A Look into the First Day of this Professor's History ClassHistorians in the News
tags: historians, college, school, professor
L.D. Burnett received her PhD in Humanities (History of Ideas) from the University of Texas at Dallas (2015). She is a Professor of History at Collin College. Her book, Canon Wars: The 1980s Western Civ Debates at Stanford and the Triumph of Neoliberalism in Higher Education, is under contract with University of North Carolina Press.
I have students read an excerpt from Thomas Haskell, and we discuss that and establish some ethical expectations for ourselves as part of a community of inquiry. I ask them how we can know what we know about the past, and how we can know that historians who are telling us something about the past are getting it right, or at least right enough. And we talk about that, using some of my favorite ten-dollar words (when I was a kid, we called these “50 cent words,” but I don’t think that would sound like a lot to college students today): epistemology, nomothetic, idiographic, forensic.
I usually choose chemistry as the nomothetic discipline under discussion, because it is a lab science that many students have had some experience with in junior high or high school or college. We talk about what students are expected to learn when they do lab experiments, and what they’re not expected to learn. They usually volunteer that they are expected to learn technique, or to demonstrate “the laws” of the discipline they’re studying, “how chemistry works,” and so forth.
“Wait,” I say, “doesn’t anyone expect you to discover a new element in the periodic table in your high school chemistry class?” They laugh. Then I say, “Well, what is the point of calling it an experiment then, if it is something that has been done before by someone else?” The students always come up with good reasons for doing labs, and I sum up their reasons thus: the point of the experiments is to learn how knowledge in the field of chemistry is generated, verified, demonstrated, and communicated. With every lab there is a lab report: the materials you used, the conditions under which you ran the experiment, the steps you took, the results you got, an explanation of the results. All of this may communicate new knowledge to the student, but it also communicates a way of knowing and a procedure for verifying what someone else says they know.
comments powered by Disqus
- Archivists Are Mining Parler Metadata to Pinpoint Crimes at the Capitol
- ‘World’s Greatest Athlete’ Jim Thorpe Was Wronged by Bigotry. The IOC Must Correct the Record
- Black Southerners are Wielding Political Power that was Denied their Parents and Grandparents
- Israeli Rights Group: Nation Isn't a Democracy but an "Apartheid Regime"
- Capitol Riot: The 48 Hours that Echoed Generations of Southern Conflict
- Resolution of the Conference on Faith and History: Executive Board Response to the Assault on the U.S. Capitol
- By the People, for the People, but Not Necessarily Open to the People
- Wealthy Bankers And Businessmen Plotted To Overthrow FDR. A Retired General Foiled It
- Ole Miss Doubles Down on Professor's Termination
- How Fear Took Over the American Suburbs