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.

10 thoughts on “Historical thinking skills questioned in NCSS article by Mike Maxwell”

  1. Been thinking about your campaign to support historical thinking skills and to deduce generalizations from the welter of facts that litter history.

    All of which seems to come to nought when we have a president who listens to no one, is devoted exclusively to his own self-interest and has a totally idiosyncratic understanding of history – one in which the “facts” change with his mood and the time of day. A president who has the sole power to change history on a whim … as he just did by pulling U.S. troops out of northern Syria to allow a Turkish invasion, the reinvigoration of ISIS and potential genocide against the Kurds.

  2. You are obviously frustrated by a president who seems to have little regard for facts or evidence, but this would seem to be an argument for a public who is informed about important and timeless principles of history. That is, if we wish to maintain our national experiment in democracy.

      1. I don’t have a good solution for how to motivate people to become more involved in our democracy, but just maybe citizens would be more motivated if they learned important and basic principles of historical knowledge that would help them to better understand how the world works.

  3. Mike, so just as an example of FFH, if I am teaching the Age of Exploration to my grandson through homeschooling, how would I implement this system? Thank you.

    1. Fred- I believe the Age of Exploration involves several important principles of history, such as the tendency of humans to learn and explore…the tendency of the stronger to subjugate the weaker…the tendency of people to resist external control. A future-focused history curriculum would revisit such principles in multiple historical contexts, such as the ancient Greeks resisting the Persians and the Vietnamese people resisting the U.S. In this way, students can learn and internalize important principles of historical knowledge that may serve to inform judgment in the future.

    1. Fred- I would like to suggest that you read the Student’s Friend book review posted on this blog under the “Books” Menu heading. It has excellent suggestions about activities to accompany the Student’s Friend Concise World history: https://futurefocusedhistory.blog/the-best-book-review-ever-written/

      For additional lesson plan ideas, you could visit the “teacher tools” section of the StudentsFriend.com website at https://www.studentsfriend.com/aids/curraids.html.

      By the way, you are mentioned in my Nov. 6 blog post.

  4. Mike, your article is excellent and I shared it as much as I could online!

    I had a thought, maybe as an annex to your “Student’s Friend” history textbook, or whatever is decided as a “textbook” for history, we could add social studies sections. For example, maybe there is a comparison of governments, religions, economic systems, etc.

    Anyways, congrats on the article!

  5. Chase- Thanks for your kind comments about the article. Much appreciated.

    About annexes to the Student’s Friend Concise World History, you might have a good idea there, but I’m not sure about what you have in mind. The SF does already discuss in historical context major world religions and governmental and economic systems including democracy, republic, monarchy, dictatorship, socialism, communism, totalitarian, authoritarian, liberal, conservative. Perhaps you’re thinking of an alternative format?

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