John Simkin Posted May 26, 2004 Share Posted May 26, 2004 Section 1: Introduction Introduction I will be trying to do three things in this seminar. (1) I will be looking at developing a strategy for making teaching about the Cold War an exciting activity for school students. One only has to look at popular culture to discover that people like mysteries. This is also true of children. In the late 1970s a few history teachers established Tressell Publications. Our intention was to produce materials to support the Schools History Project. We soon found out that books based on mysteries: “The Mysterious Case of the Mary Celeste, the Bermuda Triangle, the Assassination of JFK, etc. were very popular with both teachers and students. Although Tressell is no more and these books have been out of print for many years, information from the Photocopying Agency reveals that these materials are still being used in schools all over the UK. I suspect that students like mysteries for the same reason that I do. With mysteries you are not a passive observer of events. You are no longer doing what Douglas Barnes described as “filling in the blanks” (From Communication to Curriculum: 1975). As Barnes points out students very quickly get bored with “guessing what is in the mind of the teacher”. Mysteries allow students to play an active role in their learning. In a well-organized mystery, the student gets an opportunity to test out his or her theory by studying the evidence. It works best if the teacher has not already decided that he/she knows the answer of the mystery. If this is the case, the students is once again reduced to filling in the blanks. I will be arguing that it is possible to teach the Cold War as a series of mysteries. Some of these mysteries cannot be completely answered by looking at the available evidence. As a result, they leave plenty of room for speculation (the development of theories). (2) I will be looking at the problems of using primary sources to teach about the Cold War. This will involve an examination of why certain sources are difficult if not impossible to use. Why some are unavailable and others are unreliable. The use of primary sources to study the Cold War creates particular problems. Some of the most important sources are located in the archives of MI6, KGB, CIA and other such agencies, and therefore are not available to the historian. Even those that have been released, are not always to be trusted. Both sides in the Cold War were involved in disinformation campaigns. This included agents posing as defectors. For example, we still do not know if Yuri Nosenko or Anatoli Golitsin were telling the truth. What we do know that if one was, the other one was not? Even if the CIA or some other agency agrees to release a secret document, how do we know that the document itself contains the truth? Is it possible that the document itself was part of some disinformation campaign? As a result of the United States Freedom of Information Act it has been possible to get hold of important information about the Cold War. In November 2003, tapes of private conversations between President Kennedy and his advisers reveal that secret negotiations were going on between the US and Cuba in the summer of 1963. What is so striking about this information is that Kennedy was trying to keep these negotiations secret from the CIA. As Arthur Schlesinger, one of Kennedy’s political advisers, recently admitted, in the early 1960s, the US government and the CIA had different foreign policies. Other released documents show that Kennedy failed in his attempt to hide his new foreign policy from the CIA. (3) I will also be looking at how the latest technology can be used to involve the students in the research process. The arrival of the internet has changed the way the historian works. This does not only mean that the historian uses Google to search the archives. More importantly, the historian uses this technology to find those with information about the past. At the beginning of the year I began producing online materials about the assassination of John F. Kennedy. My main objective was to create a research resource for students and historians. This included the creation of 256 biographies (with relevant primary and secondary sources) of people associated with the case. http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/JFKindex.htm Much of my research has taken place via the web. One of my main strategies has been to make contact with these people (or their friends and relatives). For example, I wanted to interview Nathaniel Weyl about his role in the CIA misinformation campaign following the assassination of JFK. I was told by a historian, who had recently written a book about the subject, that as he was born in 1910, he was probably dead. However, a search via Google led me to a book review by him on the Amazon website. I sent him an email. He replied and willingly answered my questions about his relationship with the CIA. In many cases witnesses and suspects have made contact with me. For obvious reasons they make regular checks via Google to find out if people are writing about them. As a result of the Google ranking system, it will not be long before they discover my web page on them. They often make contact to point out factual mistakes, to question my (and others) judgement of them and offering to supply additional information. This includes photographs (as one person pointed out, the photograph I used made her father look like a criminal). Images are indeed powerful and having the right photograph is important to the people you are writing about. New technology is therefore changing the relationship between the writer and the subject. The information being provided for the reader is the result of what one could call negotiated truth. I believe it is important that others should have access to these witnesses of history. Therefore I attempt to persuade them to join a forum on the assassination. This is a place where students and historians can question the witnesses and suspects. At the same time, students and historians can post details of their theories. These can be questioned by other researchers. http://educationforum.ipbhost.com/index.php?showforum=126 This is what Pierre Levy, has called “collective intelligence”. Levy claims we are in the early moments of an historical paradigm shift of the magnitude of the Renaissance. In his book Collective Intelligence: Mankind's Emerging World in Cyberspace (1994), Levy argues that the “unfettered exchange of ideas in cyberspace has the potential to liberate us from the social and political hierarchies that have stood in the way of mankind's advancement”. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Collective_intelligence http://www.arenotech.org/Levy/Levy_-Ottawa/ Others, including Tom Atlee, prefer the term “community intelligence”. http://www.community-intelligence.com/ It was this idea of collective or community intelligence that inspired Tim Berners Lee to create what became known as the “World Wide Web”. In 1980 Berners-Lee joined the European Centre for Nuclear Research (CERN). His main role was to support CERN’s community of physicists in the retrieval and handling of information. CERN is a vast organisation doing research of unimaginable complexity. The physicists were based in several different countries. Berners-Lee’s task was to create a system which CERN could consolidate its organisational knowledge. He set out to create a system that would allow individual scientists to access data being created by other members of the CERN team. http://www.funet.fi/index/FUNET/history/in...c/proposal.html Although scientists were the first to benefit from the web. It soon became clear that this new system had to offer the historian. It has also the potential to change the way all students learn. Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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