History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.
In our world of technological advances our abilities to communicate and relate are suffering. With the election season in full swing, the intolerance of others’ ideas is filling the air. Learning to see all sides of an issue and knowing you can agree to disagree respectfully is crucial for peaceful understanding.
The human brain is a complex organ thriving on stimulation through creativity and emotion. These two factors are crucial for processing and patterning memory. When emotion is evoked the brain is able to create connections and deep meaning is fostered. Creative thinking and emotion are the two elements that will help foster understanding of events from multiple perspectives.
Memorizing and rote learning is part of the educational process with tasks such as spelling words and multiplication tables but when delving into topics that help to mold and change a person’s perspective or value system creating connections is crucial. History is the subject which helps students experience events sparked by greatness as well as mistakes. The study of history allows students to experience various perspectives, opinions and ideas which help students see through eyes of another person and allow true understanding. In a world of technology and very little interaction, this personal connection is an important piece of learning. Professor and education theorist E.D. Hirsch, Jr. states, “There is a great deal of evidence, indeed a consensus in cognitive psychology, that people who are able to think independently about unfamiliar problems and who are broad-gauged problem solvers, critical thinkers and life long learners are without exception, well informed people.” These types of learners are the ones we want to foster to help ensure a better future for our country and world.
When we move forward in life, looking back on lessons we have learned helps us decide which road to take in different situations. Learning about history and multiple perspectives allows students to see where we have come as a country, mistakes that have been made and provide insight into why things are the way they are. Without looking at mistakes or other perspectives we stay rooted in one way thinking that allows a person to see only black and white and continue “one way thinking.”
Reading facts about a topic is only a small fraction of what is needed to gain understanding of some complex topics. Pairing literature with primary documents and poetry helps us to look at multiple opinions and ideas. Think of the issue of slavery as an example. How could a person understand what the time period was like by simply reading text and answering questions? However, browsing primary documents, photographs, advertisements depicting the selling of slaves, wanted posters for runaway slaves; narratives from slaves, ship captains, slave owners, etc. help students unravel the threads of the story. Listening to interviews and testimonials from slaves and their ancestors regarding treatment, daily life and conditions helps our students to wrap ideas and concepts together to make connections from one person to another.
A new tool that can help students gain insight into multiple perspectives is an APP called Perspecs News App. This App allows you to search for a news article and it will be given to you in three articles. One article provides background on the topic and is presented in a neutral tone. The other two articles are the pro and con perspectives of the topic. You must be careful when choosing the topics because some topics are inappropriate for our elementary students but this is a powerful tool to show more than one side to a story.
Poetry is another powerful tool to help students see more than one side to an issue and be affected by the emotion of the issue. Having two short poems on a topic can help students learn information and see how a person felt during the time.
When looking up the word open minded, words such as comprehensive, divergent thinker, critical thinking, flexible, and perspicacious filled the pages. Perspicacious means being insightful and having a clear understanding of things. Isn’t this a characteristic we want developed in our students and fellow citizens?