Any fans of James Loewen's Lies My Teacher Told Me
will be familiar with the thinking behind the idea I'm about to propose, which is this:
We create a single wiki, "A Critical Supplement to Major History Textbooks," and create a page on it for each textbook we're using, in whatever class.
In our classrooms, we assign student teams to tackle each section of the textbook by identifying any perceived biases, coverage emphases and de-emphases, omissions, errors of fact, and so forth, in that section, and publish their findings on that textbook's page on the wiki.
The project would have value in a number of ways:
1. Students would have to know the material in
the textbook in order to identify what is not
in it, so the project would not conflict with learning the course content objectives.
2. Students would learn to read the textbook critically and skeptically, and their discovery of the inevitable biases, assumptions, omissions, under-representations of certain classes/genders/races/religions etc in the texts would surely go far in developing their critical thinking skills and their stance toward authorial authority. The dangerous naivete and blind trust in the written word so common among the young (and not-so-young) would be remedied by such an experience to a considerable degree after a year of such study.
3. The wiki itself would be a resource of lasting value. Over time, other teachers and students would surely discover it, and find it useful as a supplement to their textbook.
4. Students would be practicing research and, done well, internet literacy as they searched for more information about material covered in each section of their textbook. (Wikipedia would be an obvious place to start, but not to finish, in this research - particularly the external links and citation footnotes at the bottom of each page.)
5. History would obviously come alive more by being turned into a field of controversy in this way, rather than remain the dull grind of memorizing stuff that turns so many students off of history.
I'd love to brainstorm how to set this up with any interested parties. I'm talking to the blogger of the Core Knowledge blog (you know, E.D. Hirsch's gig) about it, and he seems interested.
If you'd like to read more on the idea, I've blogged about it on my education blog at Change.org here
, and here