This page is about the study and teaching of 'History, the subject that studies the past.
History and the rules of communication
Our rules of communication place strict restrictions on how people talk about events in the past. Some of the most relevant rules are those about speaking from experience and not stating as fact something that is uncertain. Events in the past typically have significant uncertainty associated with them.
When there is consensus about a particular event happening with certainty, it is within our rules to state it as a simple fact. If there is no such consensus though, it must be presented in a different way. In the context of discussing history this can happen in many different ways:
- Citing an authority - "Such-and-such author or historian says that X happened."
- Speaking from experience - "I remember this happening."
- Speaking from impression or belief - "I believe that X happened."
The narratives told in the subject of history are subjective. In Why This Way, when we discuss history as a subject, when we teach history, and when we discuss immediate short-term history of events in our lives relevant to our discussions, we want to identify the subjectivity of our narratives as a way of reaching a more truthful understanding of things.
History in education
We have agreed that in general, history as it is typically taught in mainstream education presents a great deal of subjective analysis that breaks our rules of communication. We have discussed limiting the teaching of history to basic material that there is a consensus about, and, with younger children, holding off on deeper analysis of history until children have greater understanding of the subjectivity of such analysis.