Posted by: Ed Darrell | January 29, 2008

Understanding history: The 13 BIG questions

History can be understood better, generally, when students understand that some forces and currents in history almost always stay the same.  Especially for the critical thinking high school students are expected to learn to do, history will be better understood when students answer 13 “big questions” about a civilization or period of history.

What are the 13 questions?

Here they are, categorized in geography, history, and economics and technology:

GEOGRAPHIC UNDERSTANDINGS

1.   Where do people settle?

  • Historically, settlements are founded near fertile river valleys, accessible coastlines, major transportation/trade routes AND develop as a result of migrations, industrialization, and economic partnerships.  People need fresh water to drink, a way to get food (either grow it or import it), and an economic reason to live there.

2.   What happens when people change their environment?

  • Human modification of the environment produces great economic change.

3.   What prevents people from moving from place to place?

  • Human movement has been restricted by physical barriers (mountains, deserts, walls), government actions (embargoes, internments), and ideas (religions).

4.   How does geography influence a nation’s destiny?

  • Control of major water and land routes (called choke points) provide nations advantages in commerce and war.
  • Physical geography influences political, economic, and social activity of cultures.

HISTORICAL UNDERSTANDINGS

5.   How do societies interact?

  • Societies interact through migrations, wars, trade/exchange, inventions, and ideas.

6.   What happens when societies interact?

  • When societies interact, culture changes, diseases spread and cultural/religious differences produce instability.

7.   Why do wars occur?

  • Wars are caused when nations compete over natural resources and/or individuals demand greater political and economic freedom.

8.   How do wars change nations?

  • Wars change political boundaries and population distribution.

9.   Why do people move from place to place?

  • Historically, people migrate for pull factors (opportunity in new places) and push factors (negative
    conditions at home).

ECONOMICS AND SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY

10.  What is an economic system?

  • Today, a nation’s economic system can be classified as either traditional (subsistence agriculture), command, free-market, or mixed.

11.  What separates a developed nation from a developing country?

  • Developed countries practice free-enterprise, and have higher per capita incomes (standard of living), than developing nations that are adopting a market system and underdeveloped nations that lack political and economic stability.

12.  What are the economic benefits of science and technology?

  • Historically, technological innovations make the production of goods more efficient, the cost of goods cheaper, and creates greater access to more efficient travel.

13.  What are the drawbacks of science and technology?

  • Historically, technological innovations disrupt the workforce by making some jobs obsolete and disrupt the environment in search of natural resources.  Almost all technologies can be used for bad reasons as well as good ones, for evil or good.
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Responses

  1. Wow – in perusing the web, looking for DBQ info, I found your site. Most impressive.

  2. Marsha, there’s a special category for DBQ’s over at Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub. More, chiefly, pointing to sources that can be used in DBQs.

    Good luck — and, if you would, please come back and share what you find.

  3. Hi: I was just browsing and found your site. Outstanding! I’m a history teacher at a private elementary school in Wilmington, Delaware. I actually am using the feudal chart in my 6th grade class. I love the 13 big questions about history.

  4. Thanks for dropping by, Mr. Dougherty. We’ve moved action to this new site:
    http://molinahistory.wordpress.com

  5. Oops. Looking back, I see that I did not credit the Texas Education Agency on these questions — these are right out of the list of stuff kids in Texas are supposed to know — Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills, TEKS.


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