Historical Empathy Through Teaching History

(Salma Ali, Islamabad)

Contemporary world is facing massive social issues that need considerable attention of the people related to the education field. The reason behind such issues are lack of understanding and conceptualization of the historical events and scripts.

Recent Burma, Miami and many other brutal acts are the result of lack of empathy and critical thinking. Sadly, the world is busy in educating the minds but fails in educating the souls. Recent world does not need education but value-based education to build tolerance, respect for other rights & rituals and accept diversity which is the beauty of the world.

Therefore, to resolve such issues and inculcate empathy for others around, teachers should take lead. They should find different methods to engage students in critical thinking process and help them view the available knowledge from different perspectives and in a logical manner.

Human history is complicated as it has been written by different people who perceived the events according to their own understanding. History is sometimes considered biased as it has either written or directed by rules. That’s why sometimes it creates confusion about one event and end up with conflict among people. Such conflicts hinder the progression of a nation and at times affect the image of a society. A hero for one nation in history has very negative image for others. That’s why history should be viewed and taught with a balanced approach.

Hence, to give a holistic view of history it is crucial to work on knowledge, skills and attitude of the people and encourage them to approach difference sources for clarity.

History is considered to be one of the boring subjects. The reason behind this is traditional teaching approach the teachers use to teach. Teachers usually use one sided approach and present the details in lecture form.

I believe history is an interesting subject and should be regarded with interest. Teachers therefore, should use different methods to teach.

Classroom is the best platform that helps students to broaden their horizon of thinking through different teaching approaches.

Historical empathy is a term that encourages the learners to inquire the available information, approach different sources and demonstrate in-depth understandings of its realities in holistic way. The aim of historical empathy is to go beyond the boundaries. It helps the learner in changing view by putting his/her feet in other shoes to evaluate different perspectives for better understanding. Resultantly, it removes misunderstanding, clear the concepts and entrench respect for others. Historical empathy allows the learner to appreciate the feelings, thoughts, views and response to an attitude of another person. It is one of the important skill that students should learn, so to compare past with present and infer meaning from.

Adding to this, inquiry-based learning should be encouraged in history classroom to solve the problems of tomorrow. Inquiry-based learning develops deeper understanding, analytical skills and encourages the students to think out of the box.

Moreover, Socratic approach also pays off in learning history as it opens the mind of students and help them study deeply.

Besides, brainstorming, role-play, projects, reflective writing tasks, interview, historical place, field trip and inviting old people and scholars as a guest speaker are some of the strategies that can benefit students learning and help them change their perspective regarding history. Such techniques will build bridge between school, home and community, and engage the students in enhancing their learning.

It is not an easy task to teach children historical thinking and entrench historical empathy. Therefore, management should engage academically strong background people as mentors for teachers. Proper trainings on teaching techniques is also crucial.

To change the mindset of the people and for bringing harmony and peace in the world teacher should play a role of change agent through their knowledge, skills and attitude.

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