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  • Michelle Peterson

Connecting to the Strengths of the Past: Hamilton and Teaching History

“The capacity to build a new future depends on our ability to see a fundamental continuity with the strengths of the past.” Friedrich Nietzsche On The Advantage and Disadvantage of History for Life

I read this while an undergraduate student and the idea of fundamental continuity and it’s role in teaching history has resonated with me ever since.

Helping children connect with the past is at the center of why and what we need to teach about history. Without that connection history becomes mere facts, relics and lessons with no context and little consequence in their lives.

However, if we can help our children make connections and find images of themselves in the people of the past then history becomes a roadmap. A roadmap that can help them figure out how to live, how to make the world a better place, how to understand current conflicts and effect change.

Nietzsche’s words and these thoughts about teaching history came flooding back recently when I had the fortune of seeing Hamilton on Broadway. (As you have heard from everyone who has seen the show, Wow!)

Lin-Manuel Miranda has said of Hamilton, “It is the story of American then, told by America now. It looks like America now.” In telling Alexander Hamilton’s story and thereby an angle of American history in this way, Lin- Manuel has taken the separation of time away from the past and made clear the connection between then and now.

For me, that is enough of a reason to take my kids to see Hamilton. The fact that my 11-year-old son loves rap music and both he and my 8-year-old daughter love musicals well that is icing.

We are going to the show in December and before then I want to teach them as much as I can about the time period, historical New York City and America's Founding Fathers, Mothers, Brothers and Sisters.

In order to keep the connections clear, we will look at a lot of historical images, read a lot of primary source material and great books and find places to visit where we can walk Alexander Hamilton's footprints.

Click on the photo for a complete list of resources.

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