Technology has fundamentally changed how stories are told and information is conveyed. Today, the most engaging content includes not just writing, but also video, audio, and photos—and it’s just a matter of time before new media add to the mix.
Those developments have made me rethink a rigid emphasis on teaching formal, academic history writing, the kind that embraces dispassionate, object analysis aimed at a more plausible account of cause and effect. Since earning my master’s degree in history from Brandeis University, a top liberal arts school in Waltham, Massachusetts, I haven’t composed a single piece of history writing.
Moreover, I question whether history teachers (myself included) do enough to provide students with relevant skills, easily and obviously transferable to the real world. I don’t have one history publication to my name, but I have published several articles in The Atlantic and Edutopia—and Spin Education has garnered me some recognition.
All of this isn’t to say teaching the historian’s craft can’t help students develop real-world skills. I’m forever grateful for studying under Prof. Antony Polonsky, widely regarded as one the world’s top Polish historians, if not the preeminent authority. Through him, I learned to strive toward reason and clarity, not just with history, but also with anything I pursue. All the same, as much as I admire Polonsky and all that he did for me, I’m unconvinced that teaching the historian’s craft is the best and only way to teach reason and clarity—especially with Web 3.0.