Friday, October 29, 2010
One of the professors in J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter books is the history teacher, Professor Binns. His story is that after he died, he got up (as a ghost) and went right on teaching his classes. He is exceptionally boring, and his classes are a good chance for the students to catch up on sleep.
Ms. Rowling couldn't have chosen a better metaphor for how schools approach the study of history.
There is a nice scene in one of the books (Chloe could tell me which one) where the kids realize that Professor Binns might be able to supply some information that they need. He is quite startled to find himself suddenly facing a roomful of attentive students. That, too, is a good metaphor. First, history is chock full of helpful information, and it is, sadly, all too rare for people to look there for answers. Second, kids are more attentive—their eyes light up!—when presented with information that is relevant to their lives. The books make it clear that the more typically dull eyes of Professor Binns' students reflect a problem not with them but with his snooze-fest teaching style.
Some real life teachers might take a lesson from that.