As a college librarian, I often hear stressed-out students searching for primary sources say, "I'll take anything." Don't settle for just anything. There is a treasury of primary source material available electronically. Peruse my selection of 200-plus primary source sites by conducting a keyword search, exploring the tag cloud at left, or browsing by historical era. You can also visit my Delicious and Diigo sites to review my bookmarks. Here's hoping you find what you're looking for.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Did 'No Child Left Behind' forsake elementary/secondary history education?

CNN today featured an interesting and troubling article about the state of history education in elementary and secondary schools. That piece raises the question of whether history education is suffering, in part, due to the fact that standardized testing in history is not required under the provisions of “No Child Left Behind". One of the primary goals of that legislation is to ensure that all children are proficient in reading and mathematics by 2014 and some claim that the focus on those subject areas is coming at the expense of others.

History educators quoted in the CNN piece discussed their frustration over teaching what one referred to as “trivia” and their inability to delve deeper into important subjects. I was struck by one particular quote from a Texas high school teacher. “I think they learn information by itself, in isolation," Jeff Frazer said of his students. "But putting the big picture together is not happening."

Primary sources are essential tools for putting together that big picture. Staff at the National Archives describe the value of such materials as learning tools on a page devoted to teachers' resources. “Teaching with primary documents encourages a varied learning environment for teachers and students alike. Lectures, demonstrations, analysis of documents, independent research, and group work become a gateway for research with historical records in ways that sharpen students' skills and enthusiasm for history, social studies, and the humanities,” it reads.

I get some of the greatest satisfaction from my job when I’m able to help a student find that primary source that helps them build that big picture. That’s why I created this blog. Here’s hope you find something that helps you better understand the past and how it might impact your future.

The photo above is a page from The Book of the General Laws of the Inhabitants of the Jurisdiction of New-Plimouth. Housed at the Library of Congress, it is one of the oldest items in the Library's collection of American law.

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