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Keith Benson

Analysis of Curriculum Reaction Paper #1

Dr. Ben Justice

1.31.2008

In reflection of the weeks’ readings “Schwiegen! Die Kinder! or, Does

Postmodern History Have a Place in Schools?” by Peter Seixas, Anver Segall’s

“What’s the Purpose of Teaching a Discipline, Anyway? The Case of History”, and

“Two Cheers for Postmodernism” by William Stanley, it seems the issue of how

history should be effectively taught in high schools was a non-issue. Paradoxically,

all three authors advocated, through suggestions and suppositions, teaching history

to students in the postmodern approach, but offered little concrete evidence to

support that it is superior to the “collective memory” approach or the disciplinarian

method. Consequently, this reading, to a high school history teacher, appears yet

another conversation between academics that have very little practical application

within the confines of the public school history classroom. These readings, as read

collectively, left me unfulfilled.

Sexias, in “Schwieggen! die Kinder!”, accurately describes the pedagogical

method in which history is taught in high schools – the best story method. The idea

that in the interest of preserving and forming a nation’s common identity and

values, and to convey a consistent, albeit, simplistic message expediently, most

primary and secondary schools, public and private, employ this collective memory

approach. Further, Sexias and Stanley in both essays, explain the disciplinarian

method as combining the “best stories” from multiple perspectives with students

arriving at differing interpretations of the events being analyzed. Finally, all authors

in each article convey the postmodern approach as method that seeks to take the
disciplinarian method level to higher cognitive levels by adding elements of

application and synthesis of historical information by considering the context in

which the information was conceived and relating it to the prevailing climate of the

present.

While the distinction between the pedagogical methods is clear, no

suggestion is offered about how to implement the more complex postmodern

approach within a 42 minute class, within the confines of a state mandated

curriculum, among students with different learning abilities, which by the way,

probably have no interest in becoming professional historians. In support, even as I

reflect on my own scholastic and even early undergraduate experiences in history

classes, the best story method always seemed the approach employed. It was not

until I declared history as a major, and began doing the discipline, was I introduced

and taught in other fashions.

Also, Stanley in “Two Cheers for Postmodernism” describes some of the

criticisms of postmodernism, which essentially were that postmodernism plunges

students deeper into the depths of relativism, and that high school students cannot

begin to effectively understand more complex concepts of understanding when

analyzing historical events. While I do agree students are capable of learning and

developing the skills required to learn in a postmodern fashion, I am aware that

students in high school lack much of the foundationary information required to

effectively gain from postmodern approaches.