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Nonfiction Matters
Inside Nonfiction Matters

I Live History

I Love History

I do not "like" history. I do not "appreciate" the need for history as a tool for teaching civics, or to build up a necessary base of useful knowledge, or to meet state mandated requirements. I do not view history as a curricular necessity. History may be all of those fine things. But for me, history is a passion, it is a love. Reading history informs me, pleases me, but, most of all, it makes sense of the world. History is for me what theology, or psychology, or ethics, or meditation, or poetry might be for someone else: it is how I find meaning. I understand the present by connecting the dots to the past. History is a bridge, it graciously, generously, offers itself as an explanation of any one effect by tracing out its fascinating causes. I want to know, history says: sure, let me tell you.

Precisely because history is a passion for me, I cannot understand how we treat history in schools. There is no love lost on history — it is sliced up into textbooks, flattened out into scopes and sequences, mashed down into ultra-familiar topics; it has no magic, no passion, no love. History is a medicine we feed young people, hoping it will do more for them then it does for us.

If I have one goal in this blog it is speak for that passion, to investigate why it is not more widely shared, and to think — with you — about how to awaken it, in young people, in authors, in books, in teachers. I am writing this blog to invite all lovers of history to a place where as Joe Hill advised us, we can not "mourn but organize." 

Comments

  1. Monica Edinger says:

    As you well know (as we’ve been on the same stage on this topic) may writers of historical fiction for children and many of those advocating it for children do so with the argument that it is necessary to engage kids historically. This argument always gets me crazy as it implies that the real story, told without the embellishments of fiction, will bore the pants off kids.

    But then there is the complications of whether it is more important for kids to memorize a bunch of facts (have you looked at the Core Knowledge stuff
    lately?)versus getting deep into a particular historical situation. Memorizing history vs thinking historically, there’s the rub. And with tests that validate memorization…well it is a problem.

  2. Wendie Old says:

    When I visited a school to talk about the biographies I’ve written, a fourth grade child shocked me by asking, “How can you write this stuff — it’s so boring!”
    I thought for a minute and then replied, “If it were boring, I couldn’t write about it. It has to be something I’m interested in, first. I try to find the interesting parts of history, the parts the person I am writing about would have experienced and show them in my books.”

  3. Kyra Hicks says:

    Marc,

    Thank you for this post! I have come to love history through research. I’m a quilter and have searched for insights into African American quilting – and eventually published a comprehensive reference to 200 years of Black quilting history. Most recently, I’ve been trying to piece together the life of Martha Ann Ricks, a former Tennessee slave, who desired to see Queen Victoria in person for more than 50 years. The love for history and investigating history grew by asking more and more questions…. why would a black person want to meet Queen Victoria? What African Americans had an audience with her? How would a slave girl feel once her freedom was purchased? How does she feel sailing to Liberia to start a new life? I’ve written about Martha Ann in the picture book, “Martha Ann’s Quilt for Queen Victoria” (2007). The feedback I get from kids has been marvelous! The feedback from parents is that the story spurs the children to ask questions about slavery, about Liberia – which is not often taught in schools. Martha Ann’s story also seems to motivate one to really pursue their own dreams. My experience as an author is that history can be inspiring and engaging. I look forward to your continued dialog on the topic!

    Kyra Hicks
    http://www.BlackThreads.blogspot.com