Sabado, Pebrero 25, 2012

The Scrutiny of the Second Order Concepts in History on Peter J. Lee’1 Putting Principles into Practice: Understanding History

1Peter J. Lee is a senior lecturer in education in the History Education Unit of the School of Arts and Humanities at the Institute of Education of The University of London. Previously, he taught history in primary and secondary schools. Lee has directed several research and curriculum development projects (the latter with Denis Shemilt). He has edited five books on history education, and published numerous chapters and articles exploring children’s ideas about history, many of them coauthored with Rosalyn Ashby. He is an editor of the International Review of History Education. He received a history degree at Oxford University.(p.594)
 In a certain sense all men are historians.
                         ~Thomas Carlyle, Essays: On History

Many students may agree that history can be labeled as purely encyclopedic with banal text. With this idea, student may not clearly inspire to understand the meaning and interpretation of history with this predicament. But I personally overcome this dilemma with my high school teacher, Asilmo who inspired us to be little historian with his teaching style that keep me present in our school library. I discovered that history books interpreted differently. They sometimes present opinion from lacking facts. Some secrets of history are sometimes read in periodicals and revealed in motion picture or in novel.Indeed, not all were written in books and authors have different ideas and sources. As a result, misconceptions and misunderstanding with historical truth prevailed and need for further research and recount. I remembered my teacher use articles from books published by a religious group, Jehovah Witness just to reveal the details of the account.Moreover, with the advent of the absolutely free access to Wikipedia; teaching of history takes another fate. From manuscripts to books and to digital world, history will be interpreted more differently.
In this time with the present of different media, students acculturate to different ideas, facts and opinion. Daniel Cohen and Roy Rosenzweig in their Digital History: a guide to gathering, preserving, and presenting the past on the web revealed that:
More than a decade into the promised “digital revolution,” the cyber-enthusiasts and the techno-skeptics have both turned out to be poor prophets of the future. Universities and libraries still stand. Culture has not crumbled. Paradise has not arrived. But to decide that neither utopia nor dystopia beckons should not lead to the comfortable conclusion that nothing has changed or will change. Driven by the rapid emergence and dissemination of computers, global computer networks, and new digital media, change—though not revolution—surround us. Our daily habits of finding the news and weather, buying books, and communicating with colleagues and loved ones have permanently changed.
Despite of this trending in academe, the basic and essential historical concepts should be instilling to learners at young age. Elementary history takes an important role for this cause. In Lee (2005) chapter in How Students Learned History in the Classroom exposed how teacher can present history to their students in a way that works to develop historical understanding.

The book chapter two revealed some principles on learning and understanding history. It includes the prevailing statement in the opening paragraph that students do not come to their classrooms empty-handed. They bring with them ideas based on their own experience of how the world works and how people are likely to behave. Anent to this idea, he stressed that it is beneficial to our teachers.However, it can also create problems because ideas that work well in everyday world are not always applicable to the study of history. Lee supported that the very fact is that we are dealing with the past that makes it easy for misconceptions to arise but problems with everyday ideas can go deeper. In furtherance, he also mentioned another principle of How People Learn is that students need a firm foundation of factual knowledge ordered around the key concepts of the discipline. According to him, these concepts consist for the studies of history are concerned with the content or substance of history-with the way people and societies work. These substantive concepts include, for example, political concepts such as state, government, and power and economic concepts such as trade, wealth, and tax. But understanding history also involves concepts of a different kind such as evidence, cause and change.Meanwhile; the chapter discussed the student’s preconceptions of how political and economic activities work (substantive concepts).

How Lee teaches what he called second-order concepts
Lee(2005) adhered to this what he called second –order concepts in history  to mentioned like time,change,emphathy,cause,evidence and accounts in teaching and understanding history. I also believe with his idea.Indeed, the said concepts are essential in teaching history as discipline.
Historical Time is the most vital characteristic of history. Time will tell everything the details of every single fact. Lee stressed that time is clearly central to history. He also said that with time, as with other ideas, history can be counterintuitive. That’s why, most history books are arrange according to period, era or simply time to see its connection and coherence.Moreover, to be effective in relating an event is to present it in timeline. On contrary, the format in Kuya Kim,Matang Lawin,a television show in presenting his feature story he first relate the present then go back to the past then to the present. In this view, the relationship is being integrated for more understanding of the event.
On the other hand, because of misconceptions in historical time, many teachers and even researcher forcedly utilized the primary or secondary sources.Meanwhile, Dr.Vivencio Ballano stressed that:
Even though there is diversity of opinion and interpretation of historians to historical events, there are certain things which many historians agree as historical facts which cannot be subjected to debates.Thus, some historical figures, dates and places are generally considered as historical facts by historians2.
Moreover, it will depend to the teacher, some strongly adhere to Zaide while other to Agoncillo or Constantino.I am hoping that the Philippine Historical Association will convene to discussed some errata in Philippine history subject to correction so that teacher can straightly retell historical events with correct dates without bias.
Herodotus, the father of history in The History of Herodotus,he said that very few things happen at the right time, and the rest do not happen at all:  the conscientious historian will correct these defects.In this quotation it clearly reveal that even Herodutos are not sure of the  right dates.Tha’t why it is safe to estimate as other historians used decades like 1940s, 1960s and so on.
Another concept is Change which Lee intensified that change in history is generally to be understood in terms of changes in state of affairs; it is not equivalent to occurrence of events. In this view, the event is considered as change in history if it actually concerned to the national state. In the past decade, most of the country’s significant events that change the Filipino society are well documented like Martial law that changes the government system and People Power revolution and the likes. These events can write as part of study in schools because it will be useful in the future.
Every yearend, television and other form of  media  feature a year end reports with just only the great news are included in different aspect. It is always the political figures and state is focused this time like how Juan Dela Cruz survives the whole year round.
Lee also point Change as clearly central to history along with time. In other words, only those significant historical events shall be counted as historical change. The first automated elections in the country last May 2010 is actually made change in Philippine democracy. In classroom, the choice of historical content should be viewed according to change and relevance in national and international affair.
Empathy is another concept in history advocated by Lee that should be address to the four corner classroom. Lee elucidated that what people did in the past makes sense in terms of their ideas about the world. This view suggests that in order to learn the concept, meanings, and implication in everyday life of the past, the teacher should have the role to work on to operational zed the sense of empathy. Through this value the examples set in the past intend to reflect the present.Thus, people may compare and scrutinized the past and present. Mistakes done by past history account tend educate the people of today. Lee further explained the use of empathy in history education:
…… is to some extent stipulative (that is, the word is assigned a particular meaning, whatever other meanings it may have in the world outside history education). To that extent it is jargon, but there is no harm in this if it helps professionals reach a consensus on what they are talking about.
The central idea here is that people in the past did not all share our way of looking at the world. For this reason, when writing or reading history we must understand the ideas, beliefs, and values with which different groups of people in the past made sense of the opportunities and constraints that formed the context within which they lived and made decisions about what to do. Thus empathy in the study of history is the understanding of past institutions, social practices, or actions as making sense in light of the way people saw things.(p.46)

The whole idea is very well said. To relate to the classroom, such significant historical event that happened unpurposely in the past that destroy the culture and human race should be allow in the classroom  for discussion. In this class situation, emotion, values and ideas are mainly considered.

Lee mentioned that not all explanations in history are concerned with understanding people’s reasons for acting or thinking as they did. We often want to explain why something happened that no one intended. Actions have unintended consequences, or simply fail to achieve their purposes. Consequently, students often treat causes as special events that make new events happen in much the same way as individual people do things: causes act the way human agents act. In this gist, cause is one of the concerns of history education teacher. I believe that to boost up the interest of learners to stimulate the higher order thinking skills of students is  through  creative discussion. Selected text like in the western exploration in the east, proclamation of Martial Law, and the likes can be well diverse through this concept of cause. However, Lee stressed that is really a complex for teacher for foregoing this idea since the notion of causes as discrete events makes it difficult for students to understand explanations as dealing with relationships among a network of events, processes, and states of affairs, rather than a series of cumulative blows delivered to propel an outcome forward. The excerpt of classroom discussion in this chapter is absolutely unbelievable. It exhibit critical and analytical thinking and developing student’s schema.

According to Lee, the concept of evidence is central to history because it is only through the use of evidence that history becomes possible. Even when students ask themselves how we know about what happened, however, it does not follow that they will recognize source material as evidence to be used differently from the notes or textbook accounts they may encounter on other occasions.Indeed, evidence is vital in history education. In relating this to students, the presentation of picture, well research manuscript, video, carbon dating, DNA test and the likes can help student generalize an idea based from evidence.
Likewise, the use of books, written documents as evidence shall be stressing for this is the superior sources to be utilized as evidence. Lee said that:

The preconception that history is dependent on true reports also encourages students to think of the reliability of a source as a fixed property, rather than something that changes for different questions. This notion in turn can lead students to take the historian’s distinction between primary and secondary sources to mean that the latter are less reliable than the former.

Indeed, we are so much dependent on book that may sometimes lead to confusion in varied authors opinion and interpretation. Students may likely to commit mistake in their generalization in this predicament.

Lastly, Lee exposed the concept of a historical account is related to that of evidence. Whereas with evidence the focus tends to be on the establishment of particular facts, with accounts we are more concerned with how students view historical narratives or representations of whole passages of the past. This gist explained that this evidence should be compiled and published in books to be called as historical account. The primary source can be associated as account like narrative of the EDSA 2.Literature cannot be linked to account but can be used as evidence. Likewise, biography is not an historical account.Therefore, account should be written historically and in narrative.

Over all, the chapter explained clearly the said concepts but it has a limited explanation with the excerpt of classroom situation. I salute to Lee endeavor and his passion in history education.

2Uploaded by Vivencio Ballano(June 30,2009)The What,How and Why of the Philippine history, Febuary 23, 2012.Available at:

Lee, P.J. (2005). Putting principles into practice: Understanding history. In M.S. Donovan, & J.D. Bransford (Eds.), How students learn history in the classroom. Washington, D.C.: National Academies Press, pp. 31-77. Available at

Cohen, D.J., & Rosenzweig, R. (n.d.). Promises and perils of digital history. In Digital history: A guide to gathering, preserving, and presenting the past on the web [Electronic version]. Center for History and New Media. Available at

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