Historical thinking and other unnatural acts
Please follow these instructions. It is two assignments. I am ordering two pages. Please do one page for each assignment.
Historical Thinking and Other Unnatural Actsby Sam Wineburg (pp. 3-24) from his book Historical Thinking. Genre: Academic Scholarship written for historians, history teachers, and interested general readers. Please post your 400-word response in the Historical Thinking and Other Unnatural Actsthread. Please also post a 400-word follow-up for this reading as well.
Important note: The two essays we are reading by Sam Wineburg (one for today and one for our next assignment) are written for a professional audience and educated general readers.
The genre here is the scholarly essay. Note the dense web of allusions and references to the work of other researchers and scholars. Thats a key component in scholarly writing like this, where a writer is expected to situate her ideas within an ongoing scholarly conversation. This is why footnotes and citations become important. I hope you will see the value in this kind of writing, which seeks to enter an ongoing conversation and contribute to it.
You will also probably struggle with these readings, as you are not the writers intended audience. Nonetheless, this is an important type of reading to be exposed to, and you need to develop strategies for engaging it now that you are in college. Not everything that you read in college will be this challenging, but some things will be, and you need to acknowledge and appreciate that difference–and adjust your reading strategies accordingly. There is great wisdom and insight contained in this essay, but you will probably need to focus and re-read in order to get at it.
These are definitely college-level readings, so you may find them a little more challenging than other readings you may have encountered in your academic career (they engage abstract ideas and they are probably a little more dense in terms of content and complexity of argument than you may be used to). So as readers, you will probably need to go slowly, reread, make marginal notes, etc. A strong college-level reader, writer, and thinker, should be able to do something interesting with this reading! I look forward to seeing how you meet this important challenge. Be patient and read with as much care, sympathy, and skill as you can! Do your best not to give up, read hastily, or abandon hope. You may have to use a different strategy than you normally do for this reading, and were going to look at that as a good thing, as an opportunity to grown and learn and to add an important skill to your repertoire of college-level reading skills.
In terms of the semester, we will be reading a wide variety of texts in a variety of genres, each written for a different discourse community. Some will be very easy to read and immediately engaging, others that are equally important but that require a bit more effort from readers. Although they are important in different ways, there isnt a single text on our reading list that is not amazing. Its important as a college-level writer that you be able to handle the full range of genres that you will encounter in college and not be defeated. I have attempted to provide you with a sense of that range with the readings I have assembled for this class. 🙂
Some Questions to Keep In Mind
As We Begin our Exploration of History as Knowledge Domain!
1. How do historians look at the world? How is this different than the way, say, that scientists or mathematicians or artists or psychologists look at the world? Do our answers depend on which historian we ask?
2. What are historians most interested in? (This might depend on which historian you ask as well, of course! What if we asked Wineburg?) What should historians be interested in?
3. What is valued in this discipline? What should be valued in this discipline? What counts as knowledge and truth in this discipline?
4. A very pragmatic question: Should students be required to study history? And if they are, how should they be taught history?
5. What might the study of history be good for? And what about the claim that this knowledge domain gives us something that no other discipline or knowledge area can? Is this true? Or does it depend on how we define history and how we teach it?
September 25 before 6 p.m. Eastern Time: Please reread Historical Thinking and Other Unnatural Actsand write a response about what you learned about reading and rereading from this experience. Please also post a 400-word follow-up for this reading as well.
Once youve reread Historical Thinking and Other Unnatural Acts,Id like you to write a journal response about that experience!
English teachers always say rereading something is very important. Do you agree? Did you gain anything from rereading this essay? Did anything change? Did anything deepen? Did you see anything you missed the first time? What do you think now about rereading now that youve done it?
If you can address these questions, youll be in great shape! Ill be interested to see if anything happened.
Important note: I have included this rereading assignment this week because I think it will really help us write better, more thoughtful essays on history (because we will have more to think about!). This assignment is also here because strong college-level readers, writers, and thinkers routinely reread. It is a vitally important part of what makes someone a successful writer.
I reread all the time as a writer and a scholar, and it has become essential and indispensable to the way I work. If you want to become a strong college-level writer, you need to make it essential to the way you work as well!