I share B. C. Knowlton’s concerns about teaching college students to really read and understand works of history. He first taught a group of students who needed remedial help in reading and writing. For them, the popular The Guns of August was too difficult. With some help they were able to get through the material but in the end he could not get them to a level of critically thinking about the subject and its significance. The other group of good students were able to read and write well, but they also seemed unmotivated to engage with works of history (or any other readings of substance) on any sustained level beyond their required courses.
His experience with these students led him to wonder whether or not “those who take required History courses as college freshmen become and remain literate and critical students of History? Once there are no more papers to write, will they see any reason to read? How, as they head into the future, will they engage with the past? When historic anniversaries approach, will they pay historical attention to them, or just watch the documentaries?”
Given the lack of interest in anything not related to their majors or future careers (at least in my experience), I’m guessing that they will “just watch the documentaries” (if even that!). But I always hope that as they mature they will change their minds.
Source: History News Network | The Surprising Reaction I Got When I Assigned Barbara Tuchman’s Popular History of World War 1 to College Students