The History Channel - Help or harm?
The History Channel certainly has updated the demographic of history, but is this helping us?
History as a subject...
I'll preface this article by saying that I am indeed an history nerd. I'm studying to be a history teacher. I read books and websites on history as often as I can get my hands on them. I watch Discovery and History channels. However, I have to wonder...what do these channels do for the masses?
History, as a subject, can be BORING. We've all had the teachers that are so often hyperbolized in movies (think Ben Stein in Ferris Bueller's Day Off...Bueller...Bueller). However, all of us have found some "cool event" that we can identify with, that we know a lot about, and that we find interesting. So History as a subject isn't the problem. It's in the presentation.
Shows like Pawn Stars, American Pickers, and American Restoration are giving viewers glimpses into the history of our country through the buying, repairing, and selling of historical artifacts. It almost resembles Antiques Roadshow for people under 55 (no offense meant to young fans of the show). However, is this emphasis on material culture the best way to teach society about history?
It's certainly a good hook to get people to watch. Maybe they'll get interested, watch more programming, and eventually get into history. However, I think that past this, the channel provides too much speculation and "popular" history to be considered a part of academia.
For its purposes, the History Channel is a great place to watch good programming with some educational value, but be wary of using it as your only source for all things historical.