Introduction: The basic flaw of history education

Chapter 1  Getting emotional about history

Chapter 2  Who's to blame for the trivia game?

                         Five problems of history education

                         Three reinforcers

                         The culprit          

Chapter 3  Hard times for history

                         Bucket O' Facts teaching

                         Society's verdict

                         Historical thinking skills

Chapter 4  What does society need?

                         Judgment in human affairs

                         The big picture and general principles

                         A plan to give society what it needs

Chapter 5  Cognition and the grand assumption

                         How does learning work?

                         How effective is school learning?

                         How can it be improved?

Chapter 6  How useful is history schooling?

                         Advanced Placement World History

                         Advanced Placement US History

                         My curriculum

Chapter 7  Countering threats to judgment

                         Removing ignorance

                         Recognizing bias

                         Practicing judgment


Chapter 8  A vision of future-focused history teaching

                         Frameworks of knowledge

                         History teaching is not history writing

                         Taking the vision to school

Epilogue:  The dance of destiny

© 2001-2016 Michael G. Maxwell, Maxwell Learning LLC


My name is Mike Maxwell, and I've been operating the Student's Friend website for history teachers since 2001. When I left classroom teaching in 2010, I gave myself a new full-time job: to figure out why my teaching—and history schooling in general—seemed so ineffectual and how it might be made useful to students and society.

This investigation took the form of writing a book, a project beset by fits and starts, misgivings, dead ends, and endless revisions—but over a period of six years, the ideas in the book slowly took shape. Now, I want to place these ideas before the public to see if they generate any interest or prompt responses that might help me to refine my thinking before the book is completed. The book's main ideas are summarized on two pages of this website:

     - The discovery that could change history schooling

     - What to teach and how to teach it

I hope to complete the book in the not-too-distant future while I still retain sufficent mental capacity to string together a few coherent sentences. The book's working title is Future-Focused History Teaching: Rethinking the Role of History Education in Society. The book's (tentative) cover and table of contents are reproduced below.

If you care to remark on the ideas from the book summarized here, or if you would like to be placed on a waiting list for the book, please email me at

If you wish to send a comment, include your full name and email address. If you are willing to have your comment appear on this website, please also identify the country and state or province in which you live and your professional role. You will be identified only by your first name, location, and job; no other personal information will be shared with anyone.

Those on the waiting list for the book will be notified when the book is ready for publication and will be invited to receive a pre-release copy at a discount.

Thank you for your interest in considering ways to improve history schooling for the benefit of students and society.

Mike Maxwell

August, 2016

Some early responses to the ideas in Future-Focused History Teaching:

"I fundamentally disagree with most of what you say."

     -Sir Richard J. Evans, Cambridge University, author of In Defense of History.

"I like the focus on the future. It is sound."

     -Sam Wineburg, Stanford University, author of Historical Thinking and Other Unnatural Acts.

"I think your approach and ideas are extremely valuable."

     -Steven Pinker, Harvard University, author of The Better Angels of our Nature, The Blank Slate, The Language Instinct, et al.