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I Know Why We Learn History!


I was tutoring a high schooler a while back, when we could still see each other in person, and he was reading Night by Elie Wiesel. If you aren't familiar with this book, it's a memoir of Wiesel's time at Auschwitz and Buchenwald concentration camps. It's obviously horrific and very hard to read.

The student had some learning differences and struggled a bit with many academic tasks, and Night was a challenge. The copy he had was printed with a small, old-fashioned font, and much of the writing is old-fashioned, so he was struggling. In addition, it's one of the hardest subjects possible to read about, and Wiesel does not hold back but tells the stark truth.

As we were slogging through this, my student was really doing his best, but needed help on most sentences, as well as a lot of the context of what was going on in the world in 1944. He kept asking me if this was really true, and I hated answering yes.

At one point, he was quiet for a long time, after a particularly difficult paragraph with many new vocabulary words. I thought he was getting discouraged until he looked at me and said, "Hey! I know why we learn about things like this!"

I asked, "Things like what?"

He said, "I know why we learn history! It's so we never do this again."

He went on to say that he was going to tell all his friends who hate history that he figured out why we study it.

I have a few adults who need to learn from this student. He's a C-/D+ student most of the time and I think he's wiser than almost anyone I know.

Comments

Anonymous said…
I so want this boy to be right!
kbb said…
I hope he really did tell all of his friends. Years ago, at Lincoln Middle school, there was a teacher who would take the class to the Museum of Tolerance in LA. They left early in the morning on the airplane, and came back the same night. I think it made a huge difference.

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