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Ignorance Is Bliss: Why Unlearning History is So Hard, and So Important

Eva-Maria Swidler


     In my first year or two of teaching world history, I had the experience that I am sure many of you have had. I taught all semester long, only to discover at the end of the season that a significant segment of my students had missed the point of my class entirely. I boggled that students could spend fifteen weeks in my anti-Eurocentric classroom and somehow find confirmation of the very ethnocentric ideas that I thought I had so clearly and effectively problematized. Let me repeat that. At the end of a semester with me, notable numbers of students did not merely disagree with my views on history, or leave unconvinced of my critiques of conventional textbook narratives, but were absolutely sure that they had heard directly from me things absolutely contrary to what I had said to them for months.

     However, after several semesters of similar experiences, it was clear to me that my baffling results were reflecting some important systematic realities, if I could just figure them out. I started to pay close attention when the perplexing scenarios arose. I realized that students were not building new and problematic understandings based on our class together, but rather were specifically hanging on to previous beliefs. In other words, they left my course thinking more or less exactly what they entered thinking, despite the intervening months.

     Being a faculty member of a college based on the so-called progressive education model of learning, of which John Dewey is perhaps the most famous adherent, I should not have been so surprised, I guess. As I of all people should have remembered, our students are not empty vessels waiting to be filled with knowledge. And the problem in my classes was not that insufficient knowledge had been presented by me, nor that students did not know "enough" history before they arrived in my classroom. If either of those situations were the case, students would just have learned less than I hoped, rather than absolutely nothing. The problem seemed instead to be that the students in question had been impervious to what I said, and to what went on in the class. But why?

     Not long thereafter, I read a wonderful piece in a faculty newsletter from the teaching support office of one of my universities. (It is no longer available for reference, thanks to its loss in the transition of teaching support resources from print to website). It argued that, although college faculty not uncommonly complain that new students do not come with "enough" knowledge about a given field, in fact faculty should be far more concerned about what students do "know". In many fields, history often among them, what passes for disciplinary education in many high schools is not inadequate, outdated, or insufficient, but downright problematic. New college students often need to cast off basic assertions and assumptions that were taught to them as universally accepted fact in their secondary years. But, as this perceptive professor pointed out, many students simply do not and cannot imagine that what they have been taught as truth and reality actually is not universally accepted as such.

     Sometimes students do hear what we say that contradicts their earlier education or their common sense views, and aggressively reject our new approach as biased. (Typically, any new view which is different from the one that they hold as common sense will be the one which is perceived as biased, while the familiar view is taken as transparently true.) Or occasionally, students try heroically to find places in their current worldviews that they might tuck in a few new things that we say; sometimes students experiencing deep cognitive dissonance when their previous learning proves to be incompatible with the academic views they begin to encounter at college employ various psychological and intellectual techniques to try to digest and understand the new ideas in terms of their pre-existing concepts—i.e. they try to fit novel ideas into the old structures and terms that already make sense to them, even if the new ideas actually contradict the pre-existing ones.

     But in my experience, those students who cannot accept it when their paradigms and worldviews are being deeply challenged by college classes resort most often not to explicit rejection of new views, nor to incorporation of new knowledge into old paradigms in athletic and contorted ways, but to active misperception: they hear selectively, they hear distortedly, and they hear things that just plain weren't said, because they just couldn't believe their own ears.

     Here's a more understated take on these students' drastic efforts to preserve their pre-existing understanding . "(M)eaningful learning involves assimilation of new information into the learner's existing knowledge structures…meaningful learning occurs when the learner deliberately seeks to relate and incorporate new information into relevant knowledge structures she/he possesses….[but]If learners attempt to link new information to the faulty ideas they possess, the result can be more elaboration of these misconceptions…"1 (emphasis added). That is, in their attempts to learn by harmonizing and attaching new views with old ones, often students will hear our challenges to their understandings instead as confirmations of their views.

     The pedagogical ideas I've talked about here, that is cognitive dissonance and the methods people use to mitigate it, and constructivism as a theory of how people create world views and meanings, are commonplace ideas in psychology and education. Science educators in particular have already spent a good deal of time and effort in figuring out ways to short circuit students' commonly held unscientific explanations and to make good use of cognitive dissonance; they have also found ways to help students actively build new, scientifically sound, understandings to replace the uprooted old ones.

     For instance, The Private Universe Project, studying the efficacy of science education at Harvard, concluded that many students will graduate from the "best" colleges with the same scientific misconceptions that they had when they entered grade school, even after extensive Ivy League science coursework. These science education researchers observed how deeply rooted misunderstandings built in childhood are, and how strongly they resist change, even when under concerted attack by presumably authoritative figures such as Harvard physics professors. Students will even disbelieve their own real world lab experiences, if they don't fit with the beliefs that they are committed to. An entire pedagogical website has been built off of this work, including videos, lesson plans, and theoretical articles.2 Historians could make relatively easy use of a lot of this pedagogical research.

     Two useful observations for us in other academic domains emerge from these discussions in the science world. First, the science educators learned quickly that it is not enough to just present material that contradicts unscientific ideas. Students will often merely add this contradictory new information right on top of a rotten foundation, rather than acknowledging the incompatibility of ideas, and then revert to the foundational old ideas as soon as they are out of the classroom. (The Private Universe project's website has painful footage of graduating Harvard physics students on their commencement day, giving erroneous explanations about basic planetary movements.) The researchers' take-away? In order for a teacher to successfully replace unscientific ideas, it is essential to first elicit from students what their pre-existing ideas are. Only when forced to confront what their 'private universe' is, will students see the fundamental contradictions between the old views to which they have remained loyal and the new views being offered, thus opening the possibility, at least, of meaningfully accepting new views.

     Secondly, scientists observe that when scientific explanations are not offered to children when they are young and curious, usually because teachers think that the children are not able to understand abstract concepts, children naturally construct their own explanations for phenomena, which then become almost impossible to displace. Accordingly, science educators urge teachers to introduce scientific concepts much earlier than is conventional in our school system, arguing that children are far more capable of reasoning than we give them credit for; that capacity for reason and explanation is exactly why children feel such a need to develop their own theories, absent a scientific one. This recommendation is a confirmation of what James Loewen, for instance, found in teaching history in an elementary school. In a lesson he gave to grade school students on public history markers dealing with race in the U.S. South, the children quickly came to their own contextual readings of sources, and proposed the importance of who wrote those markers and when. His conclusion is that fifth graders can easily "do" effective historiography.3

     Indeed, as I ask my students each semester, "How often have you heard a youngster on a playground say, 'You're just saying that because you want me to….' Apply this kind of playground critical thinking to a primary source, and voila, even young children can flourish in the field of historiography."

     If our only challenges lay in how to productively confront cognitive dissonance and in how to harness or guide the process of the construction of historical knowledge, we world historians would be busy, but clear in our educative path.

     But we in history have further challenges. Firstly, unlike science professors, we are not necessarily dealing with an unsuccessful high school attempt to instill a body of knowledge that we endorse. Instead, as James Loewen writes on the first page of the introduction to his best selling book Lies My Teacher Told Me, "College teachers in most disciplines are happy when their students have had significant exposure to the subject before college. Not teachers in history…A colleague of mine calls his survey of American history "Iconoclasm I and II," because he sees his job as disabusing his charges of what they learned in high school. In no other field does this happen…Indeed, history is the only field in which the more courses students take, the stupider they become."4

     A milder but fundamentally no less devastating assessment is made by Sam Wineburg in an essay in his book Historical Thinking and Other Unnatural Acts: Charting the Future of Teaching the Past. According to Wineburg, some combination of a heavy reliance on textbooks, standardized testing, and teacher preparation programs which produce high school history teachers who were never history majors, has led to a downright ahistorical approach to history in secondary education in many schools across the country. Often students graduate not with a straightforward lack of historical knowledge, nor even a chauvinistic idea of how history has unfolded, thanks to the politics of textbook selection, school boards, and dictated or "canned" curricula. What too many students come out of 12th grade with instead is a firmly entrenched misunderstanding, created by their education, of what the field of history even is, and of what historians do. 5

     So, unlike the causes and affirmations of unscientific ideas among students, whatever problematic ideas students come to our college classes with are not only rooted in larger social issues (which we'll discuss later), but have often also been actively validated in myriad ways by their previous formal educational experiences. That myriad of ways includes of course what history teachers and textbooks say and do, but also what they don't say or do, and how they say it or ignore it. That is to say, all the components of the covert or hidden curriculum have frequently been hard at work confirming exactly what we in college then hope to dislodge.

     One of the most fundamental misunderstandings students arrive with is the idea that historians are questing after, and do eventually attain, a fixed, single, objective story line. Any so-called debates among historians, most students believe, are merely trying to settle the questions and collectively move on, or pin down points of fact not yet fully researched; debates are not, for students, larger questions of theory, paradigm, argument, or relevance. How do we help students to unlearn this basic idea of what history is? For surely that must happen before anything else.

     Sam Wineburg, in the essay mentioned above, has claimed that students can only deeply grasp how much history is and must be an individual act of construction if they engage in history writing themselves. At least in the circumstances in which I typically work, having introductory level world history students do primary research is realistically out of the question. A practical issue then is how we can ask students to construct historical knowledge; what raw materials can they use? In my very first class each semester we do an exercise to tap that experience of construction, without relying on research. I ask students to write two biographies of themselves, both totally accurate, but each as different as possible from the other. Then we discuss all the decisions that they had to make in that process: the choices of voice and register, the inclusion and exclusion of facts, and maybe most important of all, the implicit questions being answered by the different autobiographies. My hope is that this exercise highlights the role of the historical narrator in making what I call for them "editorial decisions". The goal is to open room for seeing historical debate as something more than a battle between the simple truth and falsehood of the facts being deployed, and to complicate ideas of objectivity.

In fact, my courses do not "teach the debate", as the now commonplace phrase goes, taking pains to find two views on every topic we discuss. That pedagogical strategy in my experience allows students to, incredibly, avoid the idea of a fundamental debate by posing the dust-up in their minds as the struggle between the ever-present categories of the "right aka objective view" versus the "wrong aka biased view", rather than getting them to think deeply about paradigms, objectivity, or the role of the researcher in creating knowledge. In other words, the strategy of "teaching the debate" is too often once again deformed by students into a validation of their worldview. If we teach the debate without challenging students' concept of what historical debate is, they may pit their understanding of any given era or event or topic against another understanding that they see as the fallacious one, and unsurprisingly find their views vindicated. Or they may transform the idea of debate and argumentation in history into the popular concepts of opinion and fact, seen as divergent and complementary realms. In this intellectual strategy, students see history in the terms that old journalists made use of, distinguishing between "news stories" on the one hand and the editorial and opinion pages on the other. Debate among historians, for these students then, becomes not about "the facts", which they believe are of course are a single body which all historians would agree upon; debate is reduced to nothing more than a discussion in the realm of opinions.

     So instead of "teaching the debate", I teach the fact of debate, the idea that what historians do is to write arguments, defend views, and engage in theory and logic. The concept of historical debate IS the syllabus and the theme of my class; this theme is reinforced by an almost daily review of our location in the syllabus and the logic of the syllabus construction—a reminder of why we are talking about what we are talking about. Without fourteen weeks of repeatedly foregrounding the idea that historians by trade explain and interpret and argue, students are in danger of leaving our courses with perhaps slightly altered fixed narratives, and no long-lasting idea of what the discipline of history is. To unlearn the idea that history is a timeline and an enterprise of scientific objectivity takes longer than a semester of focused effort, but I can make a good beginning, by making the nature of debate the theme of my class.

     I want students to learn that historians debate because I want them, the students, to also think critically about their own historical ideas. But if we apply the lessons learned from the science education people, we see that before our students can examine any of their own ideas in the light of other, competing, historical ideas, they must first unlearn what they assume to be absolutely true about history. And, to do this, they must first excavate what their common sense tells them, whether it is the common sense of what it means to be Western, or of America's role in the world, or of technology's importance, or many other cultural assumptions. In other words, to go back to the words of the science education researchers, students have to acknowledge and express their private universe before they can reflect on it.

     Ideas about society and history are fundamental to human socialization from the time of infancy, extremely deeply rooted and connected to a dense web of concepts about the world: gender, class, race, human nature. Our intellectual excavation in the humanities must go far deeper than one that aims at asking students to, for example, re-think why we have the seasons. Our conceptions about ourselves and our culture, as well as about others, are built into everything from children's games and jigsaw puzzles and cartoons to magazine ads and billboards and comedy routines. What we don't know about ourselves and other people, what we are ignorant of, is also built into the world around us.

     Agnotology, the philosophical study of ignorance, points out that ignorance is culturally produced, considers the uses of ignorance, and proposes how and why certain knowledges do not or did not come to be. Rather than a sociology of knowledge, agnotology is a sociology of ignorance. In our case, we world historians might apply agnotology to say that our students' ignorance of certain histories is produced and reinforced actively by a wide-spread cultural understanding that says that some people don't and can't have a history—American Indians, Africans, tribes, "natives", people without writing. To have a hope of teaching world history, we must teach about all those invisible histories, and to teach those students anything about those invisible histories, we must first get students to realize and acknowledge that they most likely actually think that those invisible people can't have a history, in my experience a widespread, basic paradigmatic assumption of American students.

     This is no easy task! People have some unease at voicing what they think on sweeping issues of world significance, not only for fear of looking ignorant but also for fear that they may be seen as racist or otherwise unacceptable, even though they are quite possibly expressing what many if not most people in the room think. (Mild humor can be a way past this obstacle; I have had good luck, for instance, with having my students read the article "So Many Africas, So Little Time", by Jonathan Reynolds, laying out the stereotypes of Africa, from Africa as a giant safari, to Africa as a benevolent village raising children, to Africa as a corrupt disaster zone.)6 But the largest obstacle of all is that my students are largely convinced that they themselves don't know any history, and that therefore they themselves have no paradigm.

     Of course, they do have one, just like they have an accent, though they had to discover that fact at some point as a child. So every week, I prove to them that they have absorbed a historical worldview from the society around them by asking them questions that they think must be trick questions, because the answer seems so obvious. I ask: Is it better now for women than it was in the past? Have people always categorized strange people by using racial categories? Is globalization modern? Was homophobia common in the past? Then I position their newly articulated "common sense" view against the readings that we will do, which are specifically chosen to contradict the very views that they have just stated as self-evident to anyone. Their private universe exposed, we can begin to discuss it.

     Analogy has proven to be another particularly powerful ally in deconstructing profound and invisible explanatory structures, when students' foreheads crease with confusion. Many cognitive psychologists claim that we are more analogical than logical thinkers; importing entire structures of understanding and explanation is often far more effective than painstakingly building new ones piece by piece. My experience has endorsed this view. For years I tried strategy after strategy to clarify the proposition of historical accident—for instance, James Blaut's proposal of the significance of geographical location rather than natural or cultural superiority in creating Europe's current global power. Only when I serendipitously hit upon the metaphor of parking did students facial expressions clear up. Did getting a choice parking spot outside a club mean that the driver was a more fit practitioner of the art of driving, or did getting that spot depend on whether they happened to drive by the desired location at the exact time it happened to be vacated? Did it depend on expertise, or on the luck of whether the driver got stuck behind a garbage truck? Similarly, my presentations of historians' dissatisfaction with universal stages of development and teleological history largely went nowhere, until I compared teleological history to a model of a railroad with a track on which societies could move only forward or backwards versus a hiker breaking path in any direction. Universal sighs of relief went around the room as students grasped chance, possibilism, and alternative modernities—key concepts of history.

     We have a particular challenge, and I would argue responsibility, in promoting critical thinking in the field of history as compared to other humanities and social sciences. History is especially explicitly linked to legitimizing our cultural ideology of domination and superiority. There is a great push to, as Panayota Gounari writes, tell "history from a hegemonic point of view, thereby securing a world order to be legitimized through the construction of a discourse of common sense."7 Common sense is used here in a Gramscian sense, to mean the assimilation of a culturally specific, dominant ideology to the degree that the ideology seems natural, and becomes invisible as belief or interpretation. Under a regime of common sense, a particular view of particular people becomes taken instead as self-evident reality.

     Because of history's particular importance in justifying the way the world is, visions of history are embedded and proposed by politicians, businessmen, journalists, artists, and every other variety of cultural producer in speeches, news reports, paintings, dances, advertisements and movies. What we as historians in the classroom face, then, is not merely a historical narrative that is the end product of earlier history teachers and school systems, but the strength and invisibility of a worldview implicated and reinforced by constant daily encounters in every aspect of society. We historians face off against an interpretation of history that is invisible to members of our culture like water is to a fish. This is the private universe that must be articulated in our classes. Although the challenge of this situation is immense, it is also therefore pivotal, a key to opening up a space for self-reflection and a consciousness for students of themselves as culturally created and situated beings.

     This intimacy of history with the publicly trafficked just-so stories—stories that assert how the world came to be the way it is—can make the cultivation of unlearning common sense history feel like an assault on a fortress. To create the first crack in the defenses, which may take the entire semester for some students, I have come to agree with my friend who teaches the history of race in America. He recently said to me, "The very first thing I learned when I started teaching this stuff was that I had to lose the nuance." Employing nuance, so beloved of historians, with students who have not yet absorbed that there are debates and paradigms in history merely allows those students to more easily decide that what they are hearing from you can't possibly be what you are saying, and that you must be really confirming what they already know. It takes uncomfortably stark, bald, even aggressive, statements to alert students to the idea that you actually want them to consider questioning or changing what they already "know".

     But the close identity of history with wider cultural ideologies provides some opportunities for us, as well. In the field of pedagogy, it is well known that the sociological, emotional, and psychological loyalties of students determine the fate of learning in the classroom. In virtually all college settings, barring perhaps the most elite, there will be at least a few students who have chosen to say to their earlier teachers, in the worlds of a book title by educator Herbert Kohl, "I won't learn from you." There will be students whose own personal and social realities put them at a distance from the dominant narrative and who, therefore, exercise superior historical and critical thinking. The textbook story of the past is not theirs; as it has been taught to them, it is so unacceptable that they have refused to suspend disbelief and embrace it. These students persist in a deep skepticism of the positivist and boosterish curricula they encounter, despite the bad grades and other punishments that come their way as a result. They are the hidden allies of our historical deconstruction, planted across the room and often unknown to us until they pop up at a key moment, and they provide us with the entre to the students that we need.

     Many studies have also shown that many students learn best, or sometimes only, from the example of other students in the classroom. Some students lead the mental way for others, serving as intermediaries or bridges for those who can imagine themselves engaging and practicing new and difficult skills only by seeing others in their cohort do so. But simultaneously, getting the skeptical students who have previously been squelched to volunteer their heterodox positions and lead the way for the rest is hard. If I can get that to happen, I have won a major victory in setting up a classroom where students will begin to wonder whether their particular understanding, their common sense, is really the only one, after all.

     To create this dynamic, actually diverse classrooms are essential—diverse in social class, diverse in race, diverse in gender, diverse in national origin—because it is most often someone from among the night students, the students of color, the immigrants, the women, who most quickly grasps the idea of competing narratives and paradigms. Those students' own experiences as outsiders to the dominant narrative set the stage for an almost instinctive understanding of alternate interpretations and realities. Encouraging those students to speak up, while simultaneously encouraging participation from conventionally minded students who find it very hard to imagine another way of seeing things, is quite a trick. But it can be done.

     To breach the intellectual defenses of students' private historical universes, the atmosphere of the classroom is pivotal. If, to unlearn common sense, it is essential to first extract a statement from students of their private historical universes, then students must feel safe; otherwise, they will not offer up their real thoughts and beliefs. Students of every ilk must feel themselves to be treated with equal respect and time, and they must each anticipate a gently supportive response from me as the teacher. So, I offer no special enthusiasm for anyone. Students quickly read what they think the teacher wants to hear and shut down any alternative expression they might have made, if they sense a preference from me. I find something provocative, valid, and useful in every single student statement, no matter how deep I have to reach to get to it. I use the phrases "that's an interesting idea" and "I hadn't thought of that" repeatedly, and I leave questions hanging unresolved at the end of discussions. Students hate that, and that tells me how important it is. It is only the absence of an impending right answer that can spur students to reflect and discuss, and as long as students feel that the classroom is a place where their competency will be judged, rather than a place for collective reflection, they will perform expected tricks for us, rather than think openly.

     What we then do in my hopefully welcoming and open classroom is to practice history as a skill rather than a content base, and to think almost endlessly about the connections and implications of unlearning. When we ask students to unlearn the idea of history as a string of facts, and to unlearn Western exceptionalism, and to unlearn race and gender as self-evident categories, we are asking them to consider undoing an entire mental framework that they have used to understand the world. When students tug on one piece of their history, if they do it properly, their whole intellectual edifice shakes. Without rehearsing and elaborating and integrating their unlearning, as well as incorporating new alternative ideas, the momentum of their ongoing complete and intricate worldview inevitably pulls them back to the default views and intellectual structures they and you worked so hard to question.

     The construction of new knowledge that I ask students to do, then, involves practice and repetition rather than mere comprehension, and uses these skills of deconstruction as a new way to approach the implicit historical narratives all around them in public culture. I show movies and ask students to analyze them for their presentation of history. I send students to museums and ask them to write papers deducing the worldview of the curators. I assign students to find several books on a single topic which each display a different paradigm and approach to that topic. And we spend hours in class talking about wherever the conversation takes us, sometimes superficially quite far from the reading at hand—perhaps to a current news event, and perhaps to a music video. Might the students be delighting in taking me afield during class time? Yes they might, but I rarely find it difficult to make connections between our discussions to the grand themes of the class, and I count these discussions as among the most valuable we have. If students cannot go out after our class and see cultural artifacts, from media coverage of foreign policy to popular culture, as part of the way in which their historical worldview is generated, my class has accomplished nothing.

     Once the can of historiographical worms has been effectively opened for students, there are several other consequences to be addressed. Part and parcel of discovering and distinguishing the paradigms implied in assorted accounts is imagining who produces those various accounts, and why they do so. Only with this step can we end up at our desired final destination: starting to imagine what kinds of standards and judgments we can apply to historical debates. Without these explanatory and evaluative steps, we end up in meaningless historical relativism.

     After students grasp that we are truly offering the possibility of multiple interpretations, each built out of a series of often uncontroversially true facts into very different overarching pictures, the natural next step for many is to try out the idea that all accounts are equally valid. The terror in my heart is that this is where students will remain upon leaving my class. As I repeat to them every week or two, if historians thought that all accounts were equal, why would we bother studying and researching and writing about history? We'd just enter the field of creative writing.

     When we move past describing the fact of the existence of multiple interpretations to the active application of the essential historiographical questions of who writes what kinds of accounts, when, and why, and whether or how we accept those writings, we are brought to the heart of controversy—controversy both academic and political. My students, anyway, when they really get what we are analyzing, begin immediately talking about contemporary issues of war and intervention, poverty and race, gender and labor. In fact, James Loewen has also argued pretty convincingly that unless history is taught in a way that brings it into direct connection with our contemporary world, a way that tries at least to explain the reality around the classroom, it will be ignored by students everywhere.

     Here we trip over the nub of a problem of our own. On the secondary level, and increasingly in higher education as well, teachers face an array of real practical obstacles to teaching historiography: a lack of time, the need for classroom control, pressure from parents to teach the "basics," demands by administrators for more "coverage," and imperatives to prep children for standardized tests. In college classes, the deterrents to teaching debate are more subtle yet perhaps stronger. Students are predictably attached to their accounts, loyal to their understandings, and defensive of their identities, all of which are challenged by critical examinations. Although I would like to think otherwise, I feel pretty certain in my own mind that the growing weakness of academic freedom, under corporate style university reorganizations and with 75% of college faculty living in a permanently untenured state, significantly deters real, meaningful, and thorough-going examination of historical unlearning and debate. Perplexed as well as irate students are inevitable results of deep discussions on the nature of historical truth and interpretation. Whether we can personally as well as institutionally risk these necessary aspects of intellectual growth will dictate the relevance of our discipline of history for the public.

     Starting with the techniques of active unlearning and building upwards, I'd like to leave students with well-considered ideas about the evaluation of historical claims and increasingly sophisticated perspectives on intellectual validity and judgment. However, those perspectives take historians years and perhaps decades to cultivate. I am content if the forty hours that I spend with a student in an introductory world history course uproot some previously unexamined ideas and plant some new ones about the nature of truth and the moral responsibilities of knowledge. The harvest, if there is one, will be many seasons later. Techniques of unlearning can give us some of the skills we need; we will also need courage to sow those seeds.

Eva-Maria Swidler is currently on the faculty of the interdisciplinary B.A. program at Goddard College, and teaches part-time at the Curtis Institute of Music. Most recent publications include an article in the Fall 2013 issue of the AAUP's Journal of Academic Freedom and a chapter on environmental history in the book Greening the Academy, which just won an award from the American Educational Studies Association.


1 Joseph D. Novak, "The Promise of New Ideas and New Technology for Improving Teaching and Learning" Cell Biol Education, 2003 Summer; 2: 122–132. Doi

2 The website is a section of a larger site called Annenberg Learner. This section is entitled Private Universe Project in Science and includes almost fourteen hours of videos, as well as other resources. It is available at

3 James Loewen, Teaching What Really Happened: How to Avoid the Tyranny of Textbooks and Get Students Excited About Doing History (New York: Teachers College Press, 2010), p. 71.

4 James Loewen, Lies My Teacher Told Me (New York: Touchstone, 1996), p. 1.

5 Sam Wineburg, "On the Reading of Historical Texts: Notes on the Breach Between School and Academy" in Historical Thinking and Other Unnatural Acts: Charting the Future of Teaching the Past, pp. 63-88 (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2001).

6 "Jonathan Reynolds, "So Many Africas: So Little Time: Doing Justice to Africa in the World History Survey", World History Connected 2:1 ,

7 Panayota Gounari,, "Unlearning the Official History: Agency and Pedagogies of Possibility," in Lilia Bartolomé ed. Ideologies in Education: Unmasking the Trap of Teacher Neutrality (New York: Peter Lang Publishing, 2008), p. 98.

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