Title:  What are we Taught?

Grade Level:  8-10

Subject and California State Standards met: Social Studies, History, Geography

Overview: This lesson will compare a specific historical event from a variety of perspectives.  Students will use critical thinking and logical analysis to look at history and “truth”.

Purpose:  To develop students critical thinking and logical analysis skills while learning about the Mexican War.



Two history textbooks written by authors with contrasting views, or textbooks form different countries that cover the same material.  For our purposes we will look at the last days of the Mexican War using quotes from The American Nation and Howard Zinn's A People's History textbooks, but you can use this lesson plan with any historical event.

Activities and Procedures:  

  1. Choose students to read both versions of the historical event out loud to the class.  
  2. Have students reflect in writing on these four questions?  Why are there such differing accounts of the same event in history?  Whose perspective is US history often written from, and why?  Why might a country want to teach their children things from a specific perspective?  How has teaching from a given perspective inhibited a group of individuals abilities and freedoms in the past?
  3. Discuss.  Possible answers and follow up questions - In a war, the winning side has the power to write the history books (and math, science, and English books).  In the US the white male perspective is most often heard.  Why is this?  Do people only want to teach what makes one proud of their country?  What is truth?  Is it relative to the time?  At one time students in the US were taught that blacks were less than human, or Native Americans were the enemy, or that people of Japanese descent must be put in camps.  What might we be learning now that may not be true or logical?  What we do not learn is as important as what we do learn.  Why don't we learn about more black historical figures, Native American contributions to society, or about deaf poets.  Who determines what should be covered in school curriculum?

Tying It Together:   How do differing perspectives play out in your daily lives?  Court cases where witnesses to an accident see the same event differently.  Disagreements with friends or parents who have a different perspective on issues.  Where can you find a variety of perspectives on current events?   Where can you find news from other countries? - a Muslim country, a Buddhism country, a European country, or an island nation.