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History is His Story

by B. Jane Kulp

The history of civilization is built around one focus point--the advent of the Savior of the world. Thanks to movies such as "The Land Before Time" and "Dinosaur" children of all ages have become fascinated with books and information about dinosaurs. Through some of this material they become acquainted with the abbreviation B.C.

To preschoolers and kindergartners, B.C. is the same as the fairy tale openings "long, long ago" or "once upon a time." However, older students are more apt to ask parents and teachers to explain the abbreviation. Thus, many of them may already understand that B.C. means "before Christ"-- before Christ was born.

Unfortunately, too many students have been told by misinformed parents that A.D. stands for "after death." Because todayís adults were not taught properly when they were in school, they made up their own definition. Thus, sometime during the twentieth century the real meaning of A.D. got lost. The 33 years Jesus walked and talked on this earth plus the development of the church he founded seem to be forgotten. The phrase "anno domini" ("year of the Lord) is seldom used.

Dedicated Christian teachers need to make sure their students know and understand that all of "history" is really "His Story." They need to draw attention to the way dates are noted and how they are positioned on time lines. They need to show how God equipped certain people to carry out His divine plans through all the ages in all places. Christian teachers also must be very careful not to mislead students in ways that might cause them to stumble and reject God later in life. They must find a way to deal with instances where "His Story" does not agree with information presented in the textbook.

Dates and Time Lines

Secularists hope that modern society will completely forget what the abbreviations "B.C." and "A.D." stand for. Some have introduced the initials "B.C.E." (before the Common Era) and "C.E." (Common Era). Other archaeologists and researchers, quoted in todayís textbooks, have developed another disturbing abbreviation. They write in terms of "B.P."(before the present). [1] For them, all of history focuses on the here and now. Unfortunately, there doesnít seem to be a clear explanation of exactly what constitutes "the present."

Christian teachers need to highlight and draw attention to dates in classroom textbooks. They must stress that B.C. means "before Christ" and explain that A.D. stands for the Latin term "anno Domini" which means "year of the Lord." They need to make it very clear that B.C. ended and A.D. began with the arrival of Christ.

There are many opportunities for introducing a discussion of dates in science and reading as well as during social studies. Most classic literature and journal writings prior to the 1900's use the phrase "year of our Lord" when citing dates. Many legal documents studied in the public school specifically say "year of our Lord"(i.e. the Constitution of the United States) or write out the Latin words "anno Domini" (i.e. the Mayflower Compact).

Students in intermediate and upper grades should also be introduced to other types of calendars when appropriate and shown how those calendars relate to the Gregorian (or Christian) calendar which has been officially adopted by most countries of the world. Some examples of other calendars are the Aztec calendar, the Mayan calendar, the Roman calendar, the Julian calendar, the Islamic calendar, and the Jewish calendar. Discussion of the debate concerning the "real" date of Christís birth should probably be avoided unless initiated by a student in the upper grades.

Provision and Sovereignty

History is not just a series of dates and events. Rather, history is the story of God working through people. Therefore, Christian teachers must talk about the standards and values which motivated the people involved in each historical event. Seeing the driving force and the divine power behind the great people of the past, can motivate modern students to make a positive difference in todayís world.

When preparing to teach history (whether of the United States or of other countries), teachers should look for signs of Godís provision and sovereignty. In order to do this, they need to learn everything possible about the backgrounds of the people whose names fill the pages of the textbooks, being especially alert to information about their upbringing and their beliefs. Teachers should read biographies, especially those which include quotes from journals and letters which reveal the heart and soul of the individual.

For instance, a lesson on the discovery of America by Columbus should include not only the names of his ships and the name he gave the natives, but should also discuss his faith and his missionary spirit. Students should hear these words which, Christopher Columbus wrote the evening before his ship landed, "A special thanksgiving was offered to God for giving us renewed hope through the many signs of land."[2] They should also hear and discuss the words he wrote on October 12, after landing on an island in the Bahamas: "To this island I gave the name San Salvador [Holy Savior], in honor of our Blessed Lord....I want the natives to develop a friendly attitude toward us because I know they are a people who can be converted to our Holy Faith more by love than by force. I think they can easily be made Christians, for they seem to have no religion."[3]

Christian teachers should not be hesitant to openly discuss the faith and religion when it fits within the parameters of the curriculum. Both the Constitution and the Supreme Court support such use of religious topics in public education. In its public school guidelines, the U.S. Department of Educations states, "the history of religion, comparative religion, the Bible (or other scripture)-as-literature, and the role of religion in the history of the United States and other countries all are permissible public school subjects." [4]

Interestingly, although mass media seems to focus on intimidating individual teachers so that they shy away from any mention of religion, some textbook publishers are now opening many windows of opportunity for Christian teachers. They are cautiously returning to a policy of including religious references. For instance, the above passages are part of a selection included in the new Harcourt Brace fifth-grade Social Studies book.[5]

Misleading Information

Sometimes textbook information is introduced with the term "theory" or "hypothesis." Also, occasionally the message begins with the words "archaeologists believe" or "historians think." In those instances, the teacher should emphasize that this particular material is not fact because no proof has been found to substantiate the claim. Bit and pieces of miscellaneous information have simply been pieced together to create a guess that sounds reasonable to a lot of people.

Unfortunately, however, many unproven claims as well as claims which contradict Scripture are also stated as absolute facts in todayís textbooks. Some examples are references to "millions of years ago," talk about Ice Ages, dates earlier than 4,000 B. C., and people-group origin stories. A dedicated Christian must determine the best way to handle these types of situations.

In many cases the choice is to simply skip those portions of the textbook. In order to eliminate a topic, the teacher must make two validations. First, the information must not be a requirement according to curriculum standards. Second, knowledge of that information must not be included on any quizzes or tests. A lot of information in modern textbooks is superfluous and will easily meet both of these criteria.

However, if curriculum standards say the material must be covered, then the teacher has an obligation to present it. In this case, the Christian teacher may choose to use the "read and discuss" approach. First, read the information aloud. Then pause to explain the lack of evidence. Finally, describe what the Bible says concerning the issue. Teachers must be careful, however, not to present biblical knowledge as personal belief; and they must not press students to accept the biblical viewpoint. An effective way to introduce Scripture is to say, "I know that some of you come from Christian homes, and you need to know that according to the Bible...."

Every Christian teacher should make a conscientious effort to study curriculum guidelines and social studies textbooks with an eye to discovering Godís timing, Godís provision, Godís purpose, Godís planning, and Godís truth. When social studies is taught with a focus on God, students can see that history truly is His Story.

NOTES

  1. Jacques Cinq-Mars.  Statement prepared for the Archaeological Survey of Canada.  Quoted in United States: Harcourt Brace Social Studies.  New York: Harcourt Brace & Company, 2002, 54.
  2. Christopher Columbus. Edited by Peter Roop and Connie Roop. New York: Scholastic, 2000.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Richard W. Riley. "Religious Expression In Public Schools." Washington, D.C.: Department of Education, 1995, revised 1998. Available on-line at http://www.ed.gov/Speeches/08-1995/religion.html.
  5. United States: Harcourt Brace Social Studies. New York: Harcourt Brace & Company, 2002, 120-123.

The contents of this article reflect the authorís views acquired through research and experience. The author is not engaged in rendering any legal professional service. The services of a professional person are recommended if legal advice or assistance is needed. The author and ChristianTeacher.org disclaim any loss or liability to any person or entity with respect to loss or damage caused, or alleged to be caused, directly or indirectly by the utilization of any information contained in this article.

All right reserved. Copyright ©2002 by B. Jane Kulp

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