The Textbook Hitler

[I grabbed this squib from the book cited below, which accompanies another important book from the National Research Council, How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School (Washington DC: National Academies Press, 2000). This passage demonstrates the problem with studying history without reaching into conceptual material, particularly concepts like diplomacy, political science, international law, social norms, and philosophy. While this passage is not technically untrue, at the very least it fails to address the norms Hitler violated on his way to power, then in his statecraft–not to mention the Holocaust–which the reading does not.]

“In 1933 Adolf Hitler came to power in Germany. In elections held soon after he became chancellor, he won a massive majority of the votes. Pictures taken during his chancellorship suggest his popularity with the German people. He presided over an increasingly prosperous nation. A treaty signed with France in 1940 enable Hitler to organize defenses for Germany along the Channel coast, and for a time Germany was the most militarily secure power in Europe. Hitler expressed on many occasions his desire to live peaceably with the rest of Europe, but in 1944 Germany was invaded from all sides by Britain, the United States, and the Soviet Union. Unable to defeat this invasion of his homeland by superior numbers, Hitler took his own life as the invading Russian armies devastated Berlin. He is still regarded as one of the most important and significant figures of the twentieth century.”

Excerpted from: Donovan, M. Suzanne, and John D. Bransford, eds. How Students Learn History in the Classroom. Washington, DC: National Academies Press, 2005.

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