What would you teach if you could teach anything?

Elizabeth Lewis Pardoe, who teaches history and American studies at Northwestern University, posed this question today.  Here is an extract from her answer:

I want students to step into the past with me and embrace its unexpected lessons. I don’t care who begat whom among the high or low born. I like to pass among the ghosts and see the world through their eyes to the extent I can. When that happens as I read a poignant diary entry or detailed newspaper description, the veil of eternity lifts. I want to share that…

So many men, women, and children flit though my mental landscape from Portland to Pune all while I realise that I’ve missed millions more who could shed light on the delights and dilemmas of the human condition. If I could do anything and teach anything, I would visit them all with students in tow. I just need that machine….

I’d be interested to know what others think.  For me, it’d be about making students feel full of sheer intellectual power of history: the potential of their historians’ minds to take statements and positions apart; inspect the evidence; analyse the claims and the associations made; stretch their thinking diachronically and synchronically; expose, challenge and reframe.  And then to consider how that power could be put to use not just in the service of historical knowledge and understanding, but in many other contexts.

One thought on “What would you teach if you could teach anything?

  1. Hi Alix, I’m really enjoying your blog. I agree with Pardoe – it is the sense of the ghosts one passes through that makes history so interesting. Hence why for me archaeology is so important – the heft of a worked flint in your hand brings you directly in contact with the hand that crafted it and held it thousands of years before. The evidence of past lives is everywhere – you just have to open your eyes and look. Then the fun begins in trying to make sense of the past in the here and now, before we too become but ghosts to future generations….

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