Welcome to the Future-Focused History blog

Future-Focused History is the commonsense idea that knowledge from the past can inform judgment in the future, an idea that goes back at least twenty-four centuries to the time of Thucydides in Greece and Sun Tzu in China.

Future-Focused History education calls on history teachers to take charge of history schooling and restore the power of historical learning.

To learn more, to follow this blog, or to join the cause, see the the menu at left—on smart phones the three bars at the top of the page. (Click on the small arrows to expand the menu.) Your comments and contributions are welcome here.

Historical thinking skills questioned in NCSS article by Mike Maxwell

The October issue of Social Education, the official journal of the National Council for the Social Studies, features an article by Mike Maxwell, the former journalist and history teacher who operates this blog. The article is titled “Historical Thinking Skills: A Second Opinion.”

Maxwell says historical thinking skills haven’t lived up to their potential due to two limiting factors: “Useful thinking requires useful knowledge to think about, and historical thinking skills are not exclusive to history.”

To read a pdf version of the journal article, click here.

Blog comments problem fixed (I hope)

Mea culpa.

I just finished a paid session with an expert from WordPress, the company that hosts this blog. As you may be aware, blog followers have been experiencing problems when trying to add their comments to blog posts and pages.

It looks like the problems were probably due to operator error on my part. I didn’t understand the purpose of a default setting in the WordPress application, so I left it unchanged. This setting required those wishing to make comments to first sign up for a WordPress account.

This setting is now disabled, so email followers without WordPress accounts should be able to freely make comments. The reason I started this blog in the first place (rather than establishing a website) was because I wanted a collaborative space where people could work together to advance the concept of Future-Focused History education.

I hope collaboration just became easier. If you should experience any further problems using the blog, please let me know at contactsf@studentsfriend.com. I apologize for any inconvenience you might have experienced, and thanks for hanging in there. -Mike

Old news and new news

Hello again. I’ve been putting off writing this post because I still don’t have a good understanding of whether or not this blog is experiencing technical problems—and what kind. Some blog followers have experienced difficulty in commenting on posts; others haven’t. This blog is meant to be a collaborative endeavor, so the ability to contribute to the discussion is essential. Please bear with me…I need more time to try to get a handle on the situation.

Several people have commented on the subject from two posts back: Where do we go from here in advancing the goal of future-focused history education? We need to return to this essential question, and recognize input from FFH blog contributors (FFH-ites?), but first I need to make sure that the blog is functioning properly.

A bit of news: An article I wrote appears in the October 2019 issue of Social Education, the journal of the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS). It’s titled “Historical Thinking Skills: A Second Opinion.” The article observes, “Useful thinking requires useful knowledge to think about,” and it discusses the value of teaching students general principles of historical knowledge that can be applied in the future. At present, only NCSS members can view the online version of the article; I’ll let you know when it becomes available to the public. Best wishes, Mike.

Okay. That didn’t work.

Last week I published a post that asked followers of this blog for input about the idea of creating an advocacy function, possibly called the Future-Focused History Alliance.

While that post didn’t receive any comments, I did start to hear about problems with the blog. One blog follower said that he tried to make a comment but was unsuccessful. Another said he wasn’t permitted to make a comment unless he purchased a membership. (?) Still another said that he didn’t think he ever received notice of the post.

As this blog is a new undertaking, and I am still learning about how it functions, I don’t know if the lack of comments was due to glitches in the operation of the blog or lack of interest in the subject matter.

If you experienced problems with the blog, my apologies. I’ll be contacting the folks at WordPress (host of the blog) to see how I can rectify any problems. Once these issues are resolved, we can go back to considering the question: “Where do we go from here?”

Stay tuned. Thanks, Mike.

Whadda ya think about a “Future-Focused History Alliance?”

To the followers of the Future-Focused History blog:

I promised to return in September (after the new school year was well underway) to discuss where we might go from here. First, I’m pleased to report that our ranks have more than doubled since my previous report: from 33 blog followers in August to 72 today, some of whom are eager to get to work on advancing the goal of future-focused history education.

Here are my thoughts about the role of this blog (and please consider sharing your thoughts in the comment section below…we’re all FFH pioneers here, and we’re in this together).

It seems to me that this blog has essentially two basic functions: education and advocacy. Perhaps most people who signed up to follow the FFH blog are intrigued by the idea of future-focused history schooling and are interested in keeping abreast of any new developments in the field; these people are tuning-in to the education function. Others—often veteran teachers—are so concerned about the state of history education that they are ready to begin taking action now. They are ready to undertake an advocacy function.

I’ve tried to serve the education function by writing a book, Future-Focused History Teaching: Restoring the Power of Historical Learning, and by starting this blog, which features informational articles about contemporary history schooling and the concept of future-focused history.

Of course, both of these efforts are forms of individual advocacy, but an effective advocacy movement will require forming an organization that can combine the efforts of many people working toward a common goal. Such an organization is welcome to have a home on this blog. 

What about a name for this advocacy organization? The best name I have been able to come up with is “Future-Focused History Alliance.” This could be an alliance consisting not only of individuals, but also of sister organizations that likewise support a goal of useful historical learning. Are you comfortable with this name? Do you have other suggestions?

That’s probably enough business for us to cover in this post: Do we want to start an advocacy organization? If so, would “Future-Focused History Alliance” be a suitable name? 

Please weigh in—your input matters. If there is little interest in forming an advocacy organization, I’ll probably drop the idea. If, on the other hand, we decide to pursue an advocacy function, next we can consider the forms this advocacy might take.

Best wishes, Mike

Biggest challenge to democracy?

“We don’t study history in a way that we can apply it.” This was identified as “the biggest challenge we face in all the Western democracies,” by Jim Mattis, former commander of US military forces in Iraq and Afghanistan and former Secretary of Defense, in an interview this morning on National Public Radio. https://www.npr.org/2019/09/03/756976562/a-leaders-job-is-to-set-the-vision-retired-gen-mattis-says

Shout-out from Steven Pinker

Do you know Steven Pinker, Harvard professor and prominent “public intellectual?” His best-selling books include The Blank Slate, The Better Angels of Our Nature, and Enlightenment Now.

I just learned that he gave a shout-out to the Future-Focused History blog on his Twitter feed. Thanks, Steve.