Jim Cullen has written a thought-provoking piece recently concerning the teaching of history and reading (or better, not reading). He offers several insights into students in the 21st Century and how we need to better grasp the type of readers (or non-readers) that they are. Essentially he makes the case that if we assume our students are reading, we are misguided and that we need to be much more savvy than that. Further, he asserts that we need to bring more imagination into the teaching of history so that they see a reason to read.
Cullen's explanation of this is terrific and he articulates a number of things that I have been feeling for several years. There is simply no question that the students sitting in front of us in 2010 do not "read" the same way that many of us from the boomer generation may have been schooled. Technology has changed their interaction with words, their attention span, and perhaps their willingness to patiently work through difficult texts. However, I'm not convinced that there was some golden age when students plunged into reading their assignments. My sense is that many of us found ways to avoid reading as we proceeded through our history classes, learned to skim, learned to abbreviate. There is a certain amount of maturity necessary, after all, for in-depth reading.
I would be very interested for comments on this post from my current students, former students, and colleagues because I think it is something that we need to talk about further. The full article is here:
Thanks, Mr. Cullen, for your excellent and thought-provoking article.