because history just ain't what it used to be

Archive for the ‘Opinion’ Category

Teaching History in the Classroom: a view from 9th grade

In Opinion on March 18, 2010 at 12:08

by Emily Etkins and Jen Kreis

History can be taught in many different ways, and different learners adapt to different methods of teaching. The ways that history is taught have differed and changed throughout the years. Some ways work best in a classroom, while others do not; teaching methods and available resources can make learning history a great experience… or not.

When I walk into Western Civilization class, I know it will never be boring. We are always doing different activities like watching gory war videos on YouTube or playing cool Egyptian games. Last year, my eighth grade year, was all text book work. It was so boring that I could barely keep myself awake. No one wants to go to class, open the history book, and listen to the teacher lecture.

I believe that teachers are often taught a way to teach children, but then don’t develop their own way of teaching; which leads to either forgetting the more effective way of teaching, or not caring about teaching methods.

Instead of lecturing for an hour, the teacher should try to make it fun by sharing different resources about the topic. Here’s an example: Maybe you are learning about Julius Caesar, the conspiracy, and the assassination. There are many wonderful sites and videos online. For example, the BBC Ancient History site and their various video series like Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar which is an animated tale of Caesar’s assassination and the events that occurred after as well as the exciting Rise and Fall of an Empire series. Instead of the boring old text book, these resources are a great way to show students what happened to Julius Caesar.

BBC History also has many free online interactive games about many different topics. One of the topics is Egyptian pyramid making. It explains the right places and tools to use to build a pyramid. Even if you just have a small game of Jeopardy, a lot more information will be absorbed than you think. They might even remember certain moment in class that makes them recall the answer later. And what kid doesn’t love a little competitive game that involves a treat for the winner?

Fifteen percent of the population are kinesthetic learners (“Kinesthetic”). This means they don’t learn well from listening or reading; but rather learn from doing stuff, using their hands, and moving around. Reading the text book in class isn’t going to help these learners. It is very hard to concentrate on a text book for about an hour without taking a break. To help these kinesthetic learners, you should try hands-on activities, such as group projects and interactive activities like acting out parts of history, such as wars. The teacher could set up the students in battle formation and ask them questions about what the general might do next.

The main focus for a teacher in teaching students should be to get them involved in what they are learning about.

History is one of the best subjects to teach students interactively to help them see what they are learning about in a better way. But teachers need to remember not to just lecture out of a book.

When talking to adults about what it was like to be taught history when they were growing up in the 1960s to 1970s, I received a few different answers. Mary Anne said that when she was in high school, the teacher would lecture to the class, and she would take notes and make an outline. She stated, “I felt like I never really learned the history, I memorized my notes and was able to answer essay questions on tests by regurgitating my memorized notes on to the test paper.”

Today, there are still teachers who share information with the class in this way, but there are others who use the advancement in technology that we have by showing historically accurate videos or taking the class on the path of an historical campaign using Google Earth. In my opinion, what we are being taught is absorbed better if we are interactively learning it.

When talking to Phil, a man who always loved history class, he shared a story about a teacher he remembered well from 3rd grade. He recalled, “One of my favorite history teachers was a teacher by the name of Mrs. Burnell in 3rd grade.” He went on to explain a memorable experience he had in her class. “She actually took us on a trip to the Appalachian Mountains. We took food and different supplies and toys to the poor people there. We gave them a party, we had a party. She made learning very interesting with the way she taught. She was an African-American teacher in an all white school in Baltimore City. She really had a way with the students and made learning really fun.”

When I asked what exactly she did that made learning so fun, he said, “I just remember that she made class very interesting and maybe that it was because for the first time I was being taught by a black person. I didn’t know what to expect, but as it turned out I really enjoyed being in her class. I remember her being very friendly, approachable, and she welcomed questions.”

Phil also had another story that he vividly remembered about acting out a play about the American Revolution in the 7th grade. Remembering the play, he said, “I was George Washington. One of my classmates had a coat from his mother that was blue that looked like a colonial coat, and I wore that. To make the learning interesting, we played the parts of different people. We had lines and acted them out.”

Learning had become interesting, just by making it interactive. Instead of sitting in a chair and copying down notes being said, you could actually learn in a more productive way.

History can be taught in a variety of different ways, but some ways are more effective than others. In Phil’s years of being taught history, he found them enjoyable, because he always had an interest in learning about the past. Even without technology available, he was able to really learn and enjoy learning through interesting teachers and real experiences. Mary Anne, on the other hand, did not experience those methods of teaching and did not feel like she really knew or learned the information.

History is a wonderful and interesting topic to study, but lecturing is the wrong way to go when teaching kids because they will not stay attentive and alert. Interactive games and technology are great ways to teach students any topic that you would like them to learn because they are having fun, but at the same time they are learning. But even without those resources, history can be a fun topic to study — if time is put in to how to teach it.

Works Cited

“BBC – History – Ancient History in Depth: Pyramid Challenge.” BBC – Homepage. Web. 11 Mar. 2010. <>.

“Kinesthetic Learning . “Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. 11 Mar. 2010. <>.

“History Class.” Flickr. Web. 12 Mar. 2010. <>.


The Prison System: Rome 509 BCE vs. USA 2010 CE

In History, Opinion on March 10, 2010 at 16:49

by Bryan Fidler

The purpose of correctional facilities has changed greatly since the Roman Republic established their first prisons. Romans did not use prisons for the same purposes that we do in the United States. In fact, Roman law did not recognize imprisonment as a form of punishment.

In 451 BCE, with the issuance of the Twelve Tables, the main function of the jail was to provide a place to keep state prisoners pending execution, and for people awaiting trial. The wealthy were held under house arrest at the home of a friend, who would guarantee their appearance in court ( The only instance of imprisonment in the Twelve Tables occurs in the laws concerning debt. Debtors who could not or would not pay were incarcerated for sixty days and were to have their debts announced publicly in the marketplace three times. If their debt was paid, they were released, if not they were executed or sold into slavery outside the city (Morris and Rothman, 15).

If Romans were caught in the act, or confessed to the crime, their sentence was immediately imposed and no trial was held (Morris and Rothman, p.18). Conviction for some offenses was “an eye for an eye”, but a frequent penalty for a crime was death. Capital punishment took many forms such as burning alive for those convicted of arson, throwing off the Tarpeian Cliff for perjury, hanging for theft and burying alive the vestal virgins who violated their oaths of chastity (Morris and Rothman 14). Exile might be chosen by a convicted felon as an alternative to execution, in exchange for loss of their property and citizenship. Those exiled could be killed if they returned to Rome.

The Carcere Mamertino, or Mamertime Prison, is an ancient Roman prison typical during the Roman Republic. It served as the State Prison and had an underground cell which was a hole twelve feet below ground into which prisoners were lowered. It was basically a dungeon, where the conditions were so deplorable that many died before reaching trial, or the completion of the decided penalties. It was the death chamber for those sentenced to strangulation or starvation (Morris and Rothman, 19). High profile prisoners of war were also kept in the prison, where they stayed until a public procession could be held when they were paraded and strangled in public (Morris and Rothman, 22).

In the United States today we use prisons to hold inmates awaiting trial, but also for punishment. Capital punishment is rarely used as evidenced by the statistic that only 52 inmates were executed in 2009, as compared to 1,610,446 people being held as prisoners ( Also, the methods of capital punishment are considered to be more humane than during the Roman Republic, with the use of lethal injection or electrocution being the most common. The punishment of “an eye for an eye” no longer exists, and we now have an alternative or adjunct to incarceration under the system of parole and probation, where prisoners are released into the community under certain conditions, which only if not met, result in re-incarceration. Unfortunately, in 2008, over 7.3 million people were on probation, in jail or prison, or on parole at year-end, which is 3.2% of all U.S. adult residents, or 1 in every 31 adults. Furthermore, expenditures on corrections have increased 660% from $10 billion in 1982 to $68 billion in 2008 ( From a local perspective, in 2009 the Harford County Detention Center in Maryland housed, on average, 500 people per day, at a cost of $45/day. This amounts to an annual cost of $8,311,050 for a County with a population of approximately 250,000, which is the same approximate population of Rome at the beginning of the Roman Republic. (

So the prison system today in the United States is more humane than during the Roman Republic, which shows progression. Prisons are regulated at the Federal, State, and local levels by government. Prisoners are not kept in unsanitary places or starved and in Roman times, and in fact, “three hots and a cot”, is the current standard. Prisons now even provide job training and education to inmates to prepare their re-introduction into society.

But how effective is punishment as a deterrent to crime?

In a 15 State study conducted from 1983-1994, over two-thirds of released prisoners were rearrested within three years ( Punishment is defined as a process of presenting a consequence, delivered after a behavior, which serves to reduce the frequency or intensity with which the behavior occurs( If the purpose of incarceration in United States prisons is punishment, the tremendous costs and recidivism rates indicate that the prison system is not working. Indeed, the Roman Republic process seemed a more efficient — if utterly less humane — form of handling and deterring the commission of crimes.

“Annual Report.” Harford County Sheriff’s Office. Jan 2010. Harford County Government, Web. 5 Mar 2010.(

“Key Facts: Corrections.” Office of Justice Programs. 7 Jan. 2010. U.S. Department of Justice, Web. 5 Mar 2010. (

Morris, Norval, and David Rothman. The Oxford History of the Prison. New York: Oxford University Press, Inc., 1995. Print., pp. 14-22.

“punishment.” Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. 2010.Merriam-Webster Online. 5 March 2010 (

“Roman Prisons.” UNRV History. 2003-2010., Web. 5 Mar 2010. (

What Does the Future Hold?

In History, Opinion on March 2, 2010 at 14:57

by Becky Hottle

What Does the Future Hold? (The View from 264 BCE)

Although the Punic Wars are coming, I believe that there is a hopeful life ahead. In that future, everyone would be treated equally in Rome. The Struggle of the Orders was ‘resolved’ a long time ago, but many people are still being treated unfairly.

I hope a new invention will come soon to help us with farming. The wheel and the plow help enormously, but maybe something could be made that would help us not only plant the crops, but harvest them. It is so tiring harvesting all of our crops in the fields. As far as culture goes, I feel that — by one means or another — the Roman way of life will be introduced to many other civilizations and nations. We have a different view on many things, and I hope it translates into the future. As a Roman civilian, I look forward to changes, but hope we still keep the Roman culture alive.

What Does the Future Hold? (The View from 2010 CE)

By looking at the world around me today, I can’t predict what is going to happen. Not that anyone can, but I can’t even begin to think about how our world can go through more change than right now.

Brand new technology is being created that makes life so much easier. Computers, newly improved cars,and new tools all help us to do the things we do every day.

But all of these things really make me wonder if we really need them.

People back in Rome and Greece didn’t have our materials, but their civilizations were very successful and powerful. I just know in the future, I do not want to lose what we have today to new and improved technology.

Opinion: History as a Cycle

In Opinion on February 25, 2010 at 11:54

by Elise Adamson

Poet Percy Bysshe Shelley says “History is a cyclic poem written by Time upon the memories of man.”

Though the actual occurrences may be different, the cause or the reason is often the same. War, revolution, imperialism, and social movements have similar sources and origins that cause them to come about and connect to each other. Knowing how these events relate allows an understanding of how history transpires and correlates.

Because history is made up of patterns that shape the world we live in.

The motivating forces that repeat in the cycle of history determine human actions that later become events and major parts of history. The cycle continues to go on and on and the forces in the cycle will always be the same.

“History merely repeats itself. It has all been done before. Nothing under the sun is truly new.” – Ecclesiastes 1:9

The repetition continues as the years roll by. The cycle proves itself as the truest explanation of history.

Opinion: History is Made by ‘The People’

In Opinion on February 22, 2010 at 21:32

by Mackenzie Rayburn and Elise Adamson

History is created by ‘the people’.

History is the events of the past. The people are a group of individuals and they are what create history. The people elect leaders and what the leaders do is what makes up history. It takes a group of people for events to occur. Not many things occur with just one person.

Individuals and the People make up history. The difference between the two is that individuals are recognized in history while the People are not. Alfred de Vigny says “History is a novel for which the people are the author” ( The names in history are usually leaders and those in power. The question is, what power do those leaders have without the people under them?

Alexander the Great would not seem so great if he had been by himself up against 240,000 Persians. It was not Charlemagne alone who conquered other kingdoms, but also the men who fought alongside him that made Charlemagne’s dream a reality. Martin Luther King Jr. was one of the faces of the protests for African American civil rights; King was marching, protesting, and boycotting with other people at his side; he didn’t change history alone.

People elect leaders who create history. This is a mark in history that people create. For example, a group of U.S citizens elected Obama for president; this is a part of history and that history was created by a group of people. Although history may be about one person, the history was created by a group of people.

For laws to be, they have to be passed by people first. That makes creating a law a group effort. All the people had to work together to create this. As the quote “There is no I in team” suggests, there is not one person who is the leader. It takes a group of people for things to occur.

Inventors may think of the idea on their own but they are going to use other people’s help throughout the way. They may also use other people’s ideas.  No one person can make history. One person may make one event, but all the events that occur will make up history. That is pulling together.

History is created by the people, not by individuals; it takes a group effort for things to happen. Every person who has done something important in history has used the help of others. Not one person can do it all.