I had the privilege of sitting at the feet of historian and author Sam Wineburg this morning and was just blown away. He spent part of his time discussing and demonstrating some of the ideas that he writes about in his book, Historical Thinking and Other Unnatural Acts. (This is a must read for all history teachers!)

But Sam also spent time talking about his vision for learning in the history classroom and responding to questions. (He also pushed his fabulous new site Historical Thinking Matters.)

I was hoping to live blog his presentation but ran into access issues. And it was probably a good thing because I never would have kept up. Sam is a very engaging speaker and, based on the tone of his book, I never would have guessed that his presentation would have been so much fun!

I especially enjoyed listening to his responses to audience questions:

I do not believe that my message is political. The message is really about how to get our kids to be democrats with a small “D”. If we do not get our kids to think like true democrats, the country is on its way to hell in a hand basket.

Increasingly we are becoming a nation of those who can read and those who can’t. Those who can think historically and those who can’t and that is a tragedy.

A history class should not be arguing about the facts of history, the most important argument we should be having is how do we interpret the facts. The discussions should focus on questions about meaning not questions about facts.

I don’t think that a history class should be about things such as History Alive or about making cute posters, or about making history “engaging.” It’s about getting students to thinking rigorously about the evidence. Fun is okay, but I would rather have them hate the class and come out of the class having the skills needed to be good citizens than having them enjoy themselves.

My favorite?

When he talked about how we have Bloom’s taxonomy upside down. Sam argued that knowledge should be at the top of the pyramid, that the brain will only be able to create a sense of knowledge after it has had the chance to solve problems and answer questions.

Memory is not an attic where we store stuff that doesn’t matter to us. We have to start with questions and good problems.

And I think that as I work with social studies teachers and encourage them to “engage” their kids, I’ve been doing that. But I’ve never really thought about the whole Bloom’s Taxonomy thing in the way that Sam articulated it. We need to start thinking differently about how we view unit and lesson creation.