James Paul Gee
teachinghistory.org National History Education Clearinghouse
Publication year: 2011

What is history? For that matter, what is physics or civics? These are all terms we often use to name “subject matter” (“content”) in school. But there is another meaning to these terms. Physics is a set of tools (and these tools include facts and formulas, but much more) used to DO physics. Civics is a set of tools used to engage in civic participation. And history is a set of tools used to engage in doing history. So let’s refer to “history/physics/civics (content)” and “history/physics/civics (doing). School is usually about history (content), that is, an information rich record of what (supposedly) happened in the past. Historical research is about history (doing), that is, how one goes about discovering and explaining what happened in the past.