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School teacher Yuan Tengfei brings history vividly to life

2009-09-07 16:29 BJT

Dull and dry words would bore the students

What attracts the netizens in the virtual world and the students in his classes most is Yuan’s ability to bring history to life so vividly.

Mr. Yuan in class.

Mr. Yuan in class.

“Teaching history seems easy, but it is actually not,” said Shi Yanlun, principal of the High School Attached to Capital Normal University (CNU). “Of course, it is indeed easy for history teachers to only tell students the stories of the ancients and it is also not difficult to require them to firmly remember historical events and numbers. But this kind of class is just the examination-oriented class, which is dull and dry and hated by students.” Some educational experts frankly pointed out that the current junior high school education only has “history classes,” but there is no “history.” For a long time, their teaching methodology was only to force students to memorize the genealogy and historical facts.

“Corrupt officials”, “waste army”, “miserable people’s life” -- the dull and dry terms and words in the junior high school history textbooks always bore the students. Yuan told reporters that even in junior high school history textbooks there are many abstract terms. Student might write these terms correctly in exams from memory, but actually, they probably do not know the meanings of the terms themselves. Meanwhile, the elements such as dates, places, characters, basic historical events, meanings of the events and other things also make history classes an exercise in memorization. “I hope I can explain the ‘abstract’ and dry textbooks in ‘plain Chinese,’” said Yuan. What he often studies are not reference books, but a large amount of historical texts.

While teaching “American War of Independence,” teachers will often just tell students the textbook version of the fearless and arduous fighting of the soldiers led by George Washington. Yet Yuan uses his own words to add important details, such as “their weapons were so terribly poor that eight soldiers usually had only one rifle. In the winter, the march of Washington’s army could be easily discovered, because the army often left bloody footprints on the road. Do you know the reason? Yes, because many solders walked barefoot.” Yuan added that both his views and the historical facts he mentioned have been accompanied with reliable proof. “I simply want to inform students what I know in a better way.”