Why Is History So Boring?
By Efrat Shapir
Obviously, history is not boring. Even Canadian history. So why is it that students find this subject in particular so boring? Do you remember anything from your history classes?
It’s difficult to make history classes relevant if you focus solely on dates, events or the actions of long-dead, white politicians. If I even try teaching the battles of the First World War, for example, I can expect eyes to roll deep into students’ sockets. The classic teacher’s argument, however, is that the battles of the Great War are key to understanding the impact of this conflict as an important building block to Canadian nationhood. So students must learn about them, right?
Well, not really.
What makes history come alive is the way the past is relevant to our present life and how our future will be shaped. The study of history changes just as much as our news feed.
If trench warfare is worth learning about, it’s because it’s relevant.
I was thinking of challenging my students this year to compare how we remember the soldiers of World War I with our present national effort to commemorate the atrocities of the residential school system. There are many similarities between the two, with the major difference being that many Canadian soldiers volunteered to fight, whereas residential schools were forced upon Indigenous communities. To continue this comparison, students need to study the past.
To learn how and why Remembrance
Day became “a thing” will help today’s students to understand why “The National Day of Truth and Reconciliation” matters.
I’m not kidding myself. The past is a hard sell for many students. It is often difficult to grapple with these connections. Nonetheless, the goal of history class is to find the past that is relevant. The teacher’s task is to figure out what in the present matters to students, so that they can make an interesting connections with the past. At Avro, we care about students’ interests and we use the past that is relevant to them.
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