Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Teaching about Vietnam and the Vietnam War

Teaching about Vietnam and the Vietnam War. This is a nice piece on the history of Vietnam and the Vietnam War. It includes advice for instructors on how to teach the subject.

From the site:

A high school senior recently told a reporter, "I keep hearing people say Central America is just like Vietnam. How am I supposed to know if Nicaragua is like Vietnam if I don't know what Vietnam is like?" Another student described his lack of knowledge of the Vietnam War and his fascination with it as the black hole of history. These responses reflect the widespread ignorance of students about a pivotal event in American history.

Our students were not born when the last helicopter lifted off the United States embassy rooftop in Saigon in 1975. Yet most of them have experienced myriad images, isolated facts, and emotional testimonials regarding Vietnam. But they lack systematic and detailed knowledge of a turning point in modern American history. If we want our students to understand many current foreign policy issues, they must be adequately informed about the war in Vietnam and how it has influenced our leaders and our culture. Given the importance of the Vietnam War in modern American history, it should be emphasized more than it is in the history curricula of schools.


Several factors have led to the brevity or absence of class time spent on teaching about Vietnam. These include: (1) superficial and often distorted textbook coverage, (2) time constraints, (3) lack of worthy supplementary instructional materials, and (4) the controversial nature of a still-emotional era of United States history.

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