The Individual in History – Part 2

So, in my last post, many moons ago, I left you all hanging with my comment about not doing super-famous individuals as your topic.  Now I want to take a few minutes to explain why. . . .

One of the first things I learned in my Introduction to Research Methods class as college history student was this:  One of the main purposes of doing historical research is to uncover new things about the past.  

Sounds obvious, right?  Well, let’s discuss this a little further.  Historians, like scientists, work to further human knowledge.  Just as a scientist today wouldn’t spend time studying how to eradicate polio, a good historian wouldn’t want to write a simple biography on, say, George Washington.  Both polio and Washington have been all figured out already.  What else needs to be said? 

Historians are like good detectives.  They go out into the world and suss out new topics, new people, new events and share their stories with the world.  Fortunately, we live in a time where studies of ordinary men and women are valued just as much as the founding fathers.  (It’s called social history and it’s awesome.  Look into it if you want.)   

So my point is this:  It’s totally cool if you want to do a project on Martin Luther King, Jr. , or Thomas Jefferson, or someone else who’s super-famous.  While their life stories may not be knew to some of us know-it-all adults, it’s new to you.  You have to learn about these people sometime, right?  Now would be a perfect time.

However, if you’ve done History Day before and are looking for that next challenge, I encourage you to scour your history textbooks for that lesser known women’s right activitist and share her story.  Or, give a call to your local history musuem or library. Find out if there is someone in your community who made a difference in your town, county, state, or the world.  You may be surprised at what you find.  Plus, once you finish your research, you’ll be the expert on that subject.  You’ll have adults begging you to teach them. 

So I’ll leave you with a link to a perfect example of what I am talking about: http://www.irenasendler.org/

I’ll let the site speak for itself.  🙂  Talk to you all soon!

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