IMA 505 First Paper
March 5, 2013
From ancient times to the present day, the art of teaching history was influenced by
technological advances. Mechanical and industrial breakthroughs affected how teachers and
students attained access to information and how the past was represented. Instruction in history
was also influenced by societal and religious aspects. Teaching history also sustained several
ideological approaches to interpretation. Disparate schools of scribing history influenced the
instruction of the past, and also altered facts and events. This paper details the background of
education, in particular the instruction of history, and how advances in interpretation and
technology influenced direction in the past, present, and future.
To provide a background of education, two terms need to be defined. Education is the
“entire process of developing human abilities, potentialities and behavior.” It is instruction
determined to transmit knowledge, skills, understanding and attitudes necessary for the daily
activities of life. Education is also a social process and individuals attain social competence.
History, on the other hand, is the “record of all past human experience.” It demonstrates how
various peoples are and how they came to be. History details social, economic, political,
scientific and technological events. Therefore the history of education is the study of prior
educational developments within the general historical context of social, economic, political,
cultural, scientific and technological change. Through analysis of the past, teachers can take a
critical look at contemporary theories and practices in order to create changes in the present that
will influence future instruction. Education became an institution between 6,000 and 5,000 years ago. As man settled and
became organized in families and clans, he developed gestures, signs and symbols to convey and
communicate ideas. Most importantly, writing was invented in the African region. Egyptian
education planned to foster a proper understanding of religion and vocational skills needed for
trade and agriculture. Abilities included the discipline of mathematics and geometry. About
2,000 years later, the Chinese attempted to preserve the past and secure the future. Their
education was concerned with human relationships, order, duty, and morality, and individuals
were expected to act virtuously to perpetuate the family and nation. A Chinese educational
leader and philosopher who exposed a humanistic political and ethical philosophy at this time
was Confucius. Jewish education was also geared toward national history and religion.
The next stage occurred 4,000 B.C. Here, ancient Egyptians taught, tutored and inspired
the Greeks, and set the stage for western education and culture. While not as religious as
Egyptian and Oriental education, Greek development of knowledge focused on talents and
personalities of individuals such as Socrates, Plato and Aristotle who attempted to develop a
stable society. The Roman Empire acquired select elements of Greek education in an attempt to
enrich society with culture and utility. Roman influence in modern society is the concept of law
and the Pax Romana, written to guide civilization. The rise of Christianity late in the empire
witnessed the rise of Christian schools Roman Catholic education. After the fall of Rome,
medieval Europe was a period of ignorance, lawlessness and violence following the arrival of
barbaric hordes from northern Europe. Religious conceptions dominated education. Instruction
focused on the life to come, rather than for current life. However, the 1050 A.D. development of
universities in Spain contributed to higher education emerging from cathedral and monastic schools. The alliance of Church and school survives today. In modern society, the Church
disputes the right of the state to educate.
Ideological changes dominated education in the last six hundred years. The Renaissance
revived the ancient Greco-Roman heritage. It also contributed to a new appreciation of literature
and philosophy. The Renaissance replaced narrow medieval servitude with progressive social,
political, economic, and philosophical change in the purposes and methods of education.
Additionally, instruction became universal. Schools therefore multiplied and the number of
competent teachers increased. By the seventeenth century, the cult of realism attempted to make
education more meaningful in an authoritarian society. In the next century under the guise of the
Ages of Reason and Enlightenment, authoritarianism yielded to absolutism and the search for
truth and freedom based on reason and inquiry. Belief in this so-called natural law freed
mankind from superstitions, prejudices and savagery. Although by the nineteenth century,
conflicting ideologies dominated society, particularly in Europe. Education reflected ideological
diversity in the principles of individualism, nationalism, democracy, and capitalism. Here is
where modern historiography developed.
Throughout the aforementioned development of education, teaching history played a
significant role. The Greek Herodotus began history writing. His effort was to distinguish a
verifiable past from myth or what could not be substantiated according to rules of evidence.
However, later history sought instead to make connections between the divine and earthly
narrative. In medieval Europe, history was merged with religion and stories of miracles became
history. Nevertheless, the Renaissance exploration of classical literature and philosophy changed
medieval historiography. Finally, the Enlightenment saw agreement on history writing and
intellectuals began to share their culture with the rest of the world. These nationalist histories celebrated the national character and often erased oppressions, obscured certain historical actors,
and exaggerated events.
Modern history teaching was influenced by positivism, or objective knowledge, in the
nineteenth century. The theory was that history can be written by objectively analyzing data.
According to Leopold von Ranke, the father of modern historical scholarship, the historian’s
greatest task was to penetrate the essences by not “judging the past” but to show it “as it really
was.” Knowledge of the past should correspond with what happened. Historians who endorse
this scientific approach to history insist that it must be rigidly factual and empirical, shunning
any hypothetical postulation. The scientific venture was neutral and could ultimately produce a
comprehensive, “definitive” history. Nonetheless, positivist theory owes to the work of social
theorists such as Karl Marx who believed objective knowledge of the past was achievable. He
also noted that historical change mirrored socioeconomic change. Key to Marx’s outlook is that
objective scientific knowledge is possible but the driving force behind history is change through
productive forces such as revolution.
The twentieth century witnessed a new dimension to historiography in the United States.
Social upheavals of the 1930s scattered radical ideologies in the study of history. In the
immediate post-war years, instruction seemed to endorse the tradition of democratic reform and
protest. However, the McCarthyism of the 1950s briefly silenced political dissent and academic
freedom in the study of the past. The 1960s Great Society refocused a social and cultural
teaching of history. Culture stands for a concrete and bounded world of beliefs and practices,
and has been conceptualized by historians as a learned behavior, as an institutional sphere
devoted to the making of meaning, as creativity or agency, as a system of symbols and meanings,
and as practice. For many cultural sociologists, culture is not a coherent system of symbols and meanings but a diverse collection of tools that are to be understood as a means for the
performance of action. Culture is neither a particular kind of practice nor practice that takes
place in a particular social location but it is rather a system of signs and symbols of human social
practice. The goal and method of cultural history is to show not merely what people thought but
how they thought. Cultural history delves into how people interpreted the world, invested it with
meaning, and infused it with emotion.
Despite a return to conservatism in the 1970s and 1980s as well as the rise of the New
Right, another school of historical instruction was introduced, global and comparative studies. It
developed in response to changes in world order in the latter half of the twentieth century and
early twenty-first. It called for a pluralism of narratives touching on the existential life
experiences of many different groups and undermined the self-confidence of the older social
sciences. It did not call for the abandonment of older patterns of social, cultural, and political
history but demanded a broadening of the perspective and methods of historical inquiry. The
future of history teaching leans toward this specialized history. Specific disciplines include legal
history, church history, and medicinal history, with new narratives to historiography a strong
Technological advances and breakthroughs impacted the delivery of historical
information since Herodotus. Early historical records were scribed. Beginning with the first
writings appearing 5,000 years ago in Egypt, China and Mesopotamia, man needed to visualize
his interpretations of the external world in language. These interpretations became dual nature of
the spoken and written word. Early writings served as reminders of debts and obligations to the
ancient world. The Romans later defined the forms of written law that we know and still practice
today. The early medieval period witnessed an increase in the written word throughout Europe. Beginning in the ninth century, the production and retention of written records in the form of
charters grew substantially and replaced some earlier oral traditions. Daily business records and
archival documentation for administrative purposes were placed in written form instead of
relying on living memory. Writing material changed throughout time from clay tablets and birch
bark to the invention of the printing press by Guttenberg which led to the mass printing of books.
The invention of paper in China adopted by the Arabs in the eighth century was a very important
precursor to the printing press as well as new models for libraries such as the Franco-Burgundian
Gutenberg’s fifteenth century press and the advent of printing books remained the
standard for centuries. Historical information was published in books and students of all ages
used the technology. However, in 1945, Vannevar Bush wrote an article named “As We May
Think” which contained the idea of a machine that could store records accessible at high speeds.
Bush stated that “any given book … can thus be called up and consulted with far greater facility
than if it were taken from a shelf.” In the 1960s, Douglas Engelbart developed hypertext, mouse
pointing devices and the concept of two people communicating over a network. Also at this
time, Ted Nelson’s Xanadu project envisioned all information available through a hypertext
library. Finally in 1989, Tim Berners-Lee proposed the idea of a World Wide Web where people
from around the world share and access information. The development of the World Wide Web
is changing how information is accessed and instructed. The information age of the twentieth
century changed the delivery of historical information and therefore changed how history needs
to be instructed. Teachers utilize electronic books and tools in instruct on days gone by.
The advent of the computer has impacted education and the instruction of history
tremendously. The computer is a part of the daily lives of students in both early education and secondary education. Instruction is found online and applications are available for computers
and hand-held devices. Education has the possibility of being totally paperless, all electronic.
Mobile applications will play a tremendous role in education. Information will also be readily
available to users. In the past, the attainment of historical primary documents was difficult and
consumed time. Examples include newspapers, ledgers, laws, transcripts of trials, and wills.
They are highly valuable and get students as close as possible to what actually happened since
primary documents are artifacts of a certain time. Through the digitization of such information
and speedy access, students can interpret them objectively and realize that any account of an
event can be subjective. Therefore the teaching of education will change and create a more
intelligent and analytical student. BIBLIOGRAPHY
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IMA 505 First Paper