Saturday, August 4, 2012

Experiments with Education: History I didn't know - 1

In 5th grade, we decided that we cannot compromise on students' content knowledge anymore. Irrespective of their language skills, there are things that they need to know about the world and their past. Keeping this in mind, I have been focussed on teaching Science and Social Studies extensively this year. History was never my favourite subject in school and I feel that a huge part of the reason was how it was taught. Pretty much the same for Geography.

Currently, my focus in class is on building student interest. Make these subjects come alive. To quote Antoine de Saint-Expury:
“If you want to build a ship, don't drum up people together to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”
Instead of memorizing dates and thinking of history as a fact-book, my aim is to give them stories that they remember and put events into perspective. So, there has been a lot of reading about colonialism and their arrival in India. I have come across many things that I wish I had been told about when I was reading history.

  1. Most of these so-called explorers and discoverers were savages. Vasco De Gama was a brute. All this time, I had grown up with a perspective of him being a gentle scientist like creature who liked ships and sea. As wikipedia points out -
    "On reaching India in October 1502, da Gama started capturing any Arab vessel he came across in Indian waters, most notoriously the Miri, a pilgrim ship from Mecca, whose passengers he had massacred in open water. He then appeared before Calicut... He also captured several rice vessels and barbarously cut off the crew's hands, ears and noses, dispatching them with an insulting note to the Zamorin."
  2. There was a great Maratha admiral called Kanhoji Angre. He fought off the Portuguese, Dutch and the British all his life and being undefeated till his death. A true rockstar! He is also referenced in the Pirates of the Caribbean. Wikipedia quotes: 
    1. "On 4 November 1712, his navy even succeeded in capturing the armed yacht Algerine of the British President of Mumbai, William Aislabie, killing the chief of their factory and making his wife a prisoner. The yacht and the lady were released on 13 February 1713 for a ransom of 30,000 Rupees."
    2. Laugh aloud moment - "...on 26 December 1715, Boone made several attempts to capture Angre. But instead in 1718 Angre captured three ships belonging to the British leaving them to claim that Kanhoji Angre was a pirate."
    3. Awesomeness!  "1721 - British and Portuguese jointly attack Alibagh, but are defeated."
  3. History is full of fascinating stories and the legendary pirate Henry Every is linked with Aurangzeb in India. He made the richest heist to be made in the history of piracy when he captured the Ganj-i-Sawai of Aurangzeb's fleet. To appease the Mughal emperor, East India Company and the British kingdom was forced to conduct the first known worldwide manhunt happened for Every. More details on that story here.
So far, the stories have generated interest. I have trouble finishing my lessons because of the barrage of questions. I have to keep reminding myself that being asked questions incessantly is a good sign. Teaching history is turning out to be a fascinating learning experience for me. 


Sandy Shaw said...

Nice Article! Thanks for sharing with us.
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The Illuminator said...

I disliked social studies too!! Much of a math science person. We should have never been given the text book.