Foreign Policy Research Institute A Nation Must Think Before it Acts Teaching History: Why and How

Teaching History: Why and How

Date : Sat., May 03, 1997 to Sun., May 04, 1997 Category : Butcher History Institute

“History may be servitude,

   history may be freedom.”

As these words of the poet T.S. Eliot remind us, history is not just something “out there.”  We know the past only through interpretations.  But not all interpretations are equal.  Over centuries, historical scholarship has evolved rules of evidence, judgment, and plausibility that allow scholars, teachers, and students to decide what questions about the past are important, why they are important, and how they can be answered.  These rules make history a unique pursuit — neither pure science nor pure art, but something that partakes of both.

We teach history for many reasons, but one of the most important is to help students become informed, competent, self-reliant citizens able to survive and prosper in the complex multicultural world of the future.  This cannot be achieved by turning history into a morality tale or by finding villains and victims.  The main lesson of history is that the big issues are never simple and that political action is often a choice among evils.  History as the study of human passions and achievements is often sobering, sometimes inspiring, but always liberating.

FPRI is proud to announce a History Institute on “Teaching History,” to explore why and how we teach history, and what the purpose of history teaching is in a democracy.  A program specially designed for secondary-school teachers and curriculum supervisors, the History Institute will provide an intensive weekend of seminars conducted by leading scholars and workshops that provide an opportunity to brainstorm about new teaching strategies.


Topics and Speakers

Are There Lessons of History?

05/03/1997 - 1:00 PM to 2:15 PM
Gordon S. Wood

Brown University

The Moral Value of History

05/03/1997 - 2:30 PM to 4:00 PM
Robert George

Princeton University

The History of History

05/03/1997 - 4:00 PM to 6:00 PM

The Intellectual and Civic Value of History

05/03/1997 - 7:30 PM to 8:30 PM

Panel Discussion: History, Democracy, and Citizenship

05/03/1997 - 8:30 AM to 10:15 AM
Harvey Sicherman


Walter A. McDougall

University of Pennsylvania

Paul Dickler

Neshaminy High School

David Gress


Related Article(s):

The Three Reasons We Teach History

Workshop: Strategies and Dilemmas of Teaching History

05/03/1997 - 10:30 AM to 12:00 PM
Marcia Goldberg

Senior Fellow - Wachman Center for Civic and International Literacy

Related Article(s):

How to Learn Lessons from History— And How Not To

Special Presentation: History on the Internet

05/03/1997 - 1:00 PM



Gregg Conference Center

270 S. Bryn Mawr Ave.
PA Bryn Mawr 19010

Registration links

Register Deadline

What Participants Receive:

Social studies and history teachers and curriculum supervisors are invited to apply for participation in the History Institute.  Thirty participants will be selected to receive:

*     free room and board

*     assistance in designing curriculum and special projects based on the  History Institute

*     stipends of $200 in exchange for curriculum units based on the History Institute, plus a representative selection of student work

*     supplementary resource materials