Education and ROHO
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ROHO stresses the importance of involving students in oral history research. Oral history has three immediate practical benefits for students. First, oral sources can give students an understanding of the connections between everyday life and larger social processes of transformation and conservation. Second, it provides a practical hands-on methodology that authorizes students to create original historical sources. That process teaches them that scholarship is never a question of going to the library and summarizing what you find there. It always includes that, but too often students don't get past that beginning point until very late if ever. Finally, oral history speaks to one of the biggest challenges to education by encouraging students to think creatively about how to integrate their own backgrounds, interests, and experiences into what they are learning about the world at large. In "Invisibility in Academe," Adrienne Rich wrote:

"When someone with the authority of a teacher…describes the world and you are not in it, there is a moment of psychic disequilibrium, as if you looked into a mirror and saw nothing."

Oral documentation challenges students to design a research project that describes the world as they have understood it but then to relate what they learn to the larger image of the globe that the university has been so good at developing. Working closely with students benefits ROHO by opening up new research topics, while providing students with practical research experience that will be valuable to them after they graduate. The most important questions facing everyone in education today are grounded in the everyday practices of oral history: How do we teach students to read sources for their biases, in particular to be aware of what has been silenced? How do we teach students to think through the foundations of arguments they encounter and to assess how logic, evidence, and emotion have combined into a conviction? How does one develop common languages for areas of shared need and interest without losing sight of continuing differences in experience and standpoint? What is the relation of knowledge and conviction, and how does education shape our understanding of public life and our responsibilities for the state of the world? These are questions that oral history research forces into consideration.

Since 2002 the Regional Oral History Office has organized classes that allow students to work with faculty and professional ROHO staff on either on-going interviewing projects or on student-designed research. Students also can work on ROHO projects through the Undergraduate Research Apprenticeship Program as well as through other internship opportunities. When students know that their work can become part of the Bancroft collections, their work is no longer done simply to complete requirements. They are producing work that future students and scholars will turn to for information. This section of the ROHO web site presents information about projects and classes that have engaged students. It also presents samples of student work completed along with the interviews. ROHO is becoming a special place on campus where research, education, and collection development form a seamless web, a place where creative interaction between students and teachers leads to new research materials permanently enriching the collections of the Bancroft Library.

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Last Updated: 01/14/05

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