If it’s okay with you – or even if it’s not so okay with you – I thought I would just ask myself questions about how digital form has revolutionized the teaching of American history and world history in our schools today.  This would be instead of finding some so-called expert to talk about the subject, when I can be just as much of a so-called expert as anyone else.  So here goes:

Mr. Sharp, what do you think it is now being said that digital technology is said to be making history suddenly have some kind of new sex appeal?

Well, I would never use that kind of terminology personally. But since that term has now fallen into our court, I would have to assess history as it used to be as two dimensional as any old book.  Digital history on the other hand is coming very close to virtual reality of history, making it fully four dimensional, with the added dimension of depth that can use websites within websites.  This is much like Alice of Wonderland’s wonderful looking glass that could find mirrors within mirrors.  Plus the fourth dimension of time that we all remember from watching The Twilight Zone can be mixed into our study of history with the plethora of video that digital technology has to offer now on every student’s desk.

Exactly what kind of history teacher are you that qualifies you to make this assessment about the new digital history?

I am an erstwhile history teacher actually, and I have been one for almost twenty years now while I have taught a lot of other subjects in addition to history in public school as well as private education.  But it is the state of California qualifications for teaching history that I keep in my portfolio.  And I have taught history at a very interesting time toward at the twilight of textbook history and then into the dawn of digital history.

What do you think created this “twilight of textbook history?”

It was obviously the limitations of the textbooks.  History was developing so much of itself that there was no textbook big enough to do history justice anymore.  Plus textbook history was more markedly leaving schools at the mercy of prejudices at a time when prejudices were getting even more dangerous.  Let me give you just one personal example of that now

Every history teacher every year has to deal with teaching about Hitler.  For some reason, there always seem to be some boys or some boy in the class who thinks that somehow Hitler fits a heroic mold. But I have never encountered a girl in a classroom who has expressed any kind of admiration for Hitler, and I am thinking that may be because an instinct to sense evil in a man is much more urgent in a girl.

One of the surprises of teaching anywhere is when anti-Semitism pops up in the in the student language, such as when a student uses the word “Jew” as a verb.  I can never remember any girl saying anything anti-Semitic – it is always a boy.  And there is also an anti-Semitic blend of Hitlerism that has made on more than one occasion a boy say aloud in my classroom that “Hitler was Jewish.”  The motivation of saying that is tied to an anti-Semitic message that we can even put the blame on the Jewish people for Hitler.  In the old days when we only had a history textbook and a set of encyclopedias we might have seen support for this malice when we would read in a textbook or an encyclopedia that Hitler’s father had an unknown father.  So this leaves some speculation that Hitler’s paternal grandfather may have been Jewish.

But digital history shows us the odds against it.  With digital history, we can look up the area where Hitler’s father was born, and we can see the Jewish population at the time was so small there that the odds of a Jewish paternal grandfather for Hitler would have to be much lower than one in one thousand, and no Rothschild male – who has was most prominently rumored to have been Hitler’s paternal grandfather – was anywhere around there.

Why are you now describing digital history as “mirrors within mirrors?”

It’s because the most widely used websites for historians such as the Library of Congress and the National Park service have so many smaller websites that can be opened starting from a home page, and these websites have still smaller websites.  You can spend your whole lifetime going through all the websites available just through the Library of Congress as a starting point.

So does all this digital information create virtual reality in history?

I am sure that any history teacher who has even just a year experience in digital history will say that we are coming pretty close to virtual reality.  For example, in my SCV Beacon column last week, I recommended that those Beacon readers who are able to do so take a trip with all the kids to Pennsylvania this summer, to see the field and the museum at Gettysburg where the deciding battle of the Civil War was fought.  But with digital history available on an ordinary Internet screen, you can get all of the components of being at Gettysburg and even more, because digital history also gives you a great deal of interpretative information. You can even get through digital history the flora and the fauna of Gettysburg, and if you want to then buy the flora and fauna, you can even smell Gettysburg as you study it.

Chris Sharp- Commentary

Chris Sharp is an Educator and a prize-winning professional writer. He has recently published a new book titled How to Like a Human Being . Sharp's latest book is an Amazon Kindle collection of his published short stories, Every Kind of Angel . His commentaries represent his own opinions and not necessarily the views of any organization he may be affiliated with or those of The SCV Beacon