With support from the University of Richmond

History News Network

History News Network puts current events into historical perspective. Subscribe to our newsletter for new perspectives on the ways history continues to resonate in the present. Explore our archive of thousands of original op-eds and curated stories from around the web. Join us to learn more about the past, now.

Are US History Textbooks Obsolete?

It used to be that American students learned the history of their country from "official" sources — teachers and textbooks accredited and vetted by experts. But that’s no longer true.

Amateur historians and others without official bona fides can upload anything they want to the internet, profoundly changing the amount of information available and how we access it. This onslaught of online data might mean it’s time to let the textbook method of teaching history become part of the past itself.

“Many of our pedagogies were developed at a time when there was a scarcity of information and so we needed to memorize things. We couldn’t lug a textbook around everywhere that we went,” says Sam Wineburg, professor of education and history at Stanford University and author of Why Learn History (When It's Already on Your Phone?).

“Now it’s faster to ask Siri than it is to recall it from memory. So we’ve got devices now that externalize memory in ways that are unimaginable. Given that, how should we efficiently and thoughtfully use the time we devote to instruction in school?”

Wineburg, who studies the way history is taught in the United States, says that instead of protecting students from the internet, it’s time to teach them how to differentiate the good information from the bad. ...

Read entire article at VOA News