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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 9/5/11

Teaching History to a Digital Generation

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Message Allan Goldstein
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The test results are in, and they're damning. We've raised a generation of children who think the Magna Carta is a condom for braggarts.

Our usual reaction to that ignorance is blithe contempt, a dreary, "kids today" sigh that makes us feel better about being old at the price of sounding ancient.

But if we don't find a way to teach the digital generation our history, they're doomed to repeat it. And nobody deserves that fate.

We baby boomers liked to think we started history when we came on the scene, as if all time to that point was merely prologue for our Big Entrance.

But if we think we crowned history, the current generation has no historical consciousness at all. And it's not because the kids are stupid. It's because we haven't taught them properly.

We can't teach them because we speak two different languages. We speak analog with our throats, they speak digital with their thumbs. If we don't want our civilization's collective memory to vanish, we're going to have to translate.

Any effective translator must use terms the translatee understands. This generation understands blogs, texts and tweets.

Let's say we want to teach the kids about Columbus. We can't use books; kids don't know what they are. We can't use doggerel like "In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue." The kids will think that's a song from "Finding Nemo." If we want to tell Columbus's story, we need to put it in a tweet.

"Chris1492 @NinaPintaSantaMaria. Didn't sail off end of World! Still looking for the gold. Shout out to Isabella! Epic win, girl! #EarthIsRound."

Tweeting our way back in time, we find Julius Cesar, fresh from his campaign in Gaul.

"JulesTheFirst @EmperorToBe.com. I came, I saw, I pwned."

Advanced students could study The Federalist tweets @HamiltonMadisonJay.gov. Those interested in gothic studies will find kindred spirits in Colonial America: "Ride needed to BurningWitch in Salem. Will kick in for oats."

Some historical events are too complex for 140 characters; a tweet won't do. But a blog will.

INSIDE NEWTON'S NOODLE: Sir Isaac Newton's blog.

July 20, 1666

"Smoking hot today, so I'm hiding under this tree, snagging some Z's, when a apple bonks off my head. Naturally I think it's Leibniz who threw it, because he's still steamed about me taking credit for inventing calculus.

"But then I suddenly realize, OMG, that apple fell on me! Whatever goes up, must come down! I just discovered gravity, my peeps! I RULE!"

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Allan Goldstein Social Media Pages: Facebook page url on login Profile not filled in       Twitter page url on login Profile not filled in       Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

San Francisco based columnist, author, gym rat and novelist. My book, "The Confessions of a Catnip Junkie" is the best memoir ever written by a cat. Available on Amazon.com, or wherever fine literature is sold with no sales tax collected. For (more...)
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