They were people too.

My students sometimes complain that they are tired of learning about “dead people.” As a history teacher it is vital for me to help my students see the relevance. They have a misconception that history is dead along with its people. I want to teach them that “Dead people were people too.” They had emotions, cared for their families, and had opinions. And it was these people that made decisions and shaped ideas. It can be hard to teach this concept among the big ideas of war and conflicts, large social and political movements, and causes and effects in history.

As we have studied the Civil War, I have found nothing more convicting to me than my lack of focusing on the “people” of history. As we studied the images this morning, the personalities of the soldiers reminded me of the emotions that can get lost in the teaching of history. The men were not just part of the large troops or the cause of the war, they were the people that made the war worth fighting. If I use such exercises in my classroom, I can create empathy in my classroom which will intrigue my students.

From now on, I want to add a “person” component to each concept I teach. After all, “dead people were people too.”


Posted in Discussion, Memory
3 comments on “They were people too.
  1. loilaing says:

    Bobbie, what you said about emotions getting lost in the teaching was so poignant. The idea of adding a “person component” is intriguing. I will think about how to incorporate that too. Thanks!

  2. janeapplebee says:

    I agree, good idea to keep in my lesson planning consciousness. The dead are dead interesting. So find a hook and throw it to the living.

  3. Shannon O says:

    I agree. I teach the Civil War at the end of the school year and each year the timing presents so many challenges. Many students would rather be at the beach instead of learning about the Civil War. Using personal stories/photographs etc. to bring out the human emotions instead of sprinting to the finish line with dates, key battles & events might be a good approach. It’s worth a try!

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House Divided Project

Course Professor
Matthew Pinsker:
Dickinson College
Carlisle, PA 17013

Course Producer
Lance Warren:
Gilder Lehrman Institute
New York, NY 10036