History Matters

“The Caribbean Examination Council (CXC) has established a regional committee that will be tasked with recommending ways in which the syllabus for Caribbean History could be revived to make it more attractive to students.

This is in an effort to address the falling numbers of students sitting the exam each year, which the regional examination body highlighted as a major concern in 2016. Myrick Smith, the CXC registrar for Antigua and Barbuda, said, on the weekend, that Alan Cobley, vice chancellor at the University of the West Indies (UWI), received the mandate in December during a meeting of CXC’s council in St. Kitts.

He said delegates at that meeting made several recommendations to improve the syllabus and it is now up to Cobley and his team to determine the next course of action. The recommendations include: making Caribbean History compulsory, pushing governments and education ministries into taking history more seriously and placing more emphasis on training for history teachers.” Read more.

I found this article troubling when I read it today because I think history matters; I especially think it matters if you are from – as we are primarily in the Caribbean – the descendants of people who were enslaved for hundreds of years, for generations, in this Caribbean. I think we need to know who we were before that i.e. our African history, how our journey shapes or was shaped by others i.e. World history, and how we became who we are today i.e. our Caribbean history. I think knowing your history informs not only the decisions you make today but the passions that fire you. I frankly didn’t learn much beyond plantation society during my secondary school days but I remain to this day a student of World, African, and Caribbean history. On the point of Caribbean history though, if we only knew. I question, for instance, how quick we would be to fritter away land rights if we understood how hard-earned it was, how tightly we would hold workers’ rights if we understood its role in building the institutions that hold up our society today, how much more we would understand our potential if we could see the men and women who emerged from our humble societies to greatness, how much more certain would we be of who we are if we understood who we have been (community, culture, character, values, identity, all of that). Our history tells us about ourselves and there is so much about ourselves we still don’t know. My two cents about ways to make history more engaging include field trips and tours to historically relevant sites (I’ve done it in writing and media workshops and seen how the participants’ curiosity opens up as they look at somewhere they’ve never seen or somewhere they are seeing with new eyes),

DYA

One of my youth media workshops included a field trip to former plantation Betty’s Hope…but there is so much more to explore.

introduce audio-visual presentations (if there isn’t local media content and there should be options include youtube or creating content as class projects), creating content as class projects (have the students engage with the material in tactile, interactive, and imaginative ways), getting creative (Brenda Lee Browne’s Just Write held a workshop last year about building creative content from our historical reality, something like that); in fact, on that last point, I’m considering making our next Wadadli Pen Challenge a historical fiction challenge with the double challenge that it be experimental (to break with the obvious clichés). I’m thinking on it and will probably discuss with my partners. Bottom line though, history is important but it’s not just dates to be remembered; it’s lives that were lived and as far as Caribbean history is concerned, it’s lives with a direct link to our own. If we agree that we matter then surely our history does too.

 

As with all content on Wadadli Pen, except otherwise noted, this is written by Antiguan and Barbudan writer Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, Oh Gad!, Musical Youth, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight 10th Anniversary Edition and Other Writings, Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure, and With Grace; also a freelance writer, editor, writing coach and workshop facilitator). All Rights Reserved. If you like the content here follow or recommend the blog, also, check out my page on Amazon, WordPress, and/or Facebook, and help spread the word about Wadadli Pen and my books. Thank you.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “History Matters

  1. All your suggestions are excellent and I really hope that piece of the puzzle (making history interesting… exciting even) doesn’t get ignored in this bid to revive history. I also think it’s important to make history relevant by connecting it with real careers. When I did history in high school I found the teaching style massively boring and I had no idea that a person could do anything with a history degree or certificate other than teach history at high school. The incentive wasn’t there for me to want the subject in my life beyond my innate curiosity (particularly about my own people) that, thankfully, wasn’t killed by the boring teaching style. I’ve remained a student of history ever since and am still fascinated by what I continue to learn of who came before and what they experienced and did; your words ring true….history matters! I can’t help but wonder if my high school peers, whose curiosity wasn’t as awake then, would have been inspired to take history more seriously if they could locate it within the context of career options? It’s significance runs much deeper than that as you pointed out but our education system seems more focused on training for jobs/careers in particular rather than the genuine quest for knowledge and understanding so young people have a difficult time wrapping their minds around something that seems abstract or irrelevant to the “do I need this to get a job?” question… yet no other subject is quite as important to every aspect of life than history.

    “Of all our studies, history is best qualified to reward our research.” – Malcolm X

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