Head of History
2016 was a big year for global politics. From Brexit to the election of Donald Trump, the media was saturated with stories of the changing political landscape of the world. Behind this narrative of change there were streams of articles on the value of studying history.
Journalist, Jason Steinhauer stated that “History is hot” because “everywhere historians are appearing in the press to comment on contemporary events. Journalists are daily turning to historians to comment on everything.” Like the ill seek out doctors for a diagnosis of their ailments, many in the community looked to historians to receive a diagnosis on what was happening around them. The often brutal and long-lasting political campaign between Clinton and Trump was filled with rapidly changing information which undoubtedly confused many in the world. After the election of Donald Trump, historian, James Grossmann stated that, “One of the many lessons that the current campaign has taught us is that historical thinking and historical understanding is imperative to civic culture.” These sentiments were supported by novelist, Marie Myung-Ok Lee who expressed that, “History teaches us how to think—that is, how to do the high-level analysis that is essential for an informed society” and that “expanding the study of history could be an essential bulwark against the rising tide of misinformation, manipulation and lies.”
The philosopher, Bertrand Russell, famously claimed that “most people would rather die than think; many do.” The Loreto Normanhurst History Department is absolutely committed to developing a culture of learning that rails against this notion and encourages thinking that equips our students with an ability to confront an increasingly complex world.
We follow a simple adage when preparing all our lessons which is NOT “what content do I need to cover?” but instead “what sort of thinkers am I trying to produce?” This is evidenced by several initiatives we have undertaken in the past few years. The first is that we encourage all History students to carry an “Ideas Book” with them to each class. This book is used at various junctures during lessons to jot down ideas or draw diagrams during individual or group work. The second is our focus on big-picture thinking in our units of study. For example, in Year 10, when girls study the Industrial Revolution in England they are asked to contemplate throughout the whole unit whether the Industrial Revolution created a “better world” in the 1800s and right through to today.
In short, our primary goal as a department is to cultivate in our students a confidence in their ideas. Ultimately, our department vision looks beyond the school gates and at the future careers of our students, and in this approach we are closely aligned with Professor Jennifer Burns of Stanford University who states that, “History students emerge as leaders in their fields because they are comfortable with the big-picture thinking and long-term vision that the study of history cultivates.”
The links below connect to further reading on the value of studying history.
Mr Marco Scali
Head of History