Paranoia and Pop Tarts, but you know how we roll

Posts tagged yes yes yes

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nigitmare-deactivated20140115 asked: oh noooo, a painting or presentation about a historical figure is cropped to focus on the historical figure...



As a former professor’s assistant for THREE modern western civ courses at a university level, I have to make a point re: cropping to get the point across. The professors I assisted were absolutely ADORED by the entire class, even though a lot of them were freshman college students who had no interest in history, especially European history, but were taking it to fulfill credit requirements.
I saw people who began the class looking bored and frustrated end the semester asking for reading suggestions to learn more about topics which interested them. I taught lessons in my professor’s courses and did a two-day lecture on nationalism in another course, on topics that were tricky to squeeze into a 50 minute lecture. I used a lot of images that captured the contrasts or spirit of various movements as a background to my lectures. And you know what?


*slaps forehead*


We totally can learn much more about History and Art History from this:

Than we can from this:


I mean, what about this guy???? He’s totally from history!!!

But actually this work is about revolutionizing military painting because this is The Surrender of Breda by Diego Velasquez

Or, let’s talk about Luis Sotelo the Franciscan Monk! Did you know he traveled literally around the world??? He’s so great! So learned! Just look at him from this painting held in the Vatican!!!!!!

But hey let’s NOT talk about the only reason he ever went anywhere, which was because he was accompanied by Hasekura Tsunenaga and his retinue, who were secret Japanese ambassadors to the Pope in Rome, which is where and why they were painted at all:

Are we getting any clearer yet?

They were interested in the larger cultural scene of history more than the big name individuals.They wanted to know what “average” people were like, they asked questions about people who were not the focal point of paintings.

The interesting parts of history are rarely individual leaders, and thinking that is what matters in history is extremely outdated due to the racism, classism and misogyny rampant in “big man” historical narratives. If you’re only focusing on the single person and not the context of their time and culture, you are not providing engaging or interesting material. 

I absolutely agree that powerpoint/slideshow presentations shouldn’t be overloaded with information and text. They should be brief and give as much information as possible in as few words as necessary. Images, however,provide a lot of stimuli without overwhelming students with text-based information.

If students just see one old white guy after another, it blends together. It’s uninteresting and seems like nothing new or novel. But if you include the setting, if you give context and life through something as simple as showing an entire painting, you give them more to look at and more to engage them.

The traditional view of Europe is reinforced by excuses that everyone is uninterested in history and doesn’t care, but that lack of interest is driven by narratives which focus on old white men almost exclusively.

Even as a trained historian I am consistently bored by traditional narratives of kings and popes and generals because the lack of context and life gives it no real meaning outside of that person. History is so much more than big names, and it’s the connections with culture and society and the repercussions of the actions of important figures that makes it engaging and interesting.


I hope you don’t mind, but I trimmed this post a bit to showcase such a perfect and salient response. (for the whole shebang, click the name valosaurus-rex)

Learners CRAVE context, culture, and diversity. They want to learn something they didn’t KNOW already. They want some they can participate it, something they can go forth and learn MORE about, and so independent research on.

That really is my ultimate goal here, not to tell people something they already know, but to get them to learn more on their own, and have their own project.

Filed under yes yes yes history education