Sunday, July 6, 2014

Social Constructions and Source Work

This past week I have read and listened to Barbara J Fields (more Fields) and Judith Butler (more Butler) for the first time. Both names were suggested by David Salmanson in a blog post about theory for high school teachers.

The more I come to terms with the subjective nature of historical analysis, the more I have to inform myself about the structures that underpin historical narratives and the concepts and theories that have been advanced to help us to think about the various social constructs that influence our perceptions.

We know that students and many (?) teachers have a difficult time thinking about history as more than just facts about the past that are passed down from generation to generation. The more I read and think about various constructs, such as race, gender, notions of time, and religion, I realize that when I examine a source, one of my fundamental jobs is to look for evidence of these constructions, to define them and to place them into a larger context.  For example, here is a source that I recently encountered when examining a released AP Euro DBQ:

Before my knowledge about how historians do their job evolved, I would have looked at a source like this as a repository of facts that could be identified and remembered, adding to my store of knowledge about the past. We know that this is the way many students continue to view the discipline of history, even in classes where working with a variety of primary and secondary sources is emphasized.

Instead, a source like this needs to be examined from a variety of angles. It needs to be deconstructed, questioned, and ultimately, if it can be used to support a thesis, included in an interpretation about the past.

What I’d like to do over the next few days is to actually apply the ideas I have been discussing to this particular source.

More tomorrow...


Here are two additional resources that I think will help me dig deeper. (part of a whole course)


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