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As a former History Instructor I was absolutely stunned by the widespread chronological ignorance displayed by many of my students. I was told by most of my students that they rarely learned about historical dates and time periods in their earlier years; they learned about The American Revolution, though the year 1776, was a mystery to them. And their chronological inaptitude went well beyond American History. For many of my students they were unable to understand the centuries old timeline of AD & BC...(or what is now commonly referred to as CE & BCE). Most of my students were (initially) unable to distinguish 100 BC/BCE and 100 AD/CE....(for many of them, it may as well have been the same year, not realizing that there was a 200 year chronological difference!)

In the era of Political Correctness and "Wokeness", the field of History is becoming increasingly preoccupied with the enforcement of Radical Social Commentary and Righteously Activist curricula, rather than a discipline which teaches students to think and understand History as a temporal, chronological, epistemological and factual process. While History Teachers and Historians are certainly not morally passionless robots, at the same time, they should not be Agenda driven Moral Proselytizers. The field of History, was the original, "just the facts" academic discipline whereby chronology, as well as a general familiarity with the evolution of historical time, were paramount.

Having said all this, should History Educators begin their own movement to reemphasize chronological aptitude?

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  • WAS the field of History the original, "just the facts" academic discipline? We see today students not knowing X. I'm sure in times past, we would've seen them not knowing Y. Why is a lack of X-knowledge worse than a lack of Y-knowledge? Which events should we know the dates of? Don't we have to rank events in terms of their "importance" when choosing which to focus on in a given course? Aren't "agendas" going to play a role in decisions about this "importance"? Jun 19 at 21:23
  • Thanks for the comment and question.
    – Alex
    Jun 19 at 21:37
  • With regard to your first question, a student SHOULD be aware and familiar with the entire chronological dating process. I am NOT advocating for a rote-like memory based chronological approach; rather, I am supporting the reteaching of a sequenced approach. Chronology, is a sequential ordering of History that provides students with a linear understanding of past events and persons. If, however, students have a haphazard understanding of and unfamiliarity with, historical time, then we should not be surprised by the widespread chronological inaptitude in our classrooms.
    – Alex
    Jun 19 at 21:47
  • As for your second question.....No, we should not "rank events in terms of their importance when choosing which to focus on in a given course" And here's why: How do you define "importance"? Let's take my earlier example of The American Revolution. My method of teaching The American Revolution has a traditional starting and ending point. Would you support a method that selects or emphasizes Lexington and Concord, but excludes Yorktown? If we "rank events in terms of their importance", you are assuming that the Teacher has the knowledge and wisdom to deliberately and purposefully....
    – Alex
    Jun 19 at 21:54
  • Yeah but you can interpret the entire American Revolution as an event, and then the question is, why teach students about that event instead of something else? Granted, in a specifically American history class, one would have reason to "start at the beginning" and proceed from there. However, how do we decide which events to teach after we've covered the American Revolution? There are so many of them. I, for one, think teaching Americans what the US did to Vietnam is as important as teaching Germans what the Nazis did to the Jews (and others). And yet... Jun 19 at 21:59

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