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Beyond Textbooks: Guiding Students to Deconstruct the Past

Beyond Textbooks: Guiding Students to Deconstruct the Past

At Silicon Valley International School (INTL), our High School history courses go deeper than just the dates and names in the textbooks, equipping students with the critical thinking skills they need to analyze complex events to better understand the narratives that shape our perceptions of the past.
Four High School juniors working collaboratively on a project.

INTL’s High School history curriculum exemplifies this approach. For example, in units on the causes of World War II, students are not passive learners; they actively engage with historical evidence through various sources. Analyzing political cartoons, for instance, becomes a springboard for discussions. Students dissect the imagery, considering the context and potential biases to grasp the underlying message.
Victor (Vicky) Weisz, a political cartoonist, depicts two senators outside the US Congress responding to the civil rights programme of President Lyndon B Johnson [LBJ] in the cartoon "Now, we mustn't let him rush us into things!" for the British newspaper the Evening Standard (29 November 1963).

Similarly, primary sources like excerpts from Winston Churchill's The Gathering Storm are deconstructed. Students do not simply accept the information presented. They evaluate the author's perspective, purpose, and potential bias, recognizing that history is not a collection of undisputed facts, but rather a complex narrative woven from various viewpoints. For Churchill, it is the victor’s history; his memoirs and viewpoint of the war.
Additionally, learning at INTL is a collaborative process. The "Think-Pair-Share" model used throughout our courses encourages students to grapple with the material independently before discussing their interpretations with a partner. This fosters critical thinking and builds confidence in expressing their ideas. Peer assessment becomes an integral part of the learning process, allowing students to learn from each other and refine their understanding.

Two High School students working together on a project.

Our approach dismantles the notion of history as a fixed set of facts. Students recognize the past as an ongoing conversation, shaped by the perspectives and agendas of those interpreting it. By examining different narratives, such as the contrasting views on Cold War held by the United States, China, and Russia, students develop a nuanced understanding of historical events.
In a world overflowing with information, INTL’s approach to studying history empowers students to become discerning consumers of historical narratives. They graduate with the ability to analyze evidence critically, form independent conclusions, and participate thoughtfully in the ongoing conversation about the past - a skillset essential for navigating the complexities of the present and shaping the future.

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