A May 2 article in The Tribune reported that only one-fourth of American eighth-graders did well on a national history test. Until school districts begin to take history seriously as a subject the trend will continue.
As a teacher, I found history often was a throwaway class given to unqualified teachers. When Proposition 13 forced the district to eliminate my specialty from the curriculum, I was thrown into a full-time history position. Fortunately, it was a favorite subject.
Most students walked into my class for the first time with history being their least favorite subject. I soon found you couldn’t succeed by merely throwing facts at them. I had them create characters living in various eras, gave them creative writing assignments, had them create television shows and act out historical situations. I also created a district-wide Social Studies festival. Each year I took 80 to 100 eighth-grade students to Washington, D.C., and often included trips to Williamsburg, Gettysburg, Philadelphia, Amish Country, Boston and New York City.
I have no idea how my students would have tested because there was no emphasis on history on state tests. I do know it is no longer a hated academic subject when creative teaching is involved.