My primary goal as a history teacher is to help my students become better communicators and self-advocates.
In history classes we teach our students to read and write, to make oral presentations, to analyze primary and secondary sources, and to use evidence. In short, we teach them a variety of ways to make sound, convincing arguments. The actual content is a platform to teach these skills, the thing that we can, as a class, investigate and then argue about. But I do not care if my students have the presidents memorized. Instead I care that everyday they are a little bit better at expressing themselves, a little bit better about understanding how to advocate for themselves and for their beliefs.
As a result, I would much rather study the history that my students find interesting, than focus on what has traditionally been seen as important. If students are encouraged to engage with their own family and community histories, they will discover connections to a huge range of historically important events. For example, many of them will have grandparents and neighbors who either fought in wars or protested against them. If we bother to ask them, we will find that they have connections to the Cuban Revolution or the Great Migration, to Japanese Internment or South African apartheid, to the Equal Rights Amendment or the Russian Revolution. After all, history is most interesting when we have a personal connection–when it is our own history, not someone else’s.