The Brighter Side of Education

Timeless Echoes: Embracing the Power of History with Historian Dr. Christopher Berg

August 24, 2023 Dr. Lisa R. Hassler Season 1 Episode 23
The Brighter Side of Education
Timeless Echoes: Embracing the Power of History with Historian Dr. Christopher Berg
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Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

In this episode, I focus on history in education. Why study history?

Joining me to discuss these intriguing facets of the study of history is historian of education, Dr. Christopher Berg. He is a history professor specializing in pre-modern World history with research and writing focused on creating a "usable" past that meets the needs of an educated public in the 21st century. He has authored/edited three books: Small Island, Big History: A Modern Panoramic History of Great Britain & Her Empire, Unveiling the Thread of Time: 27 Texts in Greek and World History, and The Palgrave Handbook of History and Social Studies Education.  

Once highly regarded in education, the significance of history has gradually faded from the curriculum's forefront into a subject that has increasingly become marginalized within the public school system. However, this trend has not gone unnoticed, as debates surrounding the study of history have emerged with roots tracing back to the 1930s.

In recent years, there has been increased scrutiny surrounding history textbooks, leading some critics to call for their removal from the curriculum with titles such as "Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong" and "Teaching What Really Happened: How to Avoid the Tyranny of Textbooks and Get Students Excited about Doing History Again.” Nonetheless, simply eliminating textbooks, as often proposed, clashes with the reality experienced in most classrooms. Scholars assert that traditional teaching methods and educational resources like textbooks have the potential to harm students in their current form. However, they also emphasize that these resources can still fulfill a vital role if they adapt to meet the needs of 21st-century students.

The call to action is to appreciate the value of history education and illuminate the path for future generations. It is more than a sidebar subject on the education menu, but rather the backbone of our humanity. 

To contact Dr. Christopher Berg or learn more about his publications in history, you can find him on LinkedIn and

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Timeless Echoes: Embracing the Power of History with Historian Dr. Christopher Berg

Lisa Hassler

Welcome to The Brighter Side of Education. I am your host, Dr. Lisa Hassler, here to enlighten and brighten the classrooms in America through focused conversation on important topics in education.

In each episode, I discuss problems we as teachers and parents are facing and what people are doing in their communities to fix it. What are the variables, and how can we duplicate it to maximize student outcomes? In this episode, I focus on history in education. Why study history? Once highly regarded in education, the significance of history has gradually faded from the curriculum's forefront into a subject that has increasingly become marginalized within the public school system.

However, this trend has not gone unnoticed, as debates surrounding the study of history have emerged with roots tracing back to the 1930s. In recent years, there's been an increased scrutiny surrounding history textbooks, leading some critics to call for the removal from the curriculum with titles such as Lies My Teacher Told Me Everything, Your American History Textbook Got Wrong and Teaching What Really Happened how to Avoid the Tyranny of Textbooks and Get Students Excited About Doing History Again. Nonetheless, simply eliminating textbooks as often proposed clashes with the reality experienced in most classrooms. Scholars assert that traditional teaching methods and educational resources like textbooks have the potential to harm students in their current form.

However, they also emphasize that these resources can still fulfill a vital role if they adapt to meet the needs of the 21st century students. Meanwhile, organizations like the American Historical Association, AHA have actively campaigned to emphasize the importance and value of history as both a subject in school and a practical tool for navigating life. As debate has acquired significant political dimensions, understanding the purpose of history as an academic subject and as a means to live a fulfilling life has become increasingly crucial. Joining me today to discuss these intriguing facets of the study of history is historian of education Dr. Christopher Berg. He is a history professor specializing in premodern world history, with research and writing focused on creating a usable past that meets the needs of the educated public in the 21st century. He has authored, edited three books small Island, Big History a Modern Panoramic History of Great Britain and Our Empire unveiling the Threat of Time, 27 Texts in Greek and World History and The Pal Grave Handbook of History and Social Studies Education. Welcome to the show, Chris.

Christopher Berg

Thank you for the kind introduction, Lisa.

Lisa Hassler

So how did you become interested in history?

Christopher Berg

I guess it started by having a good history teacher. And I often think about, how did I come to where I am today? And it's been a very secured history, to say the least, because it's not something that I originally imagined that I would do. It's something I don't want to say I kind of fell into, but in many ways I did, because it really wasn't the ultimate goal, even though a history degree, as I came to earn one and moved beyond. It seemed like it could be a possibility. But I had an incredible teacher in high school, and that individual made all the difference.

And Mr. Carter, this is a definite shout out to you, one of the amazing teachers who I had and just made that difference. It was the first time that a teacher really showed an interest in me, even though it may have been because I was a truant student, not because I was an exceptional student. And that interest early on, coupled with maybe an ability to be able to retain and memorize to a certain extent, dates and names and things like that, and ultimately it was the first class that I earned an A in and it kind of charted in many ways how I came to see education.

And I just didn't go to school just for the extracurricular or because of the sports and things like that, but started to see that there was something maybe more of a possibility if I continued to actually apply myself, because up until that point, I really didn't. I had probably different types of undiagnosed learning disabilities that were overlooked, and that's probably par for the course, for growing up in the early 90s. So I think a lot of that I was able to overcome just by keeping with it. I don't think anything special to me specifically, but that teacher in particular showed me that, especially within world history, and that's really not just history, but world history, the globe almost was not enough.

I didn't want to feel confined just to US. History and actually find that's probably the history I enjoy the least. So I really do enjoy the thematic wideness and vastness of the globe. So Mr. Carter is the one who opened up the door for me, and I really haven't looked back, even though I've done a lot of different things in between that point and this point in my life. History and education certainly weren't the first path. I was a financial advisor and did wealth management and things like that in a different life. So to be in this position, it's a very privileged position to be able to teach and to be able to help other students who might be interested in going through this type of educational journey.

Lisa Hassler

You have books that discuss different parts. You have got world history, and then you also have social studies. What is the difference? Can you explain what is the difference between history and social studies?

Christopher Berg

I think the simplest way to think about it is kind of just the labeling of it. History can be subsumed into the classification of social studies, but social studies is much broader in scope, and there's a lot of educational history behind why we have social studies as a subject matter, because it incorporates different disciplines. History is one of them, for example. But you have political science, government, economics, different types of social sciences that fall underneath it. So history would be a part of social studies, but history is also, as a discipline, distinct from social studies. So there's a little bit of just when it comes to defining what exactly that means.

And I'm sure just within high schools and colleges, they probably approach it a little bit differently. So that's my understanding and how I kind of see the differences between them, because many believe that they're synonymous, and I would suggest that they're not really synonymous, even though we've come to see them as such. History is very distinct. But I do think that in terms of looking at the different disciplines, there's a lot of interdisciplinary connection. So history brings in a lot of philosophy and religion and art history. So it does really touch on a lot of multidisciplines and there's a lot of interplay between them.

Lisa Hassler

So you had a study, it was called Why Study History? An Examination of Undergraduate Students Notions and Perceptions About History. You discussed the need for historical knowledge in our daily lives. What were your findings about why students should study history and what value does it hold for them?

Christopher Berg

That was an interesting study, and it's one that I'm still fascinated with and am still working with, just in a different trajectory. So in this particular study, we looked at a very small sample of students from two different state colleges. And the main finding that I don't know if it's disconcerting or maybe a challenge, but the fact is that many students believe that history had, quote unquote, "questionable value." In other words, "How is this relevant to my life? or, "What I plan to do or what I'm doing in other classes?" Because most students are not history majors.

So there's a bit of a challenge there. And also it does make you wonder, "Gosh, this is what I do for a living and I really enjoy it. I don't know why others don't see the same value in it." So that's been a challenge as time's gone on. But I also think that now that the publication has been out for a little while and I still kind of contend with that theme itself.

I think it's valid when students wonder, "Why do I need to do this for? Why do I need to learn how to write? Why do I need to learn how to research? This isn't an English class." I'm told almost every semester, I have someone who says, "Well, this isn't in an English class. Why do we have to write? Why do we have to do all these types of things that are associated with an English type of research paper?" So I think the idea of being able to see transferable value, the transfer of skills from one discipline to another, but especially into everyday life, this is not something that just because you learn how to do the basic parts of a paper doesn't mean that you're going to be using academic writing in your everyday life or much less in your professional life.

I hope that something like that. And the idea of transferable skills is that they're able to be able to take on different types of writing challenges and that they develop a type of historical or critical thinking apparatus so that they can make decisions, sometimes tough decisions, based on what they have at hand. So the transferable knowledge was something that did come up, maybe not as much. They definitely questioned the value of history, but they also saw value in the study of history insofar as taking events from the past and applying them either into the present or in planning for the future as a means of using historical analogy.

So for example, if we're going to use the pandemic as an example, you can look back into history and see, how did the world respond to the Spanish influenza? You could go further back into time and you can look at, how did civilization grapple with the different types of plagues that came in in late medieval, early Renaissance period? And that's nothing new. And it's probably something looking towards the future, something that could revisit us again. So history really does provide an incredible portal into looking at just lived human experience. I really do look at it as a human experiment in many ways because I think we're constantly losing touch with the past in many different ways.

We're forgetting and we are making some of those same mistakes. And something that I often tell my students is that history doesn't repeat itself, it's people repeat the past failures in making those same types of mistakes. So I think if we keep those types of studies close to us and we apply those types of studies, I think we could definitely grow as individuals and things like that. So I think there's something to be had when it comes to using the study of the past, but in a way that can connect with students. Because if they don't see value, if they don't see how this impacts me as an individual, then they're not going to be interested in it.

So there does have to be something of a hook to be able to get students to be excited about it. And I think that starts with us as individuals and as teachers. We have to show what the value is there and that there is purpose in it. And not just something just to earn a credit or to check off that box for graduation, but something that could really be of value to them outside of it. And so many of my students who come back who are nontraditional or taking a second degree or whatever the case really have an interest in history at this point.

So whether they're in their twenties, thirties or whatnot, and they have families of their own or they've already had a successful business and they're coming back to school, and they're like, "You know what? I wasn't interested in history or I had a bad experience." I hear that often, too, that "I didn't have a really good experience in school," and that they hope this time around it's going to be a little bit different. And I always hope that it is going to be different, and I take that as a challenge, too, to make sure that we have good curriculum in place for them as well.

But the fact is that many nontraditional students recognize the value of history a little bit later in life. So there's something about that disconnect between how school is approaching history at maybe the primary, middle, and secondary grades, and if that's their only experience with it, it makes you wonder, what could we be doing differently to be able to engage those students? So the idea of why study history is a very powerful and pertinent question that I hope not only that I'll continue to engage with, but others will as well.

Lisa Hassler

So you have another study, History and the Public Good American Historical Association Presidential Addresses and the Evolving Understanding of History Education, and you stated, "How can textbooks form the foundation, the backbone of the high school history curriculum when they are filled with factual errors, blatant, misrepresentations, omissions, political persuasions, and outdated material?" Now, I was surprised because I just thought it was us currently having all of these objections to the contents that's being taught right now in our historiy of the United States, in a sense, I was relieved, like, "Oh, this is not new," right?

We always have to, I guess, challenge what's being taught and the mainstream. But I think it's kind of interesting that this actually was attached to when you were talking about presidential addresses. Why do you think there's so much turmoil in teaching history and how does that relate to our textbooks?

Christopher Berg

That is such a good question, and it's one that has come up at different points in my career. And just thinking about it as it comes up, because sometimes you think about it a little bit more hard than at other times, and I often come back and go, I wonder why history is more contentious than other subjects. And I think a lot of it comes down to the different stakeholders. And I think just by looking at some of the texts and the titles that you had listed off Lies My Teacher Told Me, I mean, that's pretty bold there.

Lisa Hassler

It's very strong.

Christopher Berg

It is very strong, and it's an interesting book. So if anybody actually wants to pick it up, I would definitely encourage them in spite of the title, because oftentimes there's still some very compelling information there. And just because it's a very contentious topic doesn't mean it's one that we should avoid. And I think because of the different stakeholders you have that intermingling and influence that comes from different sectors. And the one that really comes to mind, especially probably since the definitely more palpably and it's definitely more tangible, would be the political sphere. And you see a lot of different interests within it, not just the political sphere as itself, but you see, like corporate America, for example, you see a lot of influence there.

And there are plenty of studies that look at that specifically, "How does corporate America influence history textbooks?" for example. And the same could be just within the political spectrum. And there are different narratives that are competing, whether they're nationalistic, whether they're patriotic. Then you can go in any direction you want to from there. There's always this idea of how do you cast the American story? And especially as time goes on, "How do we make it more representative of the diversity that's within the United States?" There's been so long that within that narrative, certain groups have been excluded from that.

So many within the United States have a hard time identifying with that narrative and with that story. So there's been an element of revisionism. And that's something that I think also becomes a point of contention because that doesn't align with many people's understanding of what is America, what makes America what it is and the story they grew up on. I think that's very hard anytime you introduce a type of fundamental change to that story, something that you've always grown up with and then saying, "Well, no, it's not quite like that. It's probably more like this," and that's tough for people.

And that's something too, I think, that we could all kind of understand and have a little bit of empathy towards is that it's hard for either side and that oftentimes there is a compromise that we can meet in the middle. And oftentimes, too, I think it's how we approach it as well. But as long as we keep having these competing interests and as long as we keep having the different types of issues in the tug of war I mean, when you look at the state of Texas, for example, or the state of Florida, you see a lot of that in what they call like, the textbook wars, for instance. That's just indicative of the larger history wars that we've had with the United States that, again, are not exclusive to this country.

They're in different parts of the world as well. Maybe not to the point as politically charged as they are here, but nonetheless, this does happen in other countries as well.

Lisa Hassler

So what do you think are the barriers for teaching history?

Christopher Berg

That's another good question. And that's something I often ask myself too when I think about what kind of course would I want to take if I was a student again or what was the one course that I would have liked to have taken and what could have been better about it. I think good teachers think about those questions. They don't stick with the same type, of course. They're continually thinking how can I improve this material and how can I reach these students? And I think probably the most significant barrier is how we approach teaching history and whether we see it as a passive activity or an active activity.

And what I mean by passive and active is are we simply lecturing at students? So they sit there and they're supposed to take notes and we're supposed to shower them with all this amazing content and they're just supposed to be absorbing it and taking notes and memorizing it and then in preparation for an exam or test. And I think a lot of it comes down to if we have them engage with the material, not that the textbook and lecture style teaching is bad in and of itself. I think it can be one facet of how we teach and especially with what we have learned just through all the different learning sciences and the cognitive revolution of the we've learned that not everybody learns the same way.

So one style fits all is probably not the best approach. And of course, if you think about multiple intelligences and things like that, whether you ascribe to them or not, I think the idea is that there's different ways that you can approach the subject as history. And the more that you can get them involved and see the value of it.

I think that's where you can really get that interest, where students can actually work with primary source material and they can actually see how people interacted or the consequences of something, say, the falling out after World War I and how it connected to the eventual World War II that would come and which led to the Cold War, which led to the rise of communism and the fall of communism. You can see the continuity of things. So I think the biggest barrier is just our approach to how we teach history. And I think, again, that's why students in high schools maybe find history to be boring, is because all they're required to do is read these big dense textbooks and then regurgitate the material on an exam. And what do you really learn about that? You're not really taking anything of substance from it.

So I think that's one barrier. I think another barrier is just how teachers are trained and that's a big subject in and of itself. So I think the disconnect between the history academy and then teacher education programs, I think a lot has been done to bring them closer together. But so much of that I think teachers are very underprepared when they come into these different contexts and not just with history, but with many subjects. I think that content does make a difference and I think a lot of professional development opportunities could make a difference. As time went on.

And again, as we all know, that's a challenge in and of itself as well. And I think the reliance on the textbook, that's another barrier. Again, I think they're all kind of interconnected in ways, but I think our primary barrier, if there's to be one, would be how we approach teaching and how we think about teaching and how we interact with students. Because the more we can get them involved in it, I think they're much more likely to take an interest in of it, but more importantly, to take something of value from it.

Lisa Hassler

Yeah, we had a conversation earlier about I taught first and second grade, and so it would have fallen under the realm of social studies. And I loved my textbook, so I'm a textbook person, but I would draw that middle line where you would read a little bit of it, and then we would do things like reenact and dress up and bring in food and music and do field trips connected to it and big projects. And so I loved being able to pull in all of those enrichment activities and then connect it to the students experiences to just broaden their enjoyment of it. So, like, for instance, we would go to the little French cafe and walk over there and we would connect the fact that they were learning about trading and taxes and kind of some boring subjects.

When you're seven and eight years old and bring it more to life to say, okay, well, this bakery is French and they are importing goods from France. And why would they import those goods? And let's talk to the baker and what type of work does he do? And let's talk about the taxes. How much is your croissant going to cost? Let's talk about tips. And so all of those things kind of culminated. And so as a very mundane we're, going to a bakery and ordering a croissant became an enriching experience where they had to earn money to then be able to pay for those goods and services.

And just what could have been a very dry chapter in a social studies textbook for seven year olds and I think as an educator, being able to find ways to connect it to their daily lives that would have more meaning is really something that can be done without a lot of effort, that's not too much work. But had I not done that, I could see where the kids would be falling asleep. So you really need to think about how you're approaching. And I think if you're going to be using the textbook, those lecture based instructions really fall flat, which you could always tell in the afternoon when they're, like, struggling to keep their eyeballs open.

So we got to be innovative. Now you have a study called Moving towards a Humanistic Social Studies and History Curricula, A Review of Recent Reflective Practices. You suggest new pedagogical models to revive an ailing social studies program in the public school system. So what suggestions do you have for teachers to better engage their students while teaching history? I think we just talked about some of those things, but I think you're more specific in what your study came out with.

Christopher Berg

I know teachers have a lot on their plates and being able to, especially if you're in the lower grades as an elementary school teacher, you're not just teaching history or social studies, you're teaching multiple subjects. And oftentimes teachers at the middle grades and secondary school aren't just teaching history, they're teaching other areas in social studies. They might be teaching an elective in AP religion as well as they have a new ask to teach a philosophy course that they're now offering. And now teachers have they're being pulled in so many different directions. I would hate to dislay one more thing and say, we have one more ask of you, and that is to kind of focus on your own professional development and kind of be the quarterback of that.

So you kind of direct it and kind of reinvigorate the history curriculum that you're only teaching maybe one or two sections of, and then the rest is completely new courses that you're having to contend with. So I understand the realities of teaching too. That's something that I think a lot of administrators tend to forget the longer they're out of the classroom, is the amount of work that teachers have to put in. It's not literally the seven to two or the eight to three type of time frame. It's all the preparation before that and after that, the weekends in preparation, the weeks leading up after summer break and things like that.

It's not just, for lack of a better word, a nine to five job and asks teachers to do one more thing when they're doing so many other things that are not acknowledged or recognized. I understand that, and that's something that if I were to make one recommendation, and that would be not to do it alone for one, the more you can get your department chair or your grade chair. I don't know how that works in elementary and secondary schools, so to speak, but if you can get your department chair or department as a whole or an assistant principal, whoever sees it, you can get them interested and invested in that so that you're not doing it alone, but you're doing it with your colleagues. I think that really could have some punch behind it, and then you definitely feel like you have partners.

There's a lot of collegiality that goes with it. I learned so much from my own colleagues. Anytime we have meetings that I'm constantly reaching out, and we have multiple disciplines. I work with art historians. I work with social scientists and communications experts. I'm constantly leaning on my colleagues, many of which are my friends, always for their input because I'm just one person, and there's really so little that I do know, in the scheme of things, the more it's in a corporate endeavor, the more that we're all benefiting from it. So I think when you keep those lines of communication open and you're doing it together and not so much in competition with one another, but hand in hand with one another, I think so much could be done ultimately for our students, and not just for ourselves professionally, but for our students.

I think professional development and that can take any form. It doesn't have to be something that's really formalized. It can be very informal. I think that could just reap tremendous benefit, and that could be as simple as just learning how to access the Library of Congress. And for history, for example, you can go and see all the different databases that they have. Yale has the Avalon project for mean. More and more databases are springing up and becoming accessible, whereas before you would have to make a trip and go to Washington DC. Or to go up to Connecticut to see these archives or libraries and much less even have access to them.

So to be able to have these at our fingertips, in many ways, the Internet can be a barrier. Google can be a barrier to historical study. I think any teacher can empathize with having to contend with Google, but the fact is that we also have access now to things that we didn't have access to maybe a couple of decades back. I remember I didn't, at least, so it's really opened up a lot of opportunity. But many teachers can feel overwhelmed with their demand. So starting with something small, like rather than making this big unit plan, think about one assignment, about something that you know something about or are interested in learning more about, whatever that might be, and likely there's something that's available to be able to build a lesson plan from and using primary source material and things like that.

Something that I did throughout my educational career, and I still do, and I would encourage other people to do, is just to have the courage to reach out to people that you admire, a historian that you've read, a person that you've heard at a conference and just reach out to them and just say, introduce yourself. Say, "Hi, I've read your work, and I've been following you for years, or, I saw you at the conference, but just I didn't want to bother you," or whatever the case is. And oftentimes you'll be surprised by how gracious of a response that you'll receive. And I've actually had several people just over the years from just my college days that I still keep intermittent contact with, and this is decades now, and it's been an incredible journey. Many never responded, but that's okay. It's really the people who did respond, and they've opened up doors for me in ways that you just wouldn't really even conceive. So I would definitely say, put yourself out there a little bit, attend a conference. It could be local. It doesn't have to be a big national conference. Just do things that you think that would put you in a position to be able to bring something back into the classroom that's a little bit out of the ordinary from what you usually do.

And remember, we do this because we're trying to make a learning environment that's accessible to students so that they can take something of real value not just to get a letter grade, but something that they can really help them as a human being. And I think we emphasize so much with testing and things like that that we lose sight of. the bigger goal is that we're supposed to really be cultivating young minds to be able to take over the things that we are now in place to do because that is the next generation. So a lot of on our plate to be able to make sure that that generation is going to be able to handle the complexities of the world that we live in now, especially the one that's around the corner for us.

Lisa Hassler

What about for parents? Do you think, are parents in a position where they also can help their child when it comes to embracing or enjoying or learning about history in a more meaningful manner?

Christopher Berg

I think that's a really that's a fascinating question in a ways because I don't think there's a one size fits all with that either. And I think it goes back to kind of how I approach teaching, is that if it's something that you're interested in and that you see something like, hey, it's not just learning about accounting or math and just because you need to know how to do these things. Taxes, for example, you need to know about these things because this is going to be part of your adult life for the rest of your life, and you should have a familiarity with it. I think if you model, the idea of history is an important thing.

And I'm not going to force it on you in any type of way. But having books in the house, having conversations, not just having the news on 24/7 that can actually push children away or young adults away and just have them shut down. But the more that you are communicative with them and not just asking them about well, how was your day? And what did you learn in history? Or whatever the case or something that I've done with my students, is that I ask them questions. What kind of questions do you have? What did you not cover in the textbook today that you might be interested in?

And this is something that gave rise to what was called discovery learning after World War II in the 50s, especially the that also kind of went hand in hand with the rise of social studies in the United States. That idea of discovery learning. If you want to have that vested interest in your child or with others in your family or your wider social network, then you need to be able to model that as an example. For one. You need to feel that they can come to you and ask you things. But also it goes both ways.

You need to be able to put yourself out there a little bit, too, and know that this is going to take a little bit. Is something for me, something that I remember. I had a student that I shared with you. Lisa. This is the only time I've ever heard this, and it's always kind of stayed with me. And I teach college. So I have a student who's a non traditional student, and they had a very large family that they all lived together for different reasons. And they would have a small dinner that oftentimes would be eaten in front of the TV, some at the table, some would just come passing through the kitchen, and she would share things that she was learning in our history class, which is all online, too, by the way.

And she said, at first, nobody really paid too much attention. But then her father got interested when she started talking about World War II. So he started eating dinner at the dinner table. And then her husband, who had a very packed work schedule, had some time off. So he was there in the evening and he started participating in these dialogues to the point where everybody was at the kitchen table, everybody was having dinner. They were staying there for I don't want to say hours, but it was extended, and everybody was interested in how something that she had learned in class kind of sparked discussion that kind of just helped their family kind of bond in many different ways.

And I've always found that fascinating. She didn't share it until after the class was over with. And it's something that's always kind of stuck with me. So I think that there's always that possibility that whether it's history, whether it's another subject matter, that if you have that interest in it and it gets you excited, so much of that I think people get excited by other people's excitement too. So even though you may not like math, you might have that one teacher who really breaks down fractions or algebra in a way that you're like, wow, you know what?

I can see the value of this. This can be interesting. Sometimes their enthusiasm isn't infectious. So I think if you have that openness about it and there's no big ask at the end of it, like, you must do this or you should do that, I think if you kind of keep it open, just for the experience that it brings and that it opens up an opportunity to learn and to learn together. I think anytime that you can kind of discover those types of things together, I think that's a pretty meaningful experience.

Lisa Hassler

So what are your hopes for the future of history?

Christopher Berg

That's a big question. I hope we treat it differently and not see it as something that we just have to grit our teeth and get through. I think a lot of that goes back to how we're taught history in the lower grades, especially like maybe in high school, because some students, when they leave, that was their only experience that they have ever had with history and sometimes it doesn't meet expectations. So I would really hope not so much at the college level, though I would hope that it would be there too. But especially at maybe the secondary, for instance, if that's going to be their last opportunity to engage.

With them that we have the teachers who are excited about what they do. They're not just teaching it because they have to, but teaching it because they want to, and that they have some of these tools and resources. That they're able to make learning interesting and bring in different things into the classroom so that you can engage in a way and not merely sit there and absorb material for regurgitation on an exam. Because I think if we push that to the side a little bit, continue to teach to the exam, but don't make that such an emphasis with your students, kind of weave it into a curriculum where they can still experience the wonders of what history can really do.

And I think the more that we can bring in different types of exercises and activities and even field trip and experiences, things like that can go a long way in really connecting with students. And I think the more opportunity that we have, the more open minded we are about it. And again, I know that's not always an individual teacher's decision. Sometimes it's more of a departmental school or district decision. I think the more that we could at least have that conversation, give it a try, I think, again for our students. So I think that it's definitely worth it.

Lisa Hassler

I do too. I'd like to see that it is taken more seriously in the context of our day and that there is as much emphasis on social studies and history curriculum than there is that we're placing on math and reading and science. That it has a nice equal balance in our day again, because I think the value is there and that we can really bring a lot of enjoyment for our students if we get excited about so well.

Thank you, Chris, for joining me today to discuss history education and the importance it plays on not only the lives of students but everyone. To contact Dr. Christopher Berg or learn more about his publications in history, you can find him on LinkedIn and

The call to action is to appreciate the value of history education and illuminate the path for future generations. It is more than a sidebar subject on the education menu, but rather the backbone of our humanity.

If you have a story about what's working in your schools that you'd like to share, you can email me at or visit my website at and send me a message.

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Research on the Significance of History in Education
Dr. Christopher Berg Introduction
Difference between History and Social Studies
Why Study History? Study and Findings
The Turmoil Surrounding Teaching History and its Textbooks
Ways to Better Engage Students
Parent Involvement
Hopes for the Future of History
Call to Action