Sam Wineburg on Historical Thinking

I always need to remind myself of this quote by Wineburg.  I have it on my office door.

For the narcissist sees the world–both the past and the present–in his own image.  Mature historical understanding teaches us to do the opposite: to go beyond our own image, to go beyond our brief life, and to go beyond the fleeting moment in human history into which we have been born.  History educates (“leads outward” in the Latin) in the deepest sense.  Of the subjects in the secular curriculum, it is the best at teaching those virtues once reserved for theology–humility in the face of our limited ability to know, and awe in the face of the expanse of history.–Historical Thinking and Other Unnatural Acts.

2 thoughts on “Sam Wineburg on Historical Thinking

  1. This quote leads off my “What is History?” lesson each semester. If I'm going to teach critical thinking skills, I might as well start the students off with some of the concepts right away.

    Interestingly, this lesson provokes good conversation. Most of my students have never considered the question. History exists, but they know nothing about what it really is. We begin to explore the possibilities right away.

    Wineburg's work on historical education at Stanford is excellent. That is not the only program out there either. Bob Bain at Michigan, David Pace at Indiana, Peter Seixas, Gary Nash (UCLA) and some others are really expanding how history is being taught in school. James Smith of Rice just concluded his Coursera course on the Art of Teaching History. These groups and people share many of the same ideas and principles in the teaching of history. The pedagogy is shifting, but it will take more work to keep the momentum going.

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