Entries by Judy Dodge Cummings

Why History Matters: A Teacher’s Rationale

When I was working on my undergraduate degree in the early 1980’s, a boyfriend questioned my choice of major. “Why does history matter anyway? What’s a history degree going to get you besides winning at Trivial Pursuit?”

Although I relished beating this guy every time we played the board game, my pursuit of the past had loftier aims. For 26 years I taught history to high school students. Now I write history books for children and teens. You see, I knew all along what my boyfriend didn’t. Understanding history isn’t trivial. It’s vital.

Doing History

Is history a noun or a verb? How a teacher answers this question can be seen in what goes on in his or her classroom.  If you want to develop the minds of youth who are capable of thinking critically about the relationship between the past and the present, then don’t teach history to students. Instead teach students to do history. 

Teaching School Desegregation through the Story of Sylvia Mendez

Picture books are powerful teaching tools, not just for elementary kids but for older readers as well. I have taught, read, and written about American history for decades, but it took a picture book to introduce me to the Mendez family and their fight for school integration.  Separate is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez & Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation by Duncan Tonatiuh explores a legal case I’d wager is not taught in many history classes. It should be.