I’m reading through the last term papers of my ninth grade ancient history class, and they’re substantively better. It used to be that I’d get substantially longer papers in the spring term than in the fall — but “substantially” has to do with amount, and size. I mean ” substantively” — having to do with quality. The exams they submitted were terrible, but the essays were splendid.
I attribute this in part to my new-found love of primary sources. My students read The Starry Messenger by Galileo this spring, along with the Life of Charlemagne by Einhard. Both are available in plaintext, free copies online. But if children’s writing gets better by encountering primary sources… why am I bothering with textbooks?
Along those lines, these are texts that I’ve decided to look for in online formats, to build my own textbook:
- Sun Tzu
- Mark the Evangelist
- Julius Caesar
- St. Benedict
- St. Augustine
- St. Jerome
- Gregory of Tours
- Henry IV and Pope Gregory VII
- Magna Carta
- Geoffrey Chaucer
The list goes on and on. Who and what should history students read, even if only a little bit, before ninth grade?