Podcast: The Power of Historical Perspective with Emily Glankler
The way most of us were taught history can be boring — just a list of dates and events with no relevance. But once you start teaching history to your kids, everything changes, and you wish you could show your kids now what you wish you had seen when you were first learning history yourself.
Today’s guest on the Brave Writer podcast, Emily Glankler, is the founder of Anti-Social Studies, wildly popular TikTok and Instagram accounts and a website by the same name. Her passion and sense of humor make history come alive for your family. With degrees in history and international studies, she’s a veteran high school teacher in Austin, Texas, and a love of improv.
Emily finds the details of world history and turns them into relevant stories for today’s students.. Emily’s mission with her podcast and social media channels is to remind people of the significance of historical events and provide fun and contextualized historical information.
Listen as we discuss how to make history interesting and engaging for kids and adults — and it’s simpler than you might think!
History as Facts vs. Being a Historian
There is a huge difference between studying history for facts and studying history as a discipline of being a historian. When asked what she wished students understood about teaching history, Emily said that the biggest issue is that people view history as a list of events told to them in a textbook. In reality, historians approach history like the scientific method:
- They start with a theory,
- conduct research by examining documents and sources,
- and then draw conclusions based on the evidence they find.
However, history is not as objective as math or science due to the fact that all sources are human-created — and thus subject to subjectivity.
The way we often teach writing is that the thesis statement comes in the first paragraph of an essay, but it’s the opposite in thinking: The thesis statement should be the last thing you come up with, after reasoning through everything in writing. The thesis statement that comes to you in the conclusion will always be better than the one you come up with beforehand. This is what it means to study history in an unbiased way. We have to understand the context in which our source material was created, and attempt to come to our own conclusions rather than accepting what we hear at face value.
Historiography: The Historical Study of History
Emily is knowledgeable on the topic of historical interpretation. She believes that the interpretation of history changes from generation to generation and interpreter to interpreter, as each person brings their own background and social location to the table. Emily is particularly interested in historiography, which is the history of history itself, and the evolution of the interpretation of events over time. To illustrate her point, she mentions her master’s program paper on the historiography of the conquest of Mexico and the interactions between Cortez and Montezuma. Emily explains that different historical records of the same event can have vastly different interpretations depending on the writer’s background and social location. She highlights the importance of recognizing that any interpretation of history is still funneled through a human being and that the current experiences of the interpreter shape how they read the past.
Creating a Sense of Historical Wonder
Emily believes that sparking a sense of wonder and curiosity in children about history is essential for catching their interest. To do this, she uses a creative teaching method by presenting her students with a fictional scenario before teaching them about the Persian Empire. The students then build their own empires, which often predict 80% of the actual events that happen in her class. By engaging the students in respectful imagination and making a personal connection with history, they will be more interested and invested.
Having deeper conversations about history is important, even if it means sacrificing some content. Emily compares her teaching method to homeschooling, where historical fiction is used to immerse children in the story, and then additional context is added. She believes that making history three-dimensional and not just limited to text and memorization is important for children to understand the experience.
When it comes to engaging our children in history, it’s important to couch it in a sense of wonder and relatability. Even an event that feels far off to us can suddenly become more relevant when we realize our grandparents were alive during it. When kids start to think of historical events as things that actually happened, and how surprisingly similar people were in the past to us today, their interest will skyrocket. They just need that little nudge.
- Emily Glankler is found at: antisocialstudies.org/aboutemily
- Instagram: @antisocstudies
- TikTok: @antisocialstudies
- High School Writing: Historical Fiction and Rebellious History
- Middle School Writing: History Writing Projects
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