Teaser Tuesday (Thursday)

Like a ceiling fan gently spinning, the Wheel of Time has turned ’round to Teaser Tuesday.

I was going to write a Teaser Tuesday and then I got distracted. Last week a friend of mine alerted me to a research project I might be interested in, and this week I got the email that I’d been accepted! More about that on Saturday.

So I suppose that makes this post is a double teaser.

Last week I finished reading The Last Bookaneer by Matthew Pearl. This week I’m reading Why Learn History (When It’s Already On Your Phone) and it’s absolutely one of the best, most crucial books I’ve read in some time.

The Goodreads Blurb:

Let’s start with two truths about our era that are so inescapable as to have become clichés: We are surrounded by more readily available information than ever before. And a huge percentage of it is inaccurate. Some of the bad info is well-meaning but ignorant. Some of it is deliberately deceptive. All of it is pernicious.

With the internet always at our fingertips, what’s a teacher of history to do? Sam Wineburg has answers, beginning with this: We definitely can’t stick to the same old read-the-chapter-answer-the-questions-at-the-back snoozefest we’ve subjected students to for decades. If we want to educate citizens who can sift through the mass of information around them and separate fact from fake, we have to explicitly work to give them the necessary critical thinking tools. Historical thinking, Wineburg shows us in Why Learn History (When it’s Already on Your Phone), has nothing to do with test prep–style ability to memorize facts. Instead, it’s an orientation to the world that we can cultivate, one that encourages reasoned skepticism, discourages haste, and counters our tendency to confirm our biases. Wineburg draws on surprising discoveries from an array of research and experiments—including surveys of students, recent attempts to update history curricula, and analyses of how historians, students, and even fact checkers approach online sources—to paint a picture of a dangerously mine-filled landscape, but one that, with care, attention, and awareness, we can all learn to navigate.

It’s easy to look around at the public consequences of historical ignorance and despair. Wineburg is here to tell us it doesn’t have to be that way. The future of the past may rest on our screens. But its fate rests in our hands.

The Truly Random Number Generator sends us to page 91:

The discipline of history teaches us to resist first-draft thinking and the flimsy conclusions that are its bitter fruits. It teaches us that at the heart of historical inquiry are two inescapable Kantian coordinates: time and space. When did something happen? Where? 

Review: The Last Bookaneer by Matthew Pearl

I wanted to like this book more than I did. On the face of things I should have liked it more: structurally similar to Frankenstein, great thoughts about the value of words/books, and adventure worthy of Robert Louis Stevenson. But somehow the book came out less than the sum of its parts.

If this is your first experience with Matthew Pearl, don’t give up. His Dante Club is quite thrilling.

What are you reading today?

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