Questions that go beyond the book
While teaching a big history course, inevitably a great many questions will be raised by students to which the book does not offer
Because big history is about everything that has ever happened, it is obviously impossible to raise all questions,
and answer them, in one single book.
Furthermore, even though big history is based on a sound basis of reasonably solid academic
knowledge, there are still a great many aspects of nature and society that are not known at all, or not very well known or understood
From a traditional teacherís point of view, all of this may be seen as a risk, because it would show the limitations
of the teacherís knowledge.
Yet all of us who have been teaching big history --even after 20 years or more-Ė know that it is
impossible to know answers to all studentís questions.
I have learned that this situation actually offers exciting opportunities
to engage in in-class research and learning, from which both students and teachers will profit.
While teaching big history, dealing
with such questions should therefore not be seen as a risk but rather as an opportunity to jointly explore new themes, and as a way
of rewarding studentís intuition for posing great questions and their willingness to look for good answers.
There are at least
two basic strategies for trying to find good answers. In class, the quickest way is to ask students and have them explore the Internet,
including their assessments of how reliable the information is that they come up with. It may also be a good idea to consult experts,
or ask students to do so, and discuss their answers in a subsequent session.
In doing so, seeking to find answers to questions
that go beyond the book offers a most stimulating exercise in real-time science and academic scholarship. If explored in a stimulating
way, it may well greatly energize all participants and lead to a most exciting and enjoyable class experience.