sense of history grows. The first time we say “when I was a kid” we have realized that our past is historical. I have had many middle aged people tell me that they are now interested in the past, but they never cared for history when they were in school.
As a college history professor I endeavor to help students think historically. If someone knows that Independence Day was July 4, 1776, but they do not know why independence was declared that day or why it is significant today, then they lack any real knowledge on the subject. What I try to do for students, and will try to do in this column is to open eyes to the significance of historical events in the hope that this will lead to more interest in and understanding of the past.
Editors Note: Travis Childs is a history instructor at Cameron University in Lawton, Okla. He is a graduate of Midway High School and lives in Bluegrove. Childs is currently president of the Clay County Historical Society. This is his first column for The Pioneer Sentinel.