History Teacher attempts to present a balanced view of historical events

May 22, 2019 — by Eileen Bui and Jun Lee

On a recent day as his students filed into Room 505 for their World History class, they settled into their desks and took out their binders to turn in their homework about the rise of Nazism. Soon teacher Kirk Abe introduced the topic of the Holocaust in World War II, lectured briefly about it, then played a film that displayed details of the event.

Showing videos is one of Abe’s tools for teaching history in a balanced way.

“I think videos hit one of the learning modes for some students, and there are different modes for students,” Abe said. “Some like lectures, some like visuals and videos and some like group work. My overall philosophy is to vary the teaching and try to hit all the modes, not just one method.”

Abe tries to only include the movies that present accurate historical information. For example, during their World War II unit, his students watched “Imitation Game,” which is about Alan Turing and his teammates decrypting Enigma, an encryption device developed and used in the early to mid-20th century to protect the communication of Nazi Germany.

Abe believes movies help students internalize historical events. However, not all films remain true to history.

“I have to be careful in showing the videos because they are not always accurate,” Abe said. “The goal of movie companies is to make money by making videos, but sometimes history isn’t as dramatic or fancy as portrayed in films that appeal to people who pay money for them.”

Some students believe films engage the class on a different, more entertaining level.

One of Abe’s current students, sophomore Lukas Peng, thinks that this method of teaching history is very effective.

“Although Abe's teaching style even during his lectures is very enthusiastic, learning history through film and YouTube videos allows us to see the different perspectives of historical events,” Peng said. “Videos let students like me grasp parts of history much more easily because sometimes lectures can get boring, but films let us be engaged.”

Every time Abe shows a video or movie about a historical event, he holds a class discussion in order to point out the events or characters that are inaccurately portrayed, handing out packets about the movie to contrast the fictional content with reality. He also engages the class in other activities to ensure that his students can get a more well-rounded perspective of history.

“I’m thinking all the teachers are trying to present history in the fairest way,” Abe said. “I hope the way I’m teaching is effective for students.”