Who invented stairs?

History lessons ignore children’s questions, writes Sheryl Longin on Pajamas Media. Who invented stairs? What was the first language? Kids might remember history, she argues, if it focused less on Native Americans and more on how the world they know came to be.

How about basing primary school history education on the evolution of the material, of inventions, of progress? From the evolution of toilet paper will come a thousand other history lessons, touching on everything from economics to politics to religion. And those lessons will be remembered, because they will be answering questions that children (and adults) naturally have.

Imagine a new generation of young people with a working, practical knowledge of the history of progress.

I learned history by reading — first biographies and then everything. Till seventh or eighth grade, we had “social studies” instead of history. Memorize the three principal products of every province in Canada and every country in Latin America. Malmo produces ball bearings. Birmingham is the Pittsburgh of the South and the Pittsburgh of England.

Fortunately, Illinois isn’t a big state for Indians. We had the Blackhawk War, which took a day to “cover” and that was it for the Illini.

Abolish social studies! Teach history.

About Joanne


  1. I discovered a great history resource while my daughter was attending private school, and used it for afterschooling. Now that I’m homeschooling, I can get even more from it. It’s at http://www.historyatourhouse.com/main/index.html and has a concept-driven presentation of history. No hodge-podge of unrelated facts that in the end teach nothing.

  2. wahoofive says:

    You must have gone to school a while ago. Now they spend half a semester on Native American stuff. At my daughter’s school (which shall remain nameless) they spent so much time on Indians that they only got to the Boston Tea Party in March, and had to rush to get to the Civil War by the end of the year (this was 8th grade, and they called the subject “Humanities”).

  3. Nels Nelson says:

    I don’t doubt that could work well with some students, but learning history through biographies has always been my favorite method.

  4. Dear… Here in India we have social studies till eighth and then broken down into geography, history and Civics…

    I cant remember anything now.. But yes.. Biographies helped a lot in remembering many a things..

    * You have got a nice collections of thoughts and Opinions in this blog…

  5. Just an fyi but these books helped me skip 2 grades… and they answered questions like “who invented stairs?”

    Cheers from the CK Tutors blog!

  6. I was always impressed by a timeline
    of Mathematical discoveries from IBM
    (there’s one in the hallway in SJSU’s
    Math and Computer Science department).

    It’s an impressive scroll that
    dipicts the history and the vast
    content of Mathematics.

  7. I remember an old song:
    Don’t know much about the Middle Ages,
    Looked at the pictures and I turned the pages.

    My thought when I heard it was that if that kid’s teacher had shown the class the Erroll Flynn Robin Hood movie, the singer would have demanded to learn more about the Middle Ages. History is exciting.


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