History 261 Section 2A: National History Standards

 

The first discussion section for Week 2 focuses on recent political battles over how history should be taught to secondary school students. In 1992, the National Endowment for the Humanities, an agency of the federal government, commissioned UCLA's National Center for History in the Schools to develop new curriculum standards for grades 5-12. A major political controversy soon erupted—part of what came to be known as the culture wars over history during the 1990s.

 

Please read these three sets of documents in preparation for the Section 2A discussion on the politics of teaching and learning United States history.

 

A. The first set of four documents addresses the controversy that followed the release of the original National History Standards in 1994. Lynne Cheney, who commissioned the standards when she headed the National Endowment for the Humanities under the first President Bush, became the lead critic. Academic historian Gary Nash led the UCLA team that developed the standards.

 

**Lynne Cheney, "The End of History," Wall Street Journal (Oct. 20, 1994)

 

**Gary Nash, "Reflections on the National History Standards" National Forum (Summer 1997)

 

**Diane Ravitch and Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., "The New, Improved History Standards," Wall Street Journal (April 3, 1996)

 

**Lynn Vincent, "Whose Standards? Rejected Revisionist History Standards Are Finding their Way through the Back Door of American Education," World Magazine (Nov. 20, 1999)

 

B. The second set of documents is the current History Content Standards, revised in 1996 in response to the controversy and now utilized as the curriculum model by public schools systems in more than thirty states.

 

According to UCLA's National Center for History in Schools: "There have been many who have wondered if a national consensus could be forged concerning what all students should have opportunity to learn about our history as Americans, and of the peoples of all racial, religious, ethnic, and national backgrounds who have been a part of our story. The responsiveness, enormous good will, and dogged determination of so many from all political viewpoints to meet this challenge during the development and revision of these standards has reinforced our confidence in the inherent strength and capabilities of this nation to undertake the steps necessary for bringing to all students the benefits of an endeavor to raise the standards for learning history in our schools."

 

Read the "Overview of Standards" philosophy below and then review the Content Standards for at least three of the ten categories that range chronologically from 1620 to the present.

 

**Overview of Standards in Historical Thinking

 

**History Content Standards (U.S. Grades 5-12) [link to the era overview in the left column and the standards in the right column]

 

C. The third set of three documents addresses the revival of the debate about the content of history instruction in the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

 

**Organization of American Historians, "History, Democracy, and Citizenship: The Debate over History's Role in Teaching Citizenship and Patriotism" (2004)

 

**George W. Bush, "History and Civic Education Initiative" (Sept. 17, 2002)

 

**Albert Shanker Institute, "Education for Democracy" (2003) [pdf file]