This book is truly unique. History programs generally do a great job of looking at the past, but few cover adequately or at all the recent past, the present, or what may be coming. Dr. James Stobaugh does all three in this third volume of Studies in World History, a history text for 9th grade students.
How Does This Work?
Designed for use over the course of one school year, there are 34 weekly chapters, each with five daily lessons that range in length from a partial page to several pages. Students read the text, then answer a couple questions which often require them to think about what they've read rather than just parrot back facts. Lessons should take about 30-45 minutes.
A companion teacher's guide provides space for writing answers to study questions, as well as periodic exams with answers to test student's progress and retention. Dozens of black and white photographs, maps, and graphics illuminate the content and bring it to life. Stobaugh writes clearly and evenly, so kids shouldn't have trouble getting through any of the lessons.
The stated purpose of this book is to help students strengthen their knowledge of our historical, philosophical, religious, moral, and cultural context, to become very smart, and to create high culture with which to combat the godlessness and moral failure of our postmodern age. He uses the example of Deborah, the judge of Israel, calling students to become Deborahs.
Chapter 1 is devoted to an examination of modernity. What is it? Where did it come from? How does it affect us? These are some of the questions Stobaugh asks, and throughout the book he applies similar probing questions to a variety of people, movements, and events of the last 114 years.
Stobaugh's gaze is surprisingly wide-ranging. He looks at modern art, the Weimar republic, American evangelicalism, the Culture Wars, various aspects of popular culture and entertainment, Bonnie and Clyde, Prohibition and the Volstead Act, the 1960s, the role of the university in the modern world, etc.
Our Honest Opinion
This is a very welcome book. These issues and topics, so important to Christians living in a postmodern global society,need to be learned, thought about, and discussed, and this text offers a wide portal to such learning. It is by no means definitive or unbiased, but that's as Stobaugh intends it—all thoughts must be subjected to Christ, not human "objectivity."
And yet. This is a great start, and hopefully one that will spur other authors to similar efforts, but it isn't without flaws. One of the most obvious of these is Stobaugh's self-proclaimed subjectivity. He is prone to making statements or skewing information in such a way that topics open to debate are judged good or bad with little or no room for discussion left open.
For instance, in the chapter about rock'n'roll, Stobaugh accurately describes the evolution of rock music, but then goes on to imply that the genre is the result of jungle beats used by Communists to subvert the youth culture of America (I'm not making this up). Granted, Stobaugh is quoting David Noebel at this point, but this quote coupled with one from Pope Benedict XVI make it pretty obvious what Stobaugh thinks about the rock genre.
There's also a tendency to generalize in broad but not very careful strokes. In the first chapter, Stobaugh identifies modernism as the result of the urbanization of America in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and describes its effects in terms of avante-garde art and atheism. In fact, modernism can be traced all the way back to the Enlightenment, and the effects Stobaugh describes are more properly assigned to late modernism and nascent postmodernism.
Most of these problems are due to Stobaugh's attitude toward culture. He quotes Matthew Arnold favorably in the preface, a man who believed "high culture" (essentially the fine arts to the exclusion of pop culture) had the power to civilize and morally improve cultures and people. While we agree that art can have a deep impact, we also affirm that it is the Gospel alone that can change people, and not the idolization of high art that often leads to snobbery and arrogance.
This is not to cast doubt on Stobaugh's ability as a historian or cultural analyst. Much of his work is quite good, and most of his conclusions are biblical and sound. Perhaps even more important, he introduces students to a number of essential ideas that they aren't likely to encounter anywhere else so explicitly and all in one place.
We recommend this text strongly, but we do so with the caveat that it is essential that parents discuss the content with their kids, comparing everything Stobaugh says to Scripture, and never letting his perspective rule as the final word. After reading this book, two excellent resources are Intellectuals by Paul Johnson and Popologetics by Ted Turnau.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he's a husband and father who loves church, good food, and weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here
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