National History Day is almost upon us. It’s the sort of event that should make history buffs stand up and shout. Maybe even dance a conga line through the local library.
I will admit, Natural History Day first came to my attention in a less than positive way. Several months ago, I began to receive emails from students asking if they could “interview” me regarding the Meiji Restoration, based on a blog post I wrote on the subject. I was flattered when I got the first email. Then I was outraged when the young woman sent me a list of many, many, many questions clearly written by an adult.* (“During the Versailles Peace Conference, why did the delegates refuse to include a clause for racial equality and how did the Japanese react to this exclusion and discrimination?” is not a question written by an eighth-grader–or at least not by the eighth-grader who wrote the original ungrammatical email.) By the fourth request I went looking on-line to find out what the *&(*^&%% this was about.
I was impressed with what I found. Founded in 1974, National History Day is the history equivalent of a nation-wide robotics contest for students from the sixth through the twelve grades. Its intention is “to provide an opportunity for students to push past the antiquated view of history as mere facts and dates and drill down into historical content to develop perspective and understanding.” (I assume that if you’re a regular reader of this blog this is a goal you can get behind.) Each year the organization chooses a theme for student research projects, which can include documentaries, exhibits, papers, websites or even performances.** If I had know about this in 1974 (or 1975. Or 1976) I would have been all over it.
On June 11, winning teams of young history nerds from across the country will converge in Washington for the final stage of the competition. This year’s theme is “Taking A Stand in History”. *** As far as I’m concerned, that means “Shin-kickers From History”. I can’t wait to find out what they come up with.
We need to know our history. We need to know other people’s history. Here’s hoping National History Day hooks a few history buffs.
*This was not my first experience at having a student try to get me to do their homework for them. About every six months some kid contacts me about a topic in my book on socialism. I am not alone in this. Grrr.
**Perhaps a Hamilton-style mini-musical?
***The Meiji Restoration is not the first thing I think of when I hear that phrase. Somewhere in California there is an eighth-grade teacher with a bee in her bonnet.