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View Full Version : Can we keep talking about history resources and bias ?



Stella M
11-11-2010, 03:58 PM
Not just about SOTW though :) I keep thinking about that thread. Lots of us had very strong opinions about the bias in those books and others and I'd really like to hear more.
Why ? Because discussion helps me formulate my own thoughts...

My feelings on the subject (atm - and feel free to disagree and convince me otherwise - nicely ) is that all history is biased one way or another and that some biases are just more subtle than others.

So I approach any text looking for its bias, recognizing it and pointing it out to my kids. I guess utterly blatant bias would be unusable for us - a white, supremacist history for example, things that are really propaganda. Mostly though, I am happy to use even a biased text if it meets other needs ( eg SOTW meets a need for one child to have a chronological, narrative approach to history ) as long as we've identified and discussed the bias first.

Also - and this is the bit that makes me wonder if I need to more closely examine my thinking but if you think so, remember, play nice! - I am comfortable with histories that have a Western bias, because my ancestors and my interests and probably my DNA! (joke :) ) lead me to see the world through that particular lens.

I do offer myself and my kids the opportunity to view history through other lens - first peoples, womens, Eastern, non Judeo-Christian - but I truly don't see that any of these other lenses is less biased than my own. And I don't think it's possible to remove bias from history, so why not just acknowledge it to be a subjective area of study and make sure you don't get too ghettoised in your own little, comfortable view ?

OK, I really have to stop now and get on with the day, though I'd like to spend more time on this topic..

farrarwilliams
11-11-2010, 04:34 PM
I agree. And I saw your Secular Thursday post about it!

I find it comparable to bias in the news media. I don't actually have a problem with there being a stated perspective from a news source and I would much rather the newspaper/TV network/magazine, etc. make that bias clear. When you read The Economist, you know they have a basically economically conservative, pro-laissez-faire stance. I think the problems come when sources try to act like they're unbiased.

fbfamily111
11-11-2010, 05:54 PM
If we humans created, thought, or had anything to do with "it", then "it" is biased. We can't help ourselves no matter how hard we try (and I really, really, do try) to keep our own opinions out of whatever "it " may be. Even when explaining the bias, we are adding our own bias to the conversation. Here at our house what works (for most books/texts/edu-video's) is pointing out how someone else might think/feel/believe differently then the author. This often leads to a lot of interesting conversations, and sometimes eye-rolling (the we get the point look).

wild_destiny
11-11-2010, 06:23 PM
This is a timely conversation for me, as I just checked out the book "State of Fear" by Micheal Crichton. While this book is about differing perspectives on global warming, he does offer some opinions regarding the history of some prominent past bandwagons that most people at those times jumped on with little hesitation. In his author's message at the conclusion of the book, these are some of his own opinions that he shares (and he encourages any readers to do their own homework and come to their own conclusions):

--We know astonishingly little about every aspect of the environment, from its past history, to its present state, to how to conserve and protect it. In every debate, all sides overstate the extent of existing knowledge and its degree of certainty.

--I have more respect for people who change their views after acquiring new information than for those who cling to views they held 30 years ago. The world changes. Ideologues and zealots don't.

--I am certain there is too much certainty in the world.

--Everybody has an agenda. Except me.

Anyway, those are all from the end-notes of State of Fear, but I thought they apply pretty well to a discussion about historical bias. Wish I could take credit for them, as they are funny, great quotes, but I can't. As for the above posts (by those who posted above mine), I completely agree with each and every one of you. I would only add that it can be really hard to state an opinion and not sound like you are expressing an absolute, if you know what I mean?! At least I have that trouble. :)

farrarwilliams
11-11-2010, 10:39 PM
Everyone's nuts except thee and me and I'm not so sure about thee?

Stella M
11-12-2010, 02:07 AM
Ok, someone needs to disagree with us now, so I can refine my thought processes!!

Busygoddess
11-12-2010, 04:58 AM
I agree that anything written about History will be biased. That is one reason we don't use textbooks for History. Instead, we choose a variety of books (and other resources) on each era or event, trying to get resources from as many perspectives as possible. We try to put ourselves in the shoes of all sides involved, to do our best see it from their point of view. I discuss, with the kids, that History is written with the bias of the writer and that they should always check other references and resources to get a more complete & accurate picture. So, our History curriculum is supplemental materials (Notebooking Pages, Project Books, etc.), hands-on activities, and projects. They read books, watch documentaries, and visit websites. We research the large events in each period as well as daily life for the different classes. The kids do projects to show what they've learned. The Notebooking Pages & Project Books allow them to compare different views or express their own. Since the supplemental materials aren't connected to any specific resources, they aren't confined to a specific view in their answers. It might not be for everyone, but it works for us.

hockeymom
11-12-2010, 07:29 AM
Brandi: the way you study history sounds a lot like ours. I'd love to hear some specifics on how you notebook and what sorts of projects your kids do if you don't mind sharing. I'm in the process of refining our history studies and am planning to put more emphasis on notebooking than we have in the past, and I'd love some ideas from a pro! :)

farrarwilliams
11-12-2010, 09:31 AM
Melissa, I think the disagreement comes in whether we can put up with a bias or not. Or how severe a bias is. That's always the crux of the issue here dealing with SOTW. No one here seems to think it's unbiased, just that some of us work around the bias and some of us find it overwhelming. I would find it less annoying if there were more resources with the opposite bias - pro-science, pro-archaeological evidence, non-Western focused sources for young kids. There's some, obviously, but for some things it's pulling teeth to find it but SOTW (and a number of other options) are all just right there. *sigh*

Busygoddess
11-18-2010, 01:29 PM
Brandi: the way you study history sounds a lot like ours. I'd love to hear some specifics on how you notebook and what sorts of projects your kids do if you don't mind sharing. I'm in the process of refining our history studies and am planning to put more emphasis on notebooking than we have in the past, and I'd love some ideas from a pro! :)

I'm currently working on a series of posts on my blog about how we do History. I'm almost finished with the post about our Notebooking Pages and Project Books. It should be published by the weekend. After that, I'll be focusing on some of the projects and hands-on activities we do. Of course, if you don't want to read my blog & you'd rather I answer here or if you have any specific questions, just let me know. :)

InstinctiveMom
11-19-2010, 01:34 AM
I agree that anything written about History will be biased. That is one reason we don't use textbooks for History. Instead, we choose a variety of books (and other resources) on each era or event, trying to get resources from as many perspectives as possible. We try to put ourselves in the shoes of all sides involved, to do our best see it from their point of view. I discuss, with the kids, that History is written with the bias of the writer and that they should always check other references and resources to get a more complete & accurate picture. So, our History curriculum is supplemental materials (Notebooking Pages, Project Books, etc.), hands-on activities, and projects. They read books, watch documentaries, and visit websites. We research the large events in each period as well as daily life for the different classes. The kids do projects to show what they've learned. The Notebooking Pages & Project Books allow them to compare different views or express their own. Since the supplemental materials aren't connected to any specific resources, they aren't confined to a specific view in their answers. It might not be for everyone, but it works for us.

Yes, this exactly!
This is almost identical to how we study history. I don't think that ANY source is going to be unbiased from some POV. The old adage about 'history favors the victor' is true; you'll only get that perspective especially in places or times where we KNOW that vast portions of history were erased (like ancient Egypt) but the next generation or as punishment for misdeeds.

We're starting our timeline in January when our new school year starts. So far, we've kinda skimmed to get an overview of the ancient world. We'll dig in soon!
~h

hockeymom
11-19-2010, 05:30 AM
I'm currently working on a series of posts on my blog about how we do History. I'm almost finished with the post about our Notebooking Pages and Project Books. It should be published by the weekend. After that, I'll be focusing on some of the projects and hands-on activities we do. Of course, if you don't want to read my blog & you'd rather I answer here or if you have any specific questions, just let me know. :)

Awesome. Of course I'll head over to your blog (which is fabulous, by the way) and not ask you to repeat information over here. Thanks!

hockeymom
11-19-2010, 05:34 AM
Yes, this exactly!
This is almost identical to how we study history. I don't think that ANY source is going to be unbiased from some POV. The old adage about 'history favors the victor' is true; you'll only get that perspective especially in places or times where we KNOW that vast portions of history were erased (like ancient Egypt) but the next generation or as punishment for misdeeds.

We're starting our timeline in January when our new school year starts. So far, we've kinda skimmed to get an overview of the ancient world. We'll dig in soon!
~h

We're going to start our timeline in January too. I really wanted to start one right away with the ancient world but it never quite happened. I realized it's too much to ask of DS to figure out how to put so much information in order (and figure out what's most important) so I decided I'm going to make 8 cards (to fit our timeline I printed out) that he can put in order. I'm going to include the dates to start, until he gets the hang of it. I'm slowly figuring out this notebooking thing! :)

Emerald
11-19-2010, 10:12 AM
Our entire homeschool day pretty much revolves around history. Our study of plants, animals, math, art, music, and everything revolves around our study of history. I would really love to have a database available with books describing the bias of the book, so that when you are studying any specific time period, you can pick out books from different points of view. I'd even be willing to coordinate something like that, I'd just have no idea what to put! I'm already doing/planning a ton of reviews on various history items, but I need to learn more about biases and how they influence history.

Ugh.

Busygoddess
11-19-2010, 02:21 PM
Awesome. Of course I'll head over to your blog (which is fabulous, by the way) and not ask you to repeat information over here. Thanks!

Thank you! I hope the posts are helpful. Someone else had expressed interest in how we do History, so I was going to do a post about it. Then, once I started on the post, I realized I could write a lot more than one post about it. So, I figured I'd do a series of them.

Busygoddess
11-19-2010, 02:24 PM
I have to say that it's fairly refreshing to find others who use an approach similar to mine for History. I'm rather used to being looked at like I have an extra head when I say we don't use textbooks for History.

Emerald
11-19-2010, 04:13 PM
Textbooks are boring! History isn't. :)

hockeymom
11-19-2010, 05:24 PM
Textbooks are boring! History isn't. :)

You said it :)

wild_destiny
11-20-2010, 05:42 PM
I have to say that it's fairly refreshing to find others who use an approach similar to mine for History. I'm rather used to being looked at like I have an extra head when I say we don't use textbooks for History.

Brandi, if people had any idea what goes into the making of many textbooks, they would not think you have a 3rd head for skipping these texts, rather they would think you have a smart head for using multiple sources. Whereas schools may teach to tests, many (not all, but many) textbook companies gear their books toward the agendas of those who will purchase their materials. Bias is alive and well. Frankly, I think your approach sounds just right. :)

Busygoddess
11-20-2010, 07:17 PM
Brandi, if people had any idea what goes into the making of many textbooks, they would not think you have a 3rd head for skipping these texts, rather they would think you have a smart head for using multiple sources. Whereas schools may teach to tests, many (not all, but many) textbook companies gear their books toward the agendas of those who will purchase their materials. Bias is alive and well. Frankly, I think your approach sounds just right. :)

Hey, how did you know I had 2 heads? :D

Seriously though, you're absolutely right about how so many textbooks are written. They want them to appeal to the states they intend to sell them to, and skew the info so they'll have more appeal. Sometimes, it seems like almost every publisher (not just textbooks) has a different version of History.

wild_destiny
11-20-2010, 08:14 PM
LOL You caught me, Brandi! :) (Then, again, perhaps you DO have two heads? ;)) Don't know where my own head was when I typed that--perhaps you had it, plus your own normal head, and then the extra that other people see, making 3. Guess it's been one of those days. Hope you have a super weekend, 2-3 heads and all!

Busygoddess
11-22-2010, 08:44 AM
My secret is out! I DO have 2 heads. The extra head is generally easy to hide. All those extra arms, though, those are difficult to keep out of view.

Wilma
11-22-2010, 06:01 PM
I don't like history texts. I also agree that if humans wrote it, it is biased. However, I generally find the bias much more entertaining and informative if it comes from the original promoter of the bias instead of a synthesis of ideas from a textbook publisher. I really like first hand accounts, good historical authors, like Allison Weir for Tudor England, and, for younger ones, good historical fiction writers.