Source problems on the French revolution
An academic book by Fred Morrow Fling who was an American historian that deals with problems of The French Revolution:--The Oath of the Tennis court, June 20, 1789.--The royal session of June 23, 1789.--The insurrection of October 5 and 6, 1789.--The flight of the king, June 20, 1791, and other important topics.
The evolution of history teaching from the stage characterized by the memorizing of a text to that distinguished by a critical study of evidence forms one of the most interesting chapters of the pedagogic history of the past twenty-five years. The steps in this evolution were:
(1) The addition of "library work," collateral reading in secondary histories;
(2) the preparation of a topic based upon secondary works;
(3) the use of the sources as collateral reading;
(4) the interpretation of documents and narrative sources, little or no attention being paid to criticism, namely, to localization, evaluation, independence, and the establishment of the fact by the agreement of two or more independent affirmations. A single source was sufficient, the main purpose in dealing with narrative sources was to get the contemporary colour and sentiment;
(5) preparation of a paper-based indiscriminately upon sources and secondary works, no attempt is made to distinguish the two classes of material or to use the sources critically;
(6) finally, a study based upon a collection of sources, dealing with a limited topic vii Preface and containing two or more affirmations by independent witnesses to the same fact. Here for the first time history teaching had reached a scientific basis.
The use of collateral secondary reading, although tending to break up the practice of memorizing and to give a fuller knowledge of the topic studied, supplied neither the material nor the method for scientific historical training. Later, the reading of the sources supplied the material; but, as they were not studied intensively and critically, nor more than one source used for the same fact, the indispensable method was still lacking.
Nor could the preparation of a paper, even when based upon sources and secondary works, yield that discipline so long as the primary importance of the sources and the fundamental character of source criticism were not understood or were not made a vital part of historical instruction. Up to the present time the chief aim — practically the only aim — of the instructor has been to interest the pupil and to aid him in obtaining historical information.
This certainly is important, always will be important, but it cannot be the sole aim of history teaching. Should not an educated man or woman know something of the process by which historical truth is distinguished from fable or falsehood? Should they not understand something of the logic that underlies historical synthesis and justifies a synthesis in history different from that in the natural sciences? Should they not know that history, unique evolution, can- not repeat itself, and that historical law — the terms are contradictory, law implying repetition — is impossible?
There are cogent reasons, it has long seemed to me, for answering all of these questions in the affirmative. How, then, shall these things be taught? By putting into the hands of the pupil a collection of sources, dealing with a limited topic, containing parallel accounts of the same facts and making this material the basis for classroom instruction in historical method. These studies should take the place of the semester's paper; they will do what the semester's paper, as now written, cannot do — namely, acquaint the pupil in a practical way with the critical historical process and awaken and develop the critical faculty.
It is laboratory work in history and has the same justification as laboratory work in the natural sciences. The justification of laboratory work in the natural sciences is not found in the amount of information acquired, but in the training in the process by which we attain truth.
The same justification is found for the study of mathematics. It will hardly be maintained that the justification for teaching the historical process is not as great, even greater, than for teaching the processes in natural science. Every day and every hour we are all of us called upon to pass upon the truth or falsity of historical facts and to act upon ix Preface our judgments. We use the process, but we use it unconsciously and with little purpose. To those who recall the notorious
Dr. Cook and the extent to which he fooled a credulous public, even an educated public, nothing more need be said of the necessity of training our boys and girls in the method of historical proof. But, it has been objected, the process cannot be taught to boys and girls of high-school age or even of college-age; it should be reserved for graduate school. "The proof of the pudding is the eating." The thing can be done because it has been done. The work may even begin in grammar school. It may begin just as soon as the boy or girl is desirous of knowing "if it is true" and "how do we know that it is true." That is, it may be begun if we know how to begin it.
The great obstacle today to the improvement of history teaching is that most of the teachers — even some of the college teachers — are not acquainted with the method and do not know how to teach it. What would we think of a science teacher who could not prove by experiment that water is composed of two gases, hydrogen and oxygen, in the proportion of two to one? How many history teachers could prove any of the thousands of facts taught each day in the classroom?
Why should this ignorance be tolerated in one case and not in the other? If the teacher is capable of teaching the method, of adapting it to the different Preface stages of mental growth in the classes taught, there will be no lack of interest nor the ability to apply it noticeable among the pupils. In my own work, I have given one classroom hour a week out of three to intensive work.
book details :
Author: Fred Morrow Fling and Helene Dresser Fling.
Publication date: 1913 Company: New York and London: Harper & Brothers
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