Excerpts from the Classical Heritage Series talk, Freedom: The Western Narrative, with David Wacholz, Upper School English Chair and history teacher.
The Center for Mission and Academics seeks to ask worthwhile questions and allow thoughtful reconsiderations of how certain topics align with our identity as an institution.
As part of an ongoing examination of how curriculum aligns with mission, Mrs. Pryor asked us to explore how and why we teach history the way we do at Brookfield Academy. To consider, especially in light of so much of the controversy surrounding education recently, what it is we value in the teaching of history and how it serves our ultimate goal of educating the whole person in the skills, values, and heritage of responsible, constructive, free people.
Whether we like it or not, schools and teachers don’t get to choose whether we teach values. Schools and teachers are always affecting values by what we decide to praise and punish, how we balance students’ differing needs, how we articulate students’ obligations to each other, how we teach the lessons of our past. The question isn’t whether schools teach values, it’s whether we choose to be deliberate about it.
In this regard, the over-arching question that confronts us is why study history? Perhaps another way of asking the question: why study history? Is: what story should we tell about the past?
As a humanities teacher, I am sensitive to the fundamental way that narrative works in our lives both in and out of the classroom. Since narrative is intrinsic to humans, it is the most natural and potentially rewarding of studies. Reading narratives, both fictional and nonfictional, gives us intimate contact with the best and the worst in human nature, the honorable and dishonorable, and provides both mirror and lamp: a mirror for self-examination and a lamp for illumination.
For this reader, the basic truth at the bottom of this conversation is that History begins with a sense of wonder. Why and how did that happen? What’s next? Clearly, there’s a positive relationship between curiosity and knowledge and it is cause and effect that power curiosity.