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Difficulties teaching 1st year History

Another gem of a comic from SMBC.

15 blog comments below

Now that just seems to complicate things in my opinion. Which one is more difficult to teach biology, of course, since it is always changing with advancements whereas history only has itself and records to go by. History never changes, perspectives on history change but not the history itself. I would never once argue that teaching science is easier than teaching history, it is just an obvious waste of my time.
pauline123 on Tue Aug 14, 2012 5:50 pm
The main point of the joke is the demonstration of applying religious disagreement with topics like evolution to other fields of study, revealing how utterly ridiculous the arguments the religious put forth are.

I would argue, however, that history CAN change for much the same reason that sciences change: new evidence is discovered. In many historic fields there are still discoveries or contexts that are being discovered, changing how we interpret history, or even revealing new events of denying events that we thought had occurred. I do agree that it's not as common as in science fields, but it does happen, and history is an active area of study, not just a body of knowledge.

That said, it's no where near as interesting as science Wink
Ankhanu on Tue Aug 14, 2012 5:55 pm
My point was not that history did not change. However, how we interpret and view that history is what changes. The actual history does not. No one, as of yet, can go back in time and change history. The only thing that changes is how it is interpreted because of new evidence, opinion etc. The actual history does not change, just how we view it. Religion and Science though can intermingle just one has to be careful about it.
pauline123 on Wed Aug 15, 2012 4:21 pm
True, the actual historic events don't change... but then, neither do the phenomena we study through science; only the available information changes.
Ankhanu on Wed Aug 15, 2012 4:45 pm
This is true. We just sporadically make huge leaps in discoveries that leap us forward technologically and whatnot whereas history seems, to me, to be a slow and steady on the discoveries.
pauline123 on Wed Aug 15, 2012 9:00 pm
Nah...history undergoes sudden (catastrophic in the proper sense) shifts just like science. The difference is often that it doesn't filter through.
Take, for example, the massive changes in our historical knowledge of Judea and surrounds in biblical times. The last few decades has seen major rewriting of the historical record, yet almost none of it has trickled out into the public domain...
Bikerman on Thu Aug 16, 2012 12:21 am
I agree, that there have been massive discoveries and a need to rewrite what we thought we know, but alas, history still does not change. What we understand, and know about it does. One cannot change the past. Understand it differently sure, but change it. I think not.
pauline123 on Thu Aug 16, 2012 2:27 pm
Well, this is an interesting philosophical point.
If one believes that the past is gone, and therefore only exists in human memory - be that living intelligence or extelligent sources (books etc) - then it surely follows that by changing perception one actually changes history.
Bikerman on Thu Aug 16, 2012 4:13 pm
This is still exactly the same as anything in science. The phenomena we study do not change, only our understanding of them... or exposure to them. In much the same way, the events of history are what they are, all that changes is the information, and thereby the understanding we have of them... or in some cases, exposure to the evidence of their occurrence (we do discover wholly new things in history from time to time).
Ankhanu on Thu Aug 16, 2012 4:53 pm
This may be true, but we must discover but for some reason, although potentially at fault, I view history as more concrete of a subject whereas science is more fluid. I don't know why. I know our understanding of the past changes drastically over the years, but it still persists in my mind. So, I cease and desist. Smile
pauline123 on Thu Aug 16, 2012 5:36 pm
It is rather the reverse. Cultural influence on the perception of science is, or should be, pretty irrelevant. One understands Boyle's law, whether in Hindi, English, or, presumably, Martian.

History, on the other hand, is largely dependent on a particular cultural understanding. History, seen as a simple procession of events, isn't really history in the same way that a set of readings showing various gas volumes, pressures and temperatures, isn't really Boyle's law.
One has to interpret the data in both cases. In the case of science, the data allow of a simple mechanistic explanation, so we get PV=K. The same is not (yet?) possible for interactions involving humans, so the interpretation is still very contingent on what significance the historian attaches to certain events and how the historian understands such events to be related to other events.
Bikerman on Fri Aug 17, 2012 12:29 am
Not that I'm complaining, but, I've got to say this is not the direction I'd expected any discussion of the comic to take Smile
Ankhanu on Fri Aug 17, 2012 2:07 am
Well, with me you may never know where you will go. This comic made me think and that is always a good thing!

And yes the biases of the person()s and/or historian(s) can make them put a different "spin" on the actual historic events, this has been going on forever.
pauline123 on Fri Aug 17, 2012 3:12 pm
While some of them are a bit raunchy, SMBC are really great, smart and funny comics, you should read them. Great social commentary steeped in science, philosophy, literature and awkwardness Wink
Ankhanu on Fri Aug 17, 2012 3:21 pm
Perhaps, I will do that. Twisted Evil
pauline123 on Fri Aug 17, 2012 5:37 pm

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