Future-Focused History Teaching: Restoring the Power of Historical Learning, by Mike Maxwell
This book might be somewhat unusual in the field of history eduction in that it takes a holistic view of historical learning as opposed to treating the subject as a stand-alone topic. Such an approach may yield insights not apparent when looking at history schooling in isolation.
Future-Focused History Teaching considers history education not in terms of the preferences of history professionals, but in terms of the needs of society. It compares history education to other school subjects that remain central to the educational enterprise. It evaluates history schooling in the context of findings from cognitive science about the nature of effective instruction.
In all three respects, history education performs poorly, which does much to explain why the fortunes of history education have been undergoing a consistent and marked decline in the nation’s schools and colleges for more than half a century.
If these are the problems, what are possible solutions?
Future-Focused History Teaching identifies:
– Five commonsense principles of history education that include a coherent and useful purpose to guide instruction: Fostering judgment in human affairs.
– Four kinds of historical knowledge suitable for educational purposes, the foremost of which is general principles of historical knowledge. The other three are foundational concepts of history and geography, events with continuing effect, and a big picture of human development through time.
– Four criteria for weighing the importance of historical events.
– Four essential cognitive learning strategies.
Reaction to Future-Focused History Teaching:
“The tragedy of typical history instruction is not just that we forget it, but that it is so forgettable. Mike Maxwell’s thoughtful prescription: Principles drawn from history that speak to today and tomorrow.” -David Perkins, Professor Emeritus, Harvard Graduate School of Education
“Mike Maxwell’s book contains copious wisdom and provides food for thought for history teachers everywhere. It is impossible not to be stimulated by its provocative insights about how the history classroom can prepare us for the future. You may not agree with everything in this book. But one thing’s for sure: You will not be bored by it.” -Sam Wineburg, Director of the History Education Group, Stanford Graduate School of Education
“As someone who has spent over forty years teaching history and training history teachers, I have read much on the topic of history education, and Maxwell’s book is one of the best. Maxwell wants to identify what makes history a useful subject and discuss the urgent need to teach it well. History teachers searching for a higher purpose for all their hard work should take a look at Maxwell’s book; I give it the highest recommendation.” -Jim Smith, author of Ideas That Shape a Nation and former New Mexico Teacher of the Year.
“Not for nothing are we known as the United States of Amnesia. This book makes a great case for bringing the study of history back to the center of our educational system–and offers valuable suggestions on how best to teach history’s lessons. -Stephen Kinzer, former foreign correspondent for the New York Times, author of histories including Overthrow, All the Shah’s Men, and The Brothers
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Future-Focused History Teaching is available from Amazon and other booksellers.