What is 'good' history teaching all about??
Ms Srivastava is a committed history teacher. She is very passionate about history, in particular Indian history. She tries to make the subject as hands on as possible by giving lot of activities to the students that includes modeling, art work, creative writing, charts and she even takes students to field visits where ever possible. Her conception of Indian history goes something like this: India has a very rich past and heritage, 5000 years of history. India had some of the finest monarchs like Asoka, Kanishka, Chandragupta Vikramaditya, Harsha. India also was extremely plural in its ethos with so many religions, ethnicities, mores absorbed into its socio-cultural matrices. India also had tremendous contribution to make in the domains of science. Plastic surgery was discovered in India. The concept of zero was discovered in India. And Indian art?? What could ever surpass the beauty and colour of the murals at Ajanta or the elegant craftsmanship of Khajuraho temples or the amazing symmetry of the Taj Mahal.?
Thus India has a rich past, which we have to learn about and learn from it. Children love her classes and she is very popular until one day…Chetak, one skeptical student in Class VIII also likes history thanks to the efforts made by Ms Srivastava but certain questions do bother him i.e. Yes we have a great past and studying about the past is all interesting but in what way is it all useful and relevant? In what way does reading about Asoka’s dhamma help me to understand about Manmohan Singh and his efforts to get the support of other parties?? In what way is it useful today to understand the smile of Buddha in the standing (or is it the sitting?) statue at Sarnath?? In what way is it relevant to know about Samudragupta’s southern expedition some 1,600 years back?? Is an understanding of Allauddin Khalji’s administrative reforms or even Tughlaq’s help to solve any of the current socio-economic and social problems which are so different form the ones obtained in the past??
Chetak wondered and indeed raised these questions in the class. ‘In what way do we learn anything from the past when times and situation has changed so much?’ Ms Srivastava had no answer. She knew in heart of hearts that the questioned raised by Chetak was also bothering her for many years but she herself did not find a satisfying answer to it.
Please click (my earlier post) on my views on good history teaching for my response...