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Using knowledge for a purpose – spot the award winning journalist’s mistake

Depression

DepressionThe debate roles on. How important is knowledge in history? What type of knowledge should we be teaching. Substantive? Disciplinary? And, which is more important?

Well, we think that both are crucial.   We not only want our students to love history and know lots, we also want them to really see how historical knowledge makes them smart.

After all, ‘ a mere collector of supposed facts is as useful as a collector of matchboxes’ (Lucien Febvre).

We think that student’s should apply their knowledge in many different ways. One example of this is to get them to ‘beat the expert’ and spot mistakes written by journalists and authors.

The following is a classic.

Depressing knowledge about The Depression

The award winning journalist, and presenter of Radio 4 history(!!) series Jonathan Freeland wrote a fascinating article about the 1930s recently, entitled The 1930s were humanities darkest, bloodiest hour. Are you paying attention?  

However, if you read this article closely Freedland, like many year 10 and 11 students who have and will study Germany in the 1920s and 1930s, has confused his chronology. Perhaps he needs some more history lessons?  Can you spot his mistake?

The Depression was, as Larry Elliott last week, “the biggest setback to the global economy since the dawn of the modern industrial age”, leaving 34 million Americans with no income. The hyperinflation experienced in Germany – when a thief would steal a laundry-basket full of cash, chucking away the money in order to keep the more valuable basket – is the stuff of legend. ” 

This would make a great activity to ‘make learning stick‘, or for homework. Get your students to spot his mistake in either the full article or the extract above.

Then, get your class to email or tweet to Mr Freedland, explaining that he has mashed two events together that are not connected in the way he suggests.  The financial crisis of 1923 did not, Mr Freedland, take place in the 1930s!

C- (or in new money grade 4) Must try harder!

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About the author
Marc Scruby
Marc has spent the last ten years as History Teacher, School Leadership Team member and now Head of History at Priory School in Lewes, East Sussex. He has also worked as an Associate Teaching Fellow on the History ITE course at the University of Sussex.

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