JULY 13, 1945
HYDE PARK, Thursday—The students of the Central High School in North Salem, N. Y., undertook a project two years ago which brought to light many interesting historical facts about their own town. Their published booklet was of such interest that ensuing classes have gathered more material and the older people in the community became interested enough to bring out a bound book this year. In the introduction the story is told of how the book came about, and I am mentioning it here because I think it may be of interest to other schools in various parts of the country to undertake similar studies.
There are a great many by-products of this book for the youngsters, but perhaps the most important thing about it is that history suddenly lives for a great many young people. If you can make history come alive in one place, it is apt to affect the viewpoint of students in the whole general study of history.
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One of the difficulties about our high school education, I find, is that certain boys and girls are not always interested in the way their subjects are presented. Many of our teachers have not had the experience or perhaps the background which makes it possible for them to approach a given subject in a variety of ways. One of the easiest ways to awaken interest is to give young people a conception of their responsibility to find ways themselves of making a subject interesting.
For instance, not long ago in visiting a high school I found that during the lunch period, when the librarian obviously had to go to lunch herself, the library was locked. It occurred to me at the time that it would have added stimulus to some youngsters' courses if, two by two, they had been assigned to duty in the library during that hour. Their obligation might have been to arouse the interest of certain groups among their fellow students in some of the books that would be of value in adding color and background to their required courses. I believe that fellow students can often do that better than any librarian. The librarian is usually supposed to be prejudiced, whereas advice is easily accepted when one youngster tells another that he or she has read a certain book and enjoyed it.
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I remember what stimulus was given to our own local history in this section of the country when a group of college students one year dramatized some of Carl Carmer's historical studies of the Hudson River Valley, and gave them for different groups in our county. They played on our lawn one evening for a most varied audience, and everyone seemed to enjoy them. I was impressed by the fact that some of the questions affecting the farmers today had changed little over the years. I personally got a new and none too flattering picture of my original Livingston ancestor, who was one of the great land owners of those days. When I was a child we still lived on land that once belonged to him.