Thinking Historically through Writing
July 6 – July 11, 2014
“Considering the vast differences between those who attended high school in 1917 and the near-universal enrollments of today, the stability of students’ ignorance is amazing. The whole world has turned on its head, but one thing has stayed the same: kids don’t know history,” Sam Wineburg writes in Historical Thinking and Other Unnatural Acts. But what does “know history” mean? In the classroom, history teachers work with a mix of methods and techniques for giving students basic historical information—the sequence of historical periods; dates of important events; key figures in social, political, and cultural movements. It is often more difficult, however, to impart an understanding of how the past is constructed and how historians work. Just as the excitement of studying science comes from conducting experiments, from learning how scientists make discoveries and verify data, the pleasure of studying history comes from learning how historians think about the past.
The workshop focuses on case studies in American history and models writing-to-read strategies for analyzing primary documents, secondary texts, and visual artifacts to learn how historians interpret evidence and how they construct stories based on those interpretations. Many imaginative teaching strategies enrich and enliven students’ appreciation of the past. Writing is the least utilized and yet perhaps the most versatile of these strategies, since it allows students to discover a world that differs from the present and to appreciate different—and often conflicting—interpretations of key moments in the past. The workshop includes sessions on developing good questions and creating writing assignments for inside and outside the classroom.
Workshop fee: $1200.00. The fee includes tuition and a single-occupancy dorm room on the Bard College campus, meals (beginning with Sunday dinner and ending with Saturday breakfast), and materials. The commuter fee is $900.00.