Magazine article Social Studies Review

Go to the Sources: Lucy Maynard Salmon and the Teaching of History

Magazine article Social Studies Review

Go to the Sources: Lucy Maynard Salmon and the Teaching of History

Article excerpt

Title: Go to the Sources: Lucy Maynard Salmon and the Teaching of History Author: Chara Haeussler Bohan Date: 2004 Publisher: Peter Lang Publishing, Inc. New York

In this delightful book about a Vassar History Methods Professor, Lucy Maynard Salmon (1853-1927), Bohan captures with vivid detail Salmon's contributions to Social Studies Education pioneer over the course of her forty- year career. This story is one that unfortunately has been largely forgotten and/or ignored: it will be of interest to practitioners of Social Studies and History and to those who study the role that women have played as leaders in modern society. It is not a biography, but rather is written as a contextual explanation of the paucity of emphasis and credit given to female educators. Bodan strongly supports this important claim: "Given the fact that teaching has been a predominantly female profession for the past one and one-half centuries, certainly women have made profound contributions to modern education in America" (8).

Bohan clearly outlines the unique tradition that Salmon began as being rooted in her fundamental philosophy of the nature of history and how it should be taught. She fulfilled this philosophy through a combination of means, which included sending her students to primary sources to learn history, rarely using textbooks, and offering a classroom environment that was informal and therefore unconventional (compared to the traditional lecture-based Victorian standard) yet rigorous. To challenge her students to see history as interpretative and inclusive of all aspects of life, as more than just "textbook facts," Salmon intentionally made use of ordinary people and objects of history. She dissented from the idea that teachers should only focus on important facts: "Facts of the past are as numerous as sands of the sea" (60). Salmon believed that this pedagogical philosophy resulted in the fostering of critical thinking skills and independent learning. Bohan supports this claim through student evaluations and statements-for instance, this statement from a student on a course evaluation: "The central characteristics Salmon described included imagination, enthusiasm, unification or integration, judgment, and creativity" (74).

In addition, Bohan provides the reader with some of the interesting assignments that Salmon gave to her students and examples of syllabi from Salmon's classes. …

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