Do you have any common rules or recommendations how students should engage in a Socratic discussion in history?
Thank you for the question! I am copying a page out of our book, The Socratic Discussion in History, which is a manual and DVD curriculum for teachers and students how to engage in the Socratic Discussion in history. Beyond this list of rules is the premise that truth does exist, and that all are called to search for the truth in history. Historical analysis is not merely just the individual perspective of the student or the teacher, it is a systematic academic exercise with the aim of finding the correct answer with the belief that there is a correct answer.
Rules for a Socratic Discussion in History
1. Each participant has tried their best in researching for the discussion. If no research work has been done, the student cannot participate.
2. The goal of each student is to search for the truth, not “win” the discussion.
3. When others talk, all students will be respectfully silent.
4. To signal the teacher that you want to talk, the student will raise his hand and wait for the teacher to call on him.
5. If a student wants to talk, the teacher will recognize him.
6. In making an assertion, the student will attempt to use historical evidence as support.
7. Unless noted otherwise, students may use notes during the discussion.
8. Students are encouraged to acknowledge good arguments of their peers.
9. The student will make every possible effort to participate in the discussion.
10. If something happens in the discussion that the student thinks should not have, it is up to the student to tell the teacher, either during the discussion or after class.
The best advice I can offer at the beginning of the year is something I heard from a church leader when I was beginning to teach, "It's not what you know, it's who you are." I didn't exactly understand it at the time, but over the years I have seen and experienced the wisdom of these words. Many times, when we adults are preparing to teach the year, we get too caught up into choosing and implementing the best curriculum and we forget what is most important. Ten or twenty years from now, our student's main recollection of learning from us will probably not be how much knowledge we imparted onto them, but instead, they will remember our character or lack thereof, our gestures, and our smiling or grumpy face. At this time of year, my strongest recommendation I can share with all teachers is to focus most on trying to be the best person that you can be. Even though you may be a little tired or stressed, even though you may be learning something new in order to teach it, remember that the children in front of you will be most positively affected by your kindness, your patience, and your smile. If you are attempting to give to your children a strong faith in Christianity and in a loving Heavenly Father, this is the greatest time of year to show to your children that even though you may feel overwhelmed by your work, you will not let this feeling get in the way of you doing your best job teaching. If you are not Christian or do not believe in God, then this is also the best time of year to show your children your patience and care for them, even though you have so much to do.
I have a very independent 8th grader. My only worry about your course is that it seems teacher intensive. Is this true?
The only work that involves the teacher is to watch and learn from DVD 1 and 2. DVD 1 is 20 minutes, and DVD 2, the tools of the historian, is about 1 1/2 hours. Once you understand the method, then the student completes all other work on his own throughout the year. He will meet with you to report research and to express his perspective and back it up with evidence. If he is learning the Ancient or Medieval Civilizations curriculum, then he can watch the discussions on our DVD program. The American program will have the DVD discussion by summer 2013.
How hard would it be to take your American Government and Economics course and design it to cover only Government and Economics, leaving the history out?
Our course should not be changed to omit history from it, and we designed it this way on purpose. The student learns the benefits of a Constitutional Republic and capitalism through the evidence that history has provided us. Also, the text written by Larry Schweikart is so good and unique, that your student may never get the opportunity to read this perspective again. If you have a full year to devote to this topic, then I strongly recommend that your student does not learn Government and Economics separated from the historical experience of the U.S.
1. In our Mission and Method statement, we write, "The Classical Historian is inspired by the best that is offered in the Great Tradition of Western Education: honesty, virtue, patience, and logical analysis of evidence and conclusions."
This is our world perspective as historians. All people should strive to live for these values.
2. There is no such thing as “Christian History, or Jewish History, or for that matter, Atheist History” unless it is a study of a particular religion or pagan movement during a particular time period. There are, however, perspectives that an author brings to his writing. History is something that occurred regardless of one's faith.
3. We (the De Gree family) are Christians dedicated to living our faith through works, and when needed, words. As a historian, our beliefs are reflected in how we study the past and in how we treat our students and others. We hold the tradition of the Western Experience (Judeo-Christianity, Greco-Roman) to be superior to any other, because it encourages the freest and best expression of the individual human spirit, mind, and will. However, we think that believers and non believers both deserve access to the best, most open, education.
Thank you very much for your question!
Why I am against the Common Core Standards
You hand Johnny his packed lunch, give him a kiss, and smile as you see him run off to school. Once in the classroom, his teacher tells him that today is the big day to take the state test for Common Core. Johnny sits down in front of a computer and avails himself to the “four parallel streams of affective sensors.” A “facial expression camera” detects emotion, capturing facial expressions. The “posture analysis seat” analyzes the mood of Johnny based on how he sits. The “pressure mouse” analyzes how Johnny uses the computer mouse, and the “wireless skin conductance sensor” (a wide, black bracelet) collects “physiological response data from a biofeedback apparatus that measures blood volume, pulse, and galvanic skin response to examine student frustration." This information from Johnny will be collected every year, from k-12 education, on into college, and into the workforce. It is all part of the State Longtitudinal Database System (SLDS) that states are adopting to be in compliance with the Common Core Standards.
Why am I against Common Core Data Mining? I went into teaching because of my love of children and my joy of being a part of igniting the spark of intellectual curiosity in young students. My father who had taught middle school history for 15 years always told me, “The most important element of education is the teacher in the classroom.” Building the relationship between the teacher and student and establishing trust, respect, and admiration between the two creates an environment conducive to learning for the young person. The Common Core Standards is a national policy designed to manage the entire nation’s population, treats individuals as cogs, and destroys what little remains of a positive educational environment. Sadly, it is just another depressing governmental, top-down program dictated to teachers and families. Horrifyingly, it will use modern technology to make decisions for the masses, and thus destroy the diversity and individuality of education and our country.
On Common Core tests, along with answering question about academics, students will provide “Personally Identifiable Information.” And, sensitive information will be extracted, as well, such as:
1. Political affiliations or beliefs of the student or parent;
2. Mental and psychological problems of the student or the student's family;
3. Sex behavior or attitudes;
4. Illegal, anti-social, self-incriminating, and demeaning behavior;
5. Critical appraisals of other individuals with whom respondents have close family relationships;
6. Legally recognized privileged or analogous relationships, such as those of lawyers, physicians, and ministers;
7. Religious practices, affiliations, or beliefs of the student or the student's parent; or
8. Income (other than that required by law to determine eligibility for participation in a program or for receiving financial assistance under such program).
This information will then be managed by inBloom, Inc., a private organization funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. It is preposterous to imagine any family wanting a private organization to collect and use private information over the childhood and young adulthood of family members.
There are many reasons why I do not like the Common Core Standards, but the strongest one involves data mining. Using technology to make education more efficient and commercial scares me because it treats individual students like data and it is open to corruption and abuse.
Most of my information about Common Core testing I used to write this came from Diane Rufino's article. Her information is listed below. She referenced the other sites.
Heritage Foundation Conference (panel discussion) on Common Core: "Putting the Brakes on Common Core" - http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=P40GaKlIwb8 (Panelists included Lindsey Burke of the Heritage Foundation, Jim Stergios of Pioneer Institute, Ted Rebarber of Accountability Works, Heather Crossin of Hoosiers Against Common Core, and Christel Swasey. Michele Malkin was a guest speaker)
Bob Luebke, "Common Core Will Impose an Unproven One-Size-Fits-All Curriculum on North Carolina," Civitas Institute, March 18, 2013. Referenced at: http://www.nccivitas.org/2013/common-core-imposes-one-size-fits-all-curriculum/
Bob Luebke, "Common Core: Worse Than You Think," Civitas Institute, April 11, 2013. Referenced at: http://www.nccivitas.org/2013/common-core-worse-than-you-think/
Dean Kalahar, "Common Core: Nationalized State-Run Education," American Thinker, April 12, 2013. Referenced at: http://www.americanthinker.com/2013/04/common_core_nationalized_state-run_education.html
Mallory Sauer, "Data Mining Students Through Common Core, New American, April 25, 2013. Referenced at: http://www.thenewamerican.com/culture/education/item/15213-data-mining-students-through-common-core
Rachel Alexander, "Common Core Curriculum: A Look Behind the Curtain of Hidden Language," Christian Post, April 18, 2013. Referenced at: http://www.christianpost.com/news/common-core-cirriculum-a-look-behind-the-curtain-of-hidden-language-92070/
Rufino, Diane, “For Love of God and Country,” http://www.beaufortobserver.net/Articles-NEWS-and-COMMENTARY-c-2013-05-13-266807.112112-COMMON-CORE-Common-Core-or-Rotten-to-the-Core-You-Decide.html
Data Mining, on the Glen Beck Show - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7NjqOBEc3HU
Valerie Strauss, " A Tough Critique of Common Core on Early Childhood Education," The Washington Post, January 29, 2013. Referenced at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/01/29/a-tough-critique-of-common-core-on-early-childhood-education/
Reality Check: The Truth About Common Core - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6AdiCGgxj58
Certification and advertising on our website takes one complete school year, because you have to collect student work and respond to it. However, in order for a caring adult to understand how to teach with this method requires the teacher to watch about 2 hours of DVD and to read a 77 page booklet. Once you start the program with the students, you really do not need to spend outside time preparing for the class. Because the students are responsible for researching, the teacher acts more as a tutor and guide, rather than a lecturer.
Do you have literature suggestions or do we just have them read literature from the same time period that we are studying? Lo
Thank you, Lo, for your wonderful question. At present, the Classical Historian does not offer a recommended list of literature to read along with our history courses, and we are reluctant to do so.
There are some misconceptions regarding trying to combine a history program with literature. First, the study of history is analyzing historical evidence in order to understand the past and its meaning, and to impart on students analytical tools. Historians use primary and secondary resources and analytical tools to make sense of the past. Primary sources are those that are created by eyewitnesses of the event. The criteria the historian places on finding and reporting the truth are extremely high, or they should be! The historian's goal is to report what actually happened, and then to convey to the reader the meaning of these events using reasonable judgement.
The writer of literature, however, is not a historian, and his writings are not primary or even secondary sources. In fact, a literary work is not really a view into the actual setting of the story, but it is more a view into the life and time of the author. A good friend of mine explained to me that in literature, there is setting and context. The setting is when and where the story takes place. The context, however, is the time period of the writer and the writer's own personal history and perspective. For example, Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is more about the writings of a gentleman (Twain) who reminisces about his ideal version of a lost America instead of a historical reporting of events in the United States before the Civil War.
The writer is not held to the same accountability as the historian. A writer's job is to convey theme through his craft, and to be interesting to enough people so that he sells books and makes a living. Theme is the message, or meaning of the story. Theme can involve a message of historical importance, but in the end, it is one person's view, that is not even expected to be historically accurate. Another way to look at it, is to recall movies that are based on historical figures, but they are not historically accurate. Movie directors attempt to convey an interesting story, in order to make the most money and to make a point, but, they do not need to be historically accurate.
To teach history from literature alone is a serious error, because we are giving to writers too much credit. Asking children to create a picture of the past based mainly on the context of the writer is full of dangers and open to manipulation. However, we understand it is pleasant to read historical fiction - we love to! :)
For those of you looking for a top literature program, we strongly recommend Center for Lit., Adam and Missy Andrew's company.
I like to study history with my 9 and 11 year old daughters at the same time. Is the Classical Historian curriculum too hard for a 9 year old? Marlene
Thank you Marlene!
The reading, thinking, DVD lessons would not be too much for a 9 year old girl, especially when she is in a class with her older 11 year old sister and led by her loving mom. When it comes time for the 9 year old to express her thoughts in words and writing, I would strongly suggest that the teacher be very patient and gentle.
I run a home school co-op, and some of our parents don't want their children to study history because it is neither tested on the ACT nor the SAT. What do you think? Kristi in MN
Thank you, Kristi! Most people learned history in school by memorizing, regurgitating, and forgetting, so they do not know what it means to learn and use the tools of the historian, to engage in a Socratic discussion in history, and to carry these skills over into their lives. Here are three ideas you could share with your parents...
1. Both tests (ACT and SAT) test the ability to think. History is a wonderful subject to teach thinking skills.
2. The SAT and AP tests have free response essays. The Classical Historian curriculum teaches how to best structure essays.
3. Are your parents pleased with how Americans choose leaders based on emotion and advertising? The Classical Historian teaches kids how to analyze the past using logic and evidence. Students naturally carry this over in how they make decisions regarding current events. Teaching kids how to think and make decisions and then how to express themselves in speech and writing is providing the best in leadership-training.
Teaching with the Take a Stand! series helps me get to know my children and students better and it helps them how to think critically, form historical judgement, and express themselves in speech and in writing.