History Links for the High School Student (or teacher)

Here’s a good read for your high school student on how to read history:

It may seem like reading is a solitary art. But reading a history book is better thought of as a conversation. The author of the book wants to tell you, the reader, something that he or she thinks is important and true. The author is never just conveying information, but also trying to convince you of his or her interpretation of the past. If it seems to you like all an author is trying to do is pass along some facts, even then be aware that there is more going on: implicitly the author is still trying to persuade you that these facts are important and that they are related to each other in a particular way.

Tellconvincepersuade: these are words we tend to use when describing conversations, speeches, arguments. But these words are just as appropriate when we talk about history books or articles or essays. All works of history contain arguments–even the ones that appear to be nothing more than good yarns. So your ultimate task as a reader will be to identify what the argument of the book or article is.

More at the link above.

Introducing the study of history– this is intended for college undergrads, but advanced high schoolers would benefit, as would their parents:

5. Historians appreciate the complexity of the past. History is messy, complicated, and not easily summarized. It’s not so complex as to be unexplainable, yet it also lives on its own terms. Assessing complexity involves rigor. The authors assert that seeing complexity helps present-day thinkers avoid nostalgia, myth-making, and other traps of historical thinking.

Now for my five additions:

6. Chronology: Marking time matters because it provides fundamental sign posts. This differs from change because this is more nuts and bolts—about the preparation for evaluations of change and causation. Cataloguing events in relation to dates is necessary baseline work. It’s about ordering and the sense of order. One needs to imagine or see some kind of order before changing or reassessing it. This point goes toward the ‘selection’ half of the old maxim about “selection and emphasis” mattering the most to historians.

7. Citations: Historians care about sources, whether archival and primary, or secondary. This also involves thinking about past histories (i.e. historiography). With this point we remind readers that historians take careful notes in relation to evidence offered in one’s story. As with chronology, this too involves selection. Citations help others understand how history is a social science.

Here’s a good article on how to write a good history essay.  Again, this is intended for young college students, but your college bound high schooler (and his homeschooling parents) can find some useful tips as well.

Ten reasons not to cite Wikipedia.  This is the seventh, as you’ll spy by noting that number 7 at the front:

7. Individuals with agendas sometimes have significant editing authority.
Administrators on Wikipedia have the power to delete or disallow comments or articles they disagree with and support the viewpoints they approve. For example, beginning in 2003, U.K. scientist William Connolley became a Web site administrator and subsequently wrote or rewrote more than 5,000 Wikipedia articles supporting the concept of climate change and global warming. More importantly, he used his authority to ban more than 2,000 contributors with opposing viewpoints from making further contributions.

According to The Financial Post, when Connolley was through editing, “The Medieval Warm Period disappeared, as did criticism of the global warming orthodoxy.” Connolley has since been stripped of authority at Wikipedia, but one blogger believes he continues to post.

Furthermore, in 2007, a new program called WikiScanner uncovered individuals with a clear conflict of interest that had written or edited some Wikipedia entries. Employees from organizations such as the CIA, the Democratic National Party and Diebold were editing Wikipedia entries in their employers’ favor.

It’s not a bad place to begin- you can use the citations on a Wikipedia page itself as a jumping off point for looking for more information from more ‘citable’ sources.




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