History 420 - Dr. Gayle Olson-Raymer
Creating a Collaborative Learning Community and Discussing the Debates and Controversies Surrounding Teaching History

Political cartoon showing historical controversy

Welcome to History 420!! For the next 15 weeks, we will be discussing history as a discipline, why we want to teach history, and how and what we should teach. As such, this course is designed primarily to help you decide whether or not you really want to become a history teacher and, in so doing, embark upon a journey of lifelong learning. This is a challenge. You will have to dig deep inside of yourself to think about your vision of teaching. Whatever your visions, whatever your reasons, we will work together this semester to create a collegial community of pre-teachers who will explore specific historical topics, examine and learn good teaching practices, and to enter into a dialog and engage in debate about how to teach historical content.

As we begin today, please note that we have four themes that will be highlighted throughout the course:

While we think about each of the discussion goals below, keep in mind how these four themes highlight our understanding of how the teaching of history has been, and continues to be, surrounded by controversy, conflict, and compromise.

Discussion Goals:

  1. To begin creating a collaborative learning community.
  2. To understand the trajectory of this course.
  3. To discuss the differences and similarities between two disciplines: history and social studies.
  4. To understand the debates and controversies that currently center around the teaching of history.
  5. To understand the historical debates and controversies as well as the dialog and compromises that have influenced the way we teach history by taking a chronological journey through the "History Wars."

Goal #1: To begin creating a collaborative learning community

As we begin this semester, it is important to understand that we are beginning a journey - a journey that will help us decide whether we want to become history teachers, and if so, what kind of history teacher each of us will be. This is both an individual journey and a collaborative journey. Today, we begin the first step in our journey - both as individuals answering some questions about ourselves and as members of a collaborative communitty by sharing our answers with each other. In so doing, we will be engaging in one of the first Methods Discussions - an Icebreaker Activity.

Directions: 

  1. Write your name on a piece of paper and write "Icebreaker Activity" under your name.Venn diagram
  2. Take no more than 10 minutes to write down your answers to the following 7 questions.
  3. Find a partner with whom you can share your answers. Introduce yourselves to each other. Each of you should take no more than 5 minutes to explain your answers to your partner.
  4. Using the Venn Diagram - Write your name at the top and then add each of your names to the large circles. Fill in your answers, and then, in the middle, fill in where you are similar.
  5. Each of you will introduce your partner. Be sure to tell the class what you learned from your disscussion and what you found to be most interesting about your partner.
  6. Be sure to keep both your "Icebreaker Activity" and your Venn Diagram. These will go into your Portfolio.

Discussion: Please listen carefully as each of your classmates introduces their partner. Learn as much as you can about the colleagues with whom you will be working this semester. Then, be prepared to discuss the following:


Goal #2: To understand the trajectory of this course

You were all asked to carefully read through the course syllabus - available at http://gorhistory.com/hist420/420Syllabus2016.html - prior to coming to class today. The syllabus explains the trajectory of this course and gives you a good idea about the beginning of your 15-week journey as an educator.

Before we proceed, I want to be certain you understand the following:


Goal #3: To discuss the differences and similarities between two disciplines: history and social studies

History of Great Men - Thomas Carlisle Quote

This quote - " History is the biography of great men" - is inscribed in the Rotunda of the Library of Congress and adapted from Thomas Carlyle, “The history of the world is but the biography of great men.” In his book On Heroes, Hero-Worship and the Heroic in History published in 1888, Carlyle argued that heroes shape history through both their personal attributes and divine inspiration. To Carlyle, history was not only made by the decisions of "heroes" - such as Muhammad, Shakespeare, Martin Luther, and Napoleon - but, Carlyle also argued that the study of great men was "profitable" to one's own heroic side. If we examined the lives led by such heroes, he believed, one would uncover something about one's true - possibly heroic - nature.

Throughout most of the first 350 years of our nation, American history was controlled and told by these great men who were largely white, wealthy, and Protestant. Further, their stories were the exclusive substance of history.Photo of Mount Rushmore

For Discussion: What are the strengths of this definition of traditional history? The weaknesses? How might we modify this definition so we can use it as a model for what American history IS?

When you go out looking for your first teaching job, you will immediately notice that in some school districts, you will be applying for a distinct job as a history teacher. But in other districts, you will be applying for a job as a social studies teacher. So we need to ask - what is social studies and how is it different from history?

"Social studies is the integrated study of social sciences and humanities to promote civic competence. Within the school program, social studies provides coordinated, systematic study drawing upon such disciplines as anthropology, archaeology, economic, geography, history, law, philosophy, political science, psychology, religion, and sociology, as well as appropriate content from the humanities, mathematics, and natural sciences. The primary purpose of social studies is to help young people develop the ability to make informed and reasoned decisions for the public good as citizens of a culturally diverse, democratic society in an independent world." ( National Council for Social Studies)

For Discussion: How are history and social studies different? Similar?

The "bottom line" - Whether you are hired to teach history or social studies, you are essentially being hired to teach history which must integrate all the social sciences and humanities. Despite your title, you will be teaching history and as such, it is essential that you also understand that are few right or wrong answers in history. Indeed, as one of our course themes tells us - history is both a debate and a dialog. Just how much dialog and debate plays a role in teaching history will become more apparent as we move into our next topic - the debates and controversies involving in teaching history.


Happy 100th Birthday, National Park System!!!

Goal #4: To understand the debates and controversies that currently center around the teaching of history.

Cartoon of "War at Home"

What makes up the debate and controversy surrounding the teaching of history?? Essentially, the American public - as illustrated above by the gentleman with the hard hat - has one interpretation of what history is and is not, while American historians have a completely different view.

In general, the American public believes in a traditional history that reinforces the supremacy of our national identity, the unity of people bound together in our democratic spirit, our superior place in the world accorded to us by God, and our predominance in the world - what the gentleman expresses in the first row of our cartoon and what many people have come to identify as American Exceptionalism. As Wikipedia defines it, American Exceptionalism is

"the perception that the United States differs qualitatively from other developed nations, because of its unique origins, national credo, historical evolution, or distinctive political and religious institutions."

These perceptions of exceptionalism are generally understood in one of two ways: America is exceptional or better than any other nation in every respect; or America is an exception to the way people were and are granted rights and freedoms.

The Founding Fathers thus created a society that was an exception to this - rights would not be granted by an outside entity, flowing downward, but instead were innate, inborn and integral to each and every individual. You did not have to wait to have rights flow down to you; they would flow up, from you. You didn't have to petition a king or a parliament for your rights; you had inherent rights - and the only way anyone could affect those in-built rights would be if you, voluntarily, decided to give them up.

Today, many Americans embrace one of these interpretations of our history - Quote from George H. Bush about revisionist historybelieving it to be exceptional to some degree. However, many American historians do not look at history through this lens. Rather, they prefer a revisionist history that asks them to continually reexamine the past for answers, to seek out new and better clues about the past, to accept responsibility for past wrongs, and to continue to work toward the ideal of America as "the land of the free and the home of the brave."

Discussion:

  1. What is your "bottom line" understanding of the difference between how many Americans and many historians view their understanding and teaching of American history?
  2. Do you believe in American exceptionalism? If so, what version?
  3. Is being unique the same as being superior or exceptional? Why or why not?
  4. How does this quote from President George W. Bush explain the controversy over what is and is not history?

The "bottom line" - As teachers in the making, we must realize these different perceptions of what is history and how it should be taught. It is also essential that we be sensitive to the public's understanding as we encourage our students to critically THINK about history rather than simply REGURGITATE facts.

Methods Discussion: This will be our first experience with incorporating a teaching method into our content discussion. We have had a good discussion about how and why history is so controversial with the American public. Now, how do I as your teacher, assess what you have learned so far? And how might you use an activity to assess any content your students may have learned. To accomplish this, many teachers use a Think/Pair/Share activity. Please take the following steps:

Be sure to keep your "Think/Pair/Share" activity. This will go into your Portfolio.


Goal #5: To understand the historical debates and controversies as well as the dialog and compromises that have influenced the way we teach history by taking a chronological journey through the "History Wars"

Today we continue History Wars posterour discussion about the role of debate and controvery over what is history and how to teach it. In the Introduction to Teaching What Really Happened, James Loewen argues that all too often in today's schools, history is a weapon.

For discussion: What do you think Loewen means? How can history be a weapon.

Let's see if today's chronological approach to the History Wars and the struggle to teach history in the public schools helps us better understand what Loewen meant.

Cold Call: First cold call on the required reading - Goal #5 below.

The History Wars and the Struggle to Teach History in the Public Schools

1857   The National Education Association (NEA) became the first, and for over 40 years the only, forum in which leaders in all levels of education could discuss common concerns.

1870s A few of the major universities in the nation appointed the first professors to teach history. Prior to then, men with the leisure time to pursue historical inquiry as a hobby wrote and published most history.

1873 At its annual meeting the NEA adopted this resolution as its primary goal:  "Resolved: That the interests of education whether university, academy, normal school or common school, are one and inseparable; that all should have and show hearty sympathy with all other co-laborers in this general work, joining heart and hand toward the improvement and greater efficiency of schools of every grade, for the benefit of the individual and the safety of the state."  This set a precedent for K-16 Education.

1880s to 1890s   Some high schools began to offer and even require history courses.  These focused on the “Great Man” interpretation - that history can be explained mainly through the lives and political skills of "great men" - and usually consisted of Greek and Roman history, medieval, and modern European history.  Photograph of founders of the American Historical Associatioin in 1889

1884 - A few "professors, teachers, specialists, and others interested in the advancement of history in this country" gathered at the annual meeting of the American Social Science Association (ASSA) in Saratoga, New York. Despite the opposition of the ASSA's president, the historians voted to establish the American Historical Association (AHA) as a separate organization. (This photo was taken in 1889 of the founding officers of the AHA. Source: http://www.historians.org/info/ahahistory.cfm)

1892   The NEA formed a committee - The Committee of Ten - to specifically discuss the chief purposes for teaching history in public schools. 

1893 The NEA Committee of Ten report declared that the chief purpose of teaching history was not to impart facts, but to train students to gather evidence, generalize upon data, estimate character, apply the lessons of history to current events, and state conclusions.  The Committee recommended the study of biography for 5th and 6th grades, U.S. history and civic government in 7th, Greek and Roman history in 8th, French history in 9th, English history in 10th, U.S. history in 11th, and intensive study of selected periods of history in 12th.

1900 to 1920s   The sequence of ancient history, medieval and modern history, U.S. history and civics prevailed in most high schools. 

1907 The Organization of American Historians (OAH) was founded to promote U.S. history teaching and scholarship, while encouraging the broadest possible access to historical resources and the most inclusive discussion of history

Photo of Charles Beard1913 to 1920s.  The First History War began in 1913 with Charles Beard's (pictured at the right) publication of An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States. Beard challenged the standard "great men" account of the Founding Fathers that they created the Constitution to promote democratic ideals upon which the Revolution was fought and the new nation was founded. Instead, Beard claimed the Founders acted out of "selfish class interests" - that they were motivated more by selfish economic concerns than by philosophical principals of democracy. Historians, journalists, and American citizens across the nation immediately attacked his interpretation, thus promoting the first History War.

1925 Most public high schools replaced the three-year course of European history with just one year, while one year of U.S. history and civics remained a requirement in all schools.  Teaching history in elementary and junior high schools began shrinking and vanished in many school districts.  For the next 6 decades, no state established a coherent, sequential history curriculum.  Further, in most states, one could become a social studies teacher without taking a single history class.  In most elementary schools, no history existed in the curriculum. This remained the situation until the late 1980s.

Photo of Scopes Trial1925 The Tennessee v. John Scopes trial erupted in Tennessee, beginning a long legal battle to stop the teaching of evolution in the schools.  (See http://gorhistory.com/hist420/Evolution.html for a full chronology of "The Evolution of Evolution in the Schools.")

1935  Congress passed the "Little Red Rider"- a resolution requiring teachers in Washington, D.C. to swear that they were not communists before they could receive their paychecks. In effect, it deterred teachers from even discussing the Soviet Union. The NEA was instrumental in repealing this resolution in 1937 and the organization also condemned "Loyalty Oaths" for teachers and book burnings, affirmed the "Fundamental Freedoms" of thought and expression in the classroom, and opposed censoring instructional materials, teaching techniques, and opinions.

1936 to 1944. The Second History War began with Harold Rugg's  publication of a new textbook that mirrored Beard's perspectives and applied his interpretations to all topics of US history.  Journalists and citizens labeled him a "communist" and many communities banned his books. Ruggs began a campaign to confront his detractors across the nation.

1940  The American Legion Magazine published an article, "Treason in the Textbook," spearheaded by B.C. Forbes (soon-to-be founder of Forbes magazine).  Cartoon of Harold Rugg's teaching subversive historyA cartoon (shown below) appeared in the article depicting a leering history teacher (Rugg) pouring slime on four books titled, "Constitution," "Religion," "U.S. Heroes," and "US History" while puzzled boys and girls look on in confusion.

1950s to 1960s.  The Third History War  erupted in the University community and was enflamed by what became known as consensus history. Responding to the domestic upheaval of the Cold War, consensus historians countered the "negative" interpretations of historical events by historians like Charles Beard and instead claimed there was more unity than conflict in the American past. They accepted notions of American Exceptionalism and supported narratives about a united American people. History in the hands of the consensus historians became a vehicle for American boosterism. 

1960s  Due to the benefits of the GI Bill, many nontraditional students entered the University and began to challenge the consensus historians.  Some entered history Ph.D. programs and thus changed the course of how history was taught in the university environment. These New Left Historians came from lower and middle class backgrounds and began to examine topics previously ignored by all historians - especially slavery, racism, and other multicultural issues. Increasingly, these New Left Historians were called revisionists - historians who revised past interpretations of U.S. history. (Note that in the 1930s, American universities annually produced about 150 history doctorates.  By the mid-1960s, they were producing about 600, by 1970 about 1000, and by 2010, about 2.4 million.)   

1980s  The push to teach inclusive, multicultural history moved from the university to the nation’s primary and secondary schools. Many K-12 teachers worked to strengthen the history curriculum and design a more multicultural approach to teaching history.

Front cover of the OAH Magazine of History1980   The Organization of American Historians sponsored the first National History Day as a one-day contest for students to showcase their historical research.

1983 The U.S. Secretary of Education released a new study, A Nation at Risk, the product of a two-year federal study, which found poor academic performance at nearly every level of public education and warned that the education system was "being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity." The report prompted the first discussions for the Standards Movement as well as the first national discussion about reforms in public education.

1985   The OAH began publishing the bimonthly Magazine of History for K-16 teachers.  Each focused on a theme or topic of recent scholarship in American history and provided readers with informative articles, lesson plans, and current historiography. The OAH stopped publishing the Magazine of History with its October 2013 issue (volume 27, number 4). The full archive of back issues are available to OAH members at Oxford University Press. The OAH Magazine also may be found online at JSTOR.

1987 The California Department of Education published the first framework in the nation for a history-centered curriculum - California History/Social Science Framework. It included 17 goals and strands, specific course descriptions for grades K-12, and criteria for evaluation and instructional resources.

1988   The National Center for History in the Schools (NCHS) opened at UCLA with the specific goals of improving history education through academic and K-12 collaboration, gathering data on history teaching in the schools, sponsoring workshops, and organizing a nationwide network of history educators.

1989   President George H. W. Bush announced at the National Governor's Association that it was time "to establish clear national performance, goals that will make us internationally competitive and second to none in the 21st Century."  This announcement was a major change in the way education was designed. Education is a state, not a federal, prerogative.  A national effort on behalf of excellence in education was a precedent-setting goal.  Most Americans greeted this agenda with guarded anticipation.  Few wanted the federal government to suggest or mandate a national curriculum.

1990   President Bush launched "America 2000," a comprehensive, bi-partisan, long-term plan to develop "world class" national standards in history, English, mathematics, science, and geography - as well as voluntary achievement tests to assess progress in grades 4, 8, and 12. Consequently, the NCHS created a broadly representative K-16 organization designed to create such standards.

1991 Congress created the National Council on Education Standards and Testing (NCEST) to advise on the desirability of national standards and to recommend long-term policies.  In October, NCEST’s History Task Force supported developing national history standards that included interpretation and analysis, not just basic facts and that they be developed in a public forum inclusive of teachers, professional associations, groups with relevant expertise, and the public.

In December, the US Department of Education and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) jointly funded and launched the National History Standards Project to be conducted by a newly-created entity, the National Council on History Standards.

Political cartoon about National History Standards1992  The National Council brought together groups broadly representative of educators, parents, and concerned citizens who embarked upon a public, bipartisan debate about standards.  The major debate focused on two issues: for World History, teaching Western Civilization versus global history; and for U.S. history, teaching an inclusive curriculum based upon diversity versus a traditional curriculum based upon the Great Man theory.  The debate was sometimes rancorous, but the group came to an understanding and created 31 main standard headings, each of which was explained and accompanied by over 12000 examples of how the standard could be taught.

The National Council, co-directed by Charlotte Crabtree and Gary Nash and UCLA, created council consisting of 23 individuals which, in turn, was advised by several newly-created groups:  a National Forum with representatives from 24 major education, parent-teacher, and public interest associations with a stake in history in the schools; 9 focus groups, chosen by leaders of the National Forum, which would review all drafts of the standards; and 3 curriculum task forces of 50 veteran teachers from Alaska to Florida.

1994   NCHS held its final meeting.  Drafts of the standards were received with broad-based and enthusiastic support and little dissent. While there were various critical suggestions for trimming, modifying, and expanding certain parts of the draft, there was only one person with sweeping objections.  Chester Finn, former assistant secretary of education in the Reagan administration, commented:  “What I believe can only be fairly termed political correctness and relativism rears its head in too many places.  We’ve got the usual manifestations of excessive attention to fashionable groups and obscure individuals who need to be there for proportional purposes.”  He urged the council to consider how these standards would “go down with the Chamber of Commerce?  With the American Legion?  By callers to the Rush Limbaugh show?” No one rose to second his views, but several made rejoinders.  One person commented “these standards have never been directed to proportionality but to inclusiveness, to a factual rendering of our history.”

1994 to 1995. The Fourth History War began in October when NEH director  Lynn Cheney attacked the standards in the Wall Street Journal editorial titled "The End of History."   A media war ensued, as well as battles within the US Senate, among various Cabinet agencies, and among Presidential hopefuls.History War Cartoon 1994

1995 Battles raged in the U.S. Senate (which voted not to support the Standards), among various Cabinet agencies (especially the Department of Education and NEH which had funded the Standards and which were now under attack), and among presidential hopefuls (Dole bashed the Standards as unpatriotic and Clinton then backed away from his former support.)

1996  In January, NCHS received permission to make some revisions that would make the standards more palatable to Congress and the American people.  Revised standards with recommended changes were released in February.  These standards were allowed to go forward by the end of the year.

1998   In October, California approved the 1997 the final History-Social Science Content Standards. They were accepted by the Legislature as a guideline for teaching history, not a mandate.  By the end of the decade, California became the first state to  have both a detailed framework for teaching history and a set of voluntary standards.

2001 Rumblings of a Fifth History War began with passage of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) - the cornerstone of President Bush’s educational policy - which required that states wishing to continue receiving federal funding for education test their students in math and reading – but not history - annually in grades 3-8 and once in high school; improve student test scores until 100% of students were proficient by 2014; make sure that core academic subjects are taught by “highly qualified teachers” by 2006; and imposed sanctions on schools that failed to improve test scores for two or more consecutive years. 

Within a few years, the NEA and millions of teachers across the nation began to question the consequences of NCLB in their classrooms – consequences that have forced schools to become more testing oriented than teaching oriented. Further, because of the emphasis placed on reading and math, NCLB has resulted in teaching less history in the K-12 educational world.

Congress allocated the first $125 million to the Teaching American History initiative designed to re-educate K-12 teachers about the values of "traditional American history."

No Child Left Behind political cartoon2004   Grumblings about the No Child Left Behind Act begin throughout the nation. In February at a meeting of the nation's governors at the White House, the U.S. Secretary of Education Ron Paige called the 2.7 million member NEA teacher's union "a terrorist organization" because some members refused to abide by provisions in NCLB.  In his apology, Paige made it clear that he was referring to the Washington-based union organization, not the teachers it represented.  The NEA president responded, "We are the teachers; there is no distinction."

2005   In April, the NEA, the nation's largest teacher union, and school districts in Michigan, Texas, and Vermont sued the U.S. Department of Education, alleging it was an "unfunded mandate" and had failed to fund NCLB adequately - Pontiac, et.al. v. Spellings.

No Child Left Behind Political Cartoon2006   In July, at the NEA's Representative Assembly meeting, the union voted to focus it's efforts on overturning NCLB. Members said while the basic intentions of the law are good - quality schools and skilled teachers - the law was too flawed to fix and the federal government's "obsessive" focus on testing student skills and punishing failing schools undermined education.

On July 1, Florida's Education Omnibus Bill (H.B. 7087e3) took effect for all its K-12 schools. Designed to "meet the highest standards for professionalism and historic accuracy, the bill states in part that "American history shall be viewed as factual, not constructed, shall be viewed as knowable, teachable, and testable, and shall be defined as the creation of a new nation based largely on the universal principles stated in the Declaration of Independence." Interpretating history is frowned upon and the bill describes how history should be taught through specific periods and episodes: "the period of discovery, early colonies, the War for Independence, the Civil War, the expansion of the United States to its present boundaries, the world wars, and the civil rights movement to the present."

2007 In February, the NCLB Commission, created to hold hearings around the country to "analyze the strengths and weaknesses of NCLB" released its report, Beyond NCLB: Fulfilling the Promise to Our Nation's Children. The report supported continuing NCLB, but added 75 recommendations for improvement and change.

2008 In January, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the Department of Education in the 2005 Pontiac, et.al. v. Spellings case brought by several school districts and NEA affiliates. The Court found that NCLB comprised an unfunded mandate: "Because statutes enacted under the Spending Clause of the United States Constitution must provide clear notice to the States of their liabilities should they decide to accept federal funding under those statutes, and because we conclude that NCLB fails to provide clear notice as to who bears the additional costs of compliance, we REVERSE the judgment of the district court and REMAND this case for further proceedings consistent with this opinion." The Department of Education immediately filed a petition for a rehearing.

NCLB became a hot topic in the 2008 presidential election. John McCain on No Child Left Behind. Barack O'Bama on No Child Left Behind.

2009 The Obama administration proposed sweeping changes in NCLB, calling for broad changes in how schools are judged to be failing or succeeding. To be eligible for "The Race to the Top," states had to adopt "internationally benchmarked standards and assessments that prepare students for success in college and the work place." This meant that in order for a state to be eligible for these grants, the states had to adopt the Common Core State Standards or a similar career and college readiness curriculum (see below).

Map of Common Core Standards state adoptions 2012The Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association (NGA) began working on what became known as the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). The stated purpose was to "provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn, so teachers and parents know what they need to do to help them." Additionally, "The standards are designed to be robust and relevant to the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills that our young people need for success in college and careers," which will place American students in a position in which they can compete in a global economy. The CCSS address the content areas of English language arts (ELA) and mathematics. Additionally, the common core ELA standards include literacy standards for history/social studies, science, and technical subjects. These kindergarten through grade 12 standards provide a progression of knowledge and skills that prepare students to graduate from high school and be ready for college and careers.

The Common Core State Standards are funded by the governors and state schools chiefs, as well as private donors like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation and others. States are expected to implement this initiative by 2015 by basing at least 85% of their state curricula on the Standards.

2010 In March, the Texas Board of Education approved a social studies curriculumthat puts a conservative stamp on history and economics textbooks, stressing the superiority of American capitalism, questioning the Founding Fathers' commitment to a purely secular government and presenting Republican political philosophies in a more positive light.

In July, the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court's dismissal of the State of Connecticut's lawsuit charging that the federal No Child Left Behind school reform law was an unfunded mandate. (See 2005 above)

2012 Forty-six states had adopted the Common Core Standards - all but Texas, Virginia, Alaska, and Nebraska had adopted the CCSS while Minnesota had adopted only the English Language Arts standards (see map above).

2013 In July, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill to renew NCLB but only with Republican support. The bill was designed to significantly water down the federal role in K-12 accountability. The Senate never took up the legislation.

2014 The sixth, and newest History War begins. In August , the College Board released a revised "curriculum framework" to help high school teachers prepare students for the Advanced Placement test in US history. The new framework mirrors the new demographic reality that beginning in fall 2014, whites will be the minority of public school students in the nation. According to a September 1, 2014 editorial in the New York Times:

"It turns out that some Americans don’t like it. A member of the Texas State Board of Education has accused the College Board of 'promoting among our students a disdain for American principles and a lack of knowledge of major American achievements,' like those of the founding fathers and of the generals who fought in the Civil War and World War II. The Republican National Committee says the framework offers 'a radically revisionist view' that “emphasizes negative aspects of our nation's history.' Stanley Kurtz, in National Review, called it 'an attempt to hijack the teaching of U.S. history on behalf of a leftist political and ideological perspective' ... The critics are unhappy, perhaps, that a once comforting story has become, in the hands of scholars, more complex, unsettling, provocative and compelling ... The educators and historians who worked on the new history framework were right to emphasize historical thinking as an essential aspect of civic culture. Their efforts deserve a spirited debate, one that is always open to revision, rather than ill-informed assumptions or political partisanship."

In late August, the American Principles in Action organization and Concerned Women for America sent an open letter to the College Board asking that they delay the new framework and criticizing the course's negative view of American history. "Instead of striving to build a 'City upon a Hill,' as generations of students have been taught, the colonists are portrayed as bigots who developed 'a rigid racial hierarchy' that was in turn derived from 'a strong belief in British racial and cultural superiority,'" the letter reads. "The new Framework continues its theme of oppression and conflict by reinterpreting Manifest Destiny from a belief that America had a mission to spread democracy and new technologies across the continent to something that 'was built on a belief in white racial superiority and a sense of American cultural superiority.'"

2015 In January, the U.S. Senate began discussion about amending No Child Left Behind. The many problems with NCLB was succinctly stated in a Washington Postarticle:

"Since NCLB became law in 2002, students may have shown slight increases in test scores, relative to pre-NCLB students. No Child Left Behind poliical cartoonLooking at the results of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), however, any test score increases over the pre-NCLB trend are very small, and they are miniscule compared to what early advocates of NCLB promised.  We as a nation have devoted enormous amounts of time and money to the focused goal of increasing test scores, and we have almost nothing to show for it. Just as importantly, there is no evidence that any test score increases represent the broader learning increases that were the true goals of the policy—goals such as critical thinking; the creation of lifelong learners; and more students graduating high school ready for college, career, and civic participation. While testing advocates proclaim that testing drives student learning, they resist evidence-based explanations for why, after two decades of test-driven accountability, these reforms have yielded such unimpressive results ... To be specific, our singular focus on those test scores had negative consequences. For example: making schooling less engaging and creative; deprofessionalizing teachers and teaching; abandoning our past pursuit of learning that fully encompasses arts, music, social studies, and science; and marginalizing values and skills that help students develop the ability to cooperate, solve problems, reason, make sound judgments,and function effectively as democratic citizens".

Much of the Senate committee’s discussion centered around a struggle to find a balance between maintaining the elements of No Child Left Behind that have improved student outcomes and increased knowledge about educational progress with the need to make testing requirements less burdensome for schools, teachers and students.

In April, a bipartisan compromise bill to reform NCLB arose in the U.S. Senate. Washington State Democratic Senator Patty Murray and Tennessee Republican Senator Lamar Alexander propose shifting education oversight toward states. Called the "Every Child Achieves Act," their proposal would restore to states, local school districts, teachers, and parents the responsibility for deciding what to do about improving student achievement, would still require annual testing while allowing states to come up with their own consequences if schools miss the mark, and would also put instructional standards in the hands of states - thus blocking the federal government from pushing states to accept Common Core standards. On April 30th, the bill was sent to the full House and Senate for consideration.

In July, the Every Child Achieves Act was passed. It's highlights include eliminating the NCLB mandate of Adequate Yearly Progress; requires the use of multiple measures in evaluating student success; provides greater access to early childhood education; includes a menu of indicators of school quality and student success to be part of new, state-designed accountability systems; makes career and technical education a core subject; protects student data privacy;  requires school districts to inform parents of state or local policies regarding “opting out” of standardized tests; and requires states to set a cap limiting time spent on tests.

For discussion: Has this discussion helped you understand how knowing this history can be a weapon? Why or why not? How and why?


Methods Discussion: We have had a good discussion about the content related to the History Wars. Now, how do TEACH IT by helping students in our classes dig more deeply into what we learned and by helping us assess what they have learned? To accomplish this, we are going to participate in what is known as a Write Around. Please take the following steps:

Be sure to keep your "Write Around" method activity. It will go into your Portfolio.