When The End Is Also A Beginning

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The good thing about the end of a school year is that we are also thinking about next year. This is just as well since numerous factors are very depressing in a French school in June: dwindling numbers in the classes, an administration which takes absenteeism for granted and makes no effort to get the students back into the classrooms, kids that seem to have become blind or alzheimer-stricken and no longer acknowledge you when you meet them in the corridors, a string of bad news about next year (fewer hours, more students in the different classes, …)

It seems that the only way to keep sane is to focus on the good things and even try and create them to make sure they happen.

Therefore a collegue who teaches History and Geography (these two subjects are taught by the same person in France) but also advanced German to a group of volunteers has asked me whether I wanted to team up with her so that we could teach different aspect of the same themes.

The curriculum for sophomores is changing in History and Geography and the language teachers are encouraged to focus on the same topics whenever possible.

History will focus on “Europeans in the history of the world” (no P.C. in France as you can see) within five main areas: Europeans in the distribution of the world population, citizenship in Ancient Europe, Medieval Europe, new geographical and cultural horizons in the modern period and the French Revolution and the concept of nation.

We have chosen to work together as regards the first and third themes: ie imigration from Europe and the Middle-Ages. I’ll concentrate on the Jewish immigration from eastern Europe towards the New World while my collegue will deal with immigration from Germany. Concerning Medieval Europe, we’ll study the Jewish communities in England and Germany: where they lived, their cultures, their relationships with their neighbors and their role in the economy of their respective countries.

Is it a curriculum that would appeal to you? What would you rather study?

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12 thoughts on “When The End Is Also A Beginning

  1. That’s exciting, that you can study Jewish history as part of public school education. From reports I hear, the public schools in our area are overly p.c. and may teach Mexican history but not Jewish history.

    My son only studies geography as a subset of history. But he seems to have fine history teachers (in his Jewish high school).

    It’s only natural to want to learn about oneself – so if you are in Europe, you want to learn European history. If you are Jewish, you would probably want to learn Jewish history, unless you are one of those people who can’t deal with one’s Jewishness. Sigh.

    • That’s exciting, that you can study Jewish history as part of public school education.
      It is the positive side about dealing with rather wide topics, it is possible to choose the examples you want to illustrate a point.

      It’s only natural to want to learn about oneself
      I totally agree with you and think that p.c. can lead to disasters or/and absurdities in some areas.

  2. That sounds fascinating. If I had been given this curriculum to study when I was 15/16, I would have been really, really happy. Taking subjects in isolation can be really frustrating at times.

    The insights into what happens in French schools at this time of year are very revealing. We tend to think of the grass being greener in another town/city/county/country. In fact, we’re all dealing with variations of the same issues.

    Good luck with the curriculum.

  3. Yes, definitely fascinating! I wish I had been able to study these subjects in high school. I only know geography because of the initiative of one teacher, as well as my parents. I’m another one who agrees that correctness is best when it’s not political. Just correct! I know, I know, not always an easy thing to agree upon, especially where public education is concerned.

    • In France History and Geography are compulsory subjects for all students, even if it is changing for those learning science who will have one less year of both as from 2011.

  4. When I was in high school, Jewish History and History were two separate subjects. The former was part of the Judaic studies part of the day, and the latter was included with the secular studies. Unfortunately, this meant that we usually weren’t taught how the two were connected.

    I’m very glad that here in Israel (at least in the religious schools), Jewish history is taught as part of the general history courses.

  5. I’m very glad that here in Israel (at least in the religious schools), Jewish history is taught as part of the general history courses.
    Do you think it is different in secular schools?

      • I was wondering since it would seem to make sense to connect Jewish history and “world” history in Israel whether the school is religious or secular. But then as regards education, nothing surprises me any more.

  6. Teaching any subject–history, science, languages–in an integrated way, where historical context, innovation, and cultural cross-currents are part of the subject matter, is the best way to teach. My worst English classes barely acknowledged the world in which the literature was created; my best discussed religion, the monarchy, the effects on England of colonization of America, even prevalent diseases as part of the course. I enjoyed it so much more, and remember many more facts and details that give the literature meaning.

    Good luck. I’m sure your areas of focus will enrich the students’ knowledge of European history. (Incidentally, while it may not seem P.C. to focus on Europe as you are, it’s worth remarking first, that human beings migrate naturally, and second, that those with greater means and incentive to migrate do so more. If you’re not familiar with Jared Diamond’s book, Guns, Germs and Steel, it might be worth a read to get another perspective about why it is that Europeans always seem to have an advantage over other peoples in the world.

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