[UCP Books]: Why Learn History (When It’s Already on Your Phone)

“A sobering and urgent report from the leading expert on how American history is taught in the nation’s schools. Wineburg offers a set of timely and elegant essays on everything from the nuttiness of standardized testing regimes to the problems kids have, in the age of the internet, in knowing what’s true, and what’s not—as problems that teachers have, too, along with everyone else. A bracing, edifying, and vital book.”

Jill Lepore


Why Learn History

(When It’s Already on Your Phone)

Sam Wineburg


Publication date: September 25, 2018  
International publication date: October 1, 2018 $20.00/£15.00


As we live every day amid the consequences of a culture where basic facts are in question and different political camps flatly disagree about what is true and what’s “fake news,” the question of how we teach history has never been more urgent.


Fortunately, Sam Wineburg is here to help. For years now, Wineburg has been studying, assessing, and critiquing our teaching of history, and speaking about what he’s learned to groups large and small. The Stanford History Education Network, which he founded, was recently tapped by Google to create a pioneering program designed to improve young people’s digital literacy. Wineburg knows what works and what doesn’t when it comes to helping young people—to say nothing of adult citizens—dive into the welter of information and misinformation that threatens to drown us and come out with the facts.


In this book, he shares that knowledge, in accessible, winning fashion. Starting with a tour of the ways we’ve taught history in the past (lots of memorization and rote recitation), Wineburg then moves through some telling experiments in in figuring out how people assess online sources, and on into innovative ideas to help us teach. He argues that the key is not transmitting a string of names and dates, but rather teaching students an approach to history instead, one that is rooted in critical thinking and backed up by a knowledge of how to read, critique, and contextualize source material.


Full of surprising stories and insights into how we learn, this book is certainly for teachers and students. But it’s also for anyone who wants to be better informed, more effectively critical, and thereby a better citizen.


Sam Wineburg is the Margaret Jacks Professor of Education and History at Stanford University and the author of Historical Thinking and Other Unnatural Acts.


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