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History is the study of past events, particularly in human affairs.  It’s the evidence left behind, and the deliberations between different historians. History is a story with characters, setting, plot, conflict, and resolution. Humans love stories.  We are hardwired to imagine in story, to envision people who have motives, carrying out aims in cooperation or conflict, that either succeed or fail.  Often individual beliefs and desires influence the narrative. Therefore, interpretations of history can depend on the historian as storyteller.  The human desire for story is so innate that the application of scientific theory to recounting what happened can be unintentionally disregarded and arguments ensue.  How, then, do we teach history?
This was the topic, or challenge, posed at the National Classical Education Symposium, which Ms. Koci and I attended in Arizona earlier this month with 70 classical schools and 474 educators. One idea put forth was to teach history in age-appropriate ways at proper developmental stages.  The grammar stage for basics, the logic stage for analysis, and the rhetoric stage for opinion.  Another answer offered was to understand that for the Ancients, history happened when a great man acted. In the Renaissance time, history shifted from explaining the ways of God to explaining the ways of men.  During the Enlightenment, there was a shift to reason as a discoverer of historical laws.  Each subsequent period of thought (Romanticism, Relativism, and Post-Modernism) had its' own intellectual trend.  One recurring theme discussed at the Symposium was how to interpret the past with gratitude for what we have received.
 
Classical schools do not struggle with the question: “Why, then, do we teach history?” In a society that expects education to serve useful purposes, the function of teaching history can seem more difficult to define than the purpose of mathematics or science.  But classical schools see history as, in fact, very useful and indispensable in applying wisdom from the past to our current situations.  Last week, for example, a few thought-provoking articles were written or recalled asking if history could help provide perspective in managing COVID-19: Moses Y. Lee on: What the Early Church Can Teach Us About the Coronavirus, Or Matt Smethurst on: C. S. Lewis on the Coronavirus or Martin Luther: "When One May Flee From a Deadly Plague."
 
As I connected with Heads of Schools across the country this past week through virtual conferencing, I became more grateful of our school’s current position.  Our survey to parents concluded that all our students have access to the internet and owned, or could borrow, devices that enabled us to launch online learning.  Our small town communicated well, took prompt action, and was united in the knowledge that we must shut down out of love, not fear. Our Field House received occupancy yesterday, and we are completing a construction project rather than raising funds for one.  JH Classical Academy is so blessed not to be in debt, although we must raise $150,000 by June 30, 2019.  We have the capacity to add a lot more students, too. 
 
At the Symposium, we heard from historian Wilfred McClay, author of Land of Hope: An Invitation to the Great American Story. He believed that a great nation deserves a great narrative for greater self-understanding, with no whitewashing of the past.  He sought to create an honest account of our American past, and an inspiring one, too. That balanced perspective is welcome.  History is no stranger to plagues, epidemics, and mass hysteria. Christians, along with many other faiths and cultures, have navigated disease, suffering, and tragedy through the ages.  We live in a land of hope.  We must exercise our faith.  We are uniting in love. Another chapter is yet to be written in the history books and let's make it full of faith, hope, and love. 
 
Wishing your family good health this Spring Break.  May you connect with your children through stories!
 
 
Mrs. Polly J. Friess
Head of School
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Jackson Hole Classical Academy
P.O. Box 7466
Jackson, WY 83002
 
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Polly Friess
(307) 690-8396
 
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(307) 201-5040






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