Last week over the holidays we had students’ parents and extended families visiting. Most of my classes swelled by more than twenty guests.
In my presentations I explained that my history teaching is based on the concept of perspective. On the very first day of school I had taught the children the meaning of “the Rashomon Effect,” the idea that one story can be told from multiple points of view, each one a version of the truth. As all my classes move forward through time and historical events, I constantly remind the students, “Whose point of view are we reading? Who is telling this story?”
I do my best to present many opposing perspectives, through skits, read-alouds, and films, and it is interesting to watch the children’s allegiances switch back and forth. (One minute they are rooting for the cavalry, the next for the Sioux.) Though I have a number of concrete goals for my classes, my secret goal is that learning to consider different perspectives will broaden the children’s thinking and increase their tolerance.
The Southern grandfather of one of my eighth graders spoke to me after my presentation. He was pleased and relieved to hear about my curriculum. As a native of Alabama, he had been very concerned when his grandson had told him he was studying the Civil War at his boarding school up north.
“I figured I’d have to straighten out of his thinking when he came home on vacation.” But, he went on, thankfully that would not be necessary.
I smiled. “Yes, I’m a Yankee, but hopefully not a damned Yankee.”
We both laughed.