Author: "Daniel A. Segal"
Date: Sat, 25 Feb 1995 01:23:27 PCT
Enclosed find an article from the latest edition of Education Week on the World History standards. I found it to be a very thoughtful article with a number of good insights. I agree strongly with his contention that _teachers_ need to be proactive in the process.
I am also enclosing a copy of the NY Times Editorial from Feb 13 on the World History Standards.
Both of these are reprinted for discussion only.
Education Week, Feb. 22, 1995, Page 34
For history teachers, the release of the national-standards documents in world and American history is a "good news-bad news" situation. The good news is that the committees finally have completed their work, after almost three years of collaboration between university historians and precollegiate teachers, and history teachers have documents that rival the standards in other disciplines.
The bad news, of course, is that the standards are under intense political attack for their perspective, inclusions, and omissions. Even before their release, _The Wall Street Journal_ published an opinion piece detailing much of the criticism. Since then, major newspapers, news magazines, and even radio talk-show hosts have taken the standards to the woodshed. On Jan. 18, t the U.S. Senate essentially put the mark of Cain on any history-standards project begun before February 1995.
Goods news-they're out! Bad news- so is an intense criticism that may lead to political ostracism. What is a classroom teacher to do? Teachers must get into this debate. If not, once again those outside the classroom will define what goes on inside the classroom.
We should do as we teach our students to do-get a copy of the controversial documents, read them, read the critics, and then judge for ourselves. That is what I did with the _National Standards for World History: Exploring Paths to the Present_.
As a high school history teacher of 22 years, I liked what I read. The bad-news reports are exaggerated. The world history standards are a valuable resource that teachers and districts can use to develop authentic world-scale, analytical history courses.
There is much to admire, especially the way the standards conceptually define precollegiate world history and how they merge content with thinking skills, with history's habits of mind. The great value for teachers in this project-a value hidden by the current debate-is that the documents should begin our national and local conversations about history in schools.
Educators must try to shift the conversation away from the political, toward the educational. Let me suggest three critical areas that might enlarge the discussion.
The first is a pedagogical one: History teachers stand at the center of a unique tension, which the professors Samuel Wineburg and Suzanne Wilson have described: "The teacher of history must face inward and outward, being at once deeply familiar with the content of the discipline while never forgetting that the goal of this understanding is to foster it in others." The standards will help history teachers develop deeper familiarity with the content of authentic world-scale history and will challenge students to think. But they do not reflect the marvelous research that focuses on how children come to understand history, how mastery of historical concepts develops, how children's thinking is similar to and different from working historians'.
I am referring to the work of researchers in cognitive psychology-people like Mr. Wineburg, Ms. Wilson, Peter Sexias, and Gaea Lienhardt. Recognizing that learning is more than change in behavior, these researchers have focused on how students and experts think historically. They are transforming the questions history teachers must ask of learners and learning. How do our students construct historical meaning? What pedagogical tools stimulate the building of historical meaning?
A natural affinity exists between history and a cognitive understanding of learning. History as a discipline depends upon historians reconstructing the past. Doing history is more than uncovering facts. It requires actively constructing the past in the mind of the historian. Likewise, learning history is more than memorizing facts. Students of history actively construct the past in their own minds. History as a discipline and a course of study demands, as Peter Stearns wrote, "meaning over memory."
We need to bring such ideas into the conversation.
A second issue, bigger than the national standards, is how the role of the West continues to plague all attempts to establish authentic world-history courses. Most of the critics of the standards have focused on what they consider the omissions or the bias in the treatment of the West.
Here, we must make an important distinction between the standards and the examples that support them. Most of the critics found fault with the teaching examples, not the standards. The examples, providing mere suggestions for teachers, must not be confused with the standards themselves. They are separate phenomena. We should treat them as such. In fact, the standards would have been better served if the National Center for History in the Schools had published two books for each subject-one for the standards and another filled with teaching ideas.
The standards covering the West are broad and inclusive. They would make a wonderful Western civilization course. Yet, in a few places, the examples-and in even fewer places, the standards-are loaded with political conclusions. For example, an otherwise wonderful standard asks students to analyze the "intrusive European migration." The adjective assumes conclusions before students weigh evidence. Such language reduces the complexity of the past to simple dichotomies. Such dichotomies run counter to the spirit of the entire standards project because they narrow the scope of the student's thinking.
Again, the criticism is exaggerated, but it does serve a purpose by pointing out elements too narrowly conceived. The debate gives us the chance to rework and reword the examples that presuppose conclusions.
There is a much deeper issue, of course: The West simply does not dominate a world-history course from beginning to end. We need to make a stronger pedagogical case-not a political one-for the role Western content plays in the world history curriculum. Many world history proponents have argued that subject's hidden value is that it lessens our analytical obsession with nation and culture. Ironically, by lessening our focus on nation, we gain a clearer picture of the nation. Disconnected regional or national history is harmful to understanding nation and culture. Such geographically bound study assumes students will fully understand the West by separating it from the larger history of its time. Isolating the nation or culture from the global context is deceptive. World historians need, William McNeill reminds us, to consider the ecumenical setting. "Only consciousness of how the processes of cultural interaction were running in a given age," he said, "can provide an adequate context for understanding national and local history."
We need, then, a stronger case for connecting familiar Western stories to the unfamiliar global ones. World historians should point with pride to giving students in the United States the opportunity to locate their own culture in a larger context.
In another vein, the standards are strangely silent on assessment questions. This is a mistake. Unless we discuss ways to assess them, these are weak standards indeed. The silence may be intentional, as we cannot productively reduce the world-history standards to traditional, cost-affective, large scale evaluation tools.
The standards are not compatible with multiple-choice, computer-graded exams. They require students to use facts to construct arguments, build positions, question evidence, analyze and compare cases. They call for authentic assessments. Grant Wiggins holds that authentic tests must be designed "to be truly representative of performance in the field. "Authentic assessment must stress the "teaching and learning of the criteria to be used." Multiple-choice tests do neither of these.
The standards for historical thinking must guide the evaluation questions. Did students ask meaningful questions? Did they use evidence to support their arguments? Did they use facts accurately and appropriately? Did they explain using counter-examples? Were they empathetic to the historical frame and context? Did their analysis suffer from historical "presentism"'?
The assessment problem is not unique to history or to history standards. But it is a problem that historians and history teachers must consider. If we don't, ease of evaluation may reduce the standards to their most basic elements-multiple-choice tests of low challenge.
Classroom teachers can barely keep up with all the standards and initiatives-projects in world and U.S. history, civics, geography, social studies, and the yet-to be-released economics standards. Though all are well-intentioned, these projects threaten to increase the curricular fragmentation that has plagued schools for generations We need integration; and world history is ideally situated for the needed coordination and integration.
My biggest fear, though, is that this debate will be further politicized, making the standards just another skirmish in a larger ideological war. While it may be exciting, politicizing this educational issue is dangerous for the future of the national-standards project-and harmful for the future of history in our schools. The key is to keep the conversation going. I think teachers hold that key
These are exciting times to be a history teacher-a world-history teacher. Everyone is talking about what we do, or can do. We must turn the excitement into productive exchanges, then productive change. The release of the national standards for world history is a major step in that direction.
The debate surrounding the standards, if not cut short by politics, can sharpen our thinking about history in the schools. I urge fellow teachers to read the standards and join the conversation.
Ney York Times, Feb 13, 1995
Maligning the History Standards
The national history standards, recently developed by historians for voluntary use by teachers, have been attacked for their alleged preoccupation with the "dark side" of the American experience. The standards, according to conservative critics, compulsively spotlight what America has done wrong and celebrate little of what it has done right. Lynne Cheney, former chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, which helped finance development of the standards, points out that they mention McCarthyism 19 times and the Ku Klux Klan 17 times-but never mention Thomas Edison or Albert Einstein.
The critics have a point. But a small, misleading point. Reading the standards and support materials is exhilarating. Students will rejoice in learning from them; teachers will cherish using them.
The 31 standards, organized into 10 eras, provide a scaffold on which harried, scantily trained teachers could build a coherent course based on issues and ideas. The treasures, however, are found among the 2,600 sample assignments that accompany the standards. Consider the two standards that apply to the decade of the Great Depression. They would compel students to identify the likely causes and impact of the Depression and the purpose and impact of the New Deal. Other than clarity and brevity, the standards are nothing special.
But then come dozens of suggestions for bringing the period alive in the classroom. Elementary school students would study the Iyrics of "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?" and "Which Side Are You on?" to understand the emotional appeal of labor organizers.High school studentswould survey their community to determine how New Deal theater companies influenced small-town America. Junior high students would use novels to examine the impact of the Depression on young adults and study the writings of opponents of the New Deal, from the conservative Liberty League to Huey Long.
Ms. Cheney skips over these jewels. She also ridicules through misrepresentation. Enumeratio -McCarthy 19, Edison 0-would make sense if the standards were a textbook, a compendium of all which the numbers are taken, are just that. Samples. Teachers would fill in the blanks-meeting the standard that calls for examining the impact of invention by discussing Edison.
Yet there is something to conservative attacks. Liberal bias creeps into, perhaps, a couple dozen of the 2,600 sample lessons. Questions-such as, Did the New Deal go far enough?-come across more as answers than disinterested inquiry. People of color do no wrong: students are invited to admire Aztecarchitecture but not notice the Aztec practice of human sacrifice.
Most of what annoys conservatives can be remediated. For every mock trial of John D. Rockefeller on charges of amoral business practices can be added another exercise that celebrates the growth of individual freedom and wealth. But there may be a limit. Social history dea]s with people in the streets, which by necessity shifts focus away from dead white males to conflicts and victims.
The real problem with the standards may be their ambition. Debates, mock trials and original research demand rigor and time that would stretch even college teachers. Yet if this Government sponsored project errs by demanding too much, that in itself might herald a welcome change for American's primary and secondary schools.
Author: "Daniel A. Segal"
Date: Mon, 20 Feb 1995 14:30:24 PCT
I want to briefly respond to the recent comment from Alan Fisher: "Many of the criticisms from scholars, not politicians, have been interesting. But I wonder if we are forgetting the intended audience of the standards. My understanding was that they were aimed at teachers and students in the K-12 system. If this is still correct, we should be careful not to expect too much in the way of theoretical sophistication. Some of the skills being suggested as important are more suitable to the college-age student and college teacher."
I think this is a fundamental issue in thinking about curricular reform. My own view is that even very subtle theoretical points --like the contingency of modern identities of race, nation, ethnicity--can and should be incorporated into K-12 education. It is precisely by uncritically passing on language that assumes the objectivity and transhistorical status of such distinctions that we make it hard for college and university students to acquire these critical thnking skills. We need, in short, to stop socializing children into these intellectual errors. This is, of course, a challenge, given the broader context in which children are socialized (by the media, their friends, etc)---something I discover on an almost daily basis talking with my 7 year old daughter (who has just recently been exposed to "history" at school).
Author: Alan Fisher CIS - AH MSU
Date: Fri, 17 Feb 1995 09:59:55 PCT
Many of the criticisms from scholars, not politicians, have been interesting. But I wonder if we are forgetting the intended audience of the standards. My understanding was that they were aimed at teachers and students in the K-12 system. If this is still correct, we should be careful not to expect too much in the way of theoretical sophistication. Some of the skills being suggested as important are more suitable to the college-age student and college teacher.
Author: Ross Dunn
Date: Fri, 17 Feb 1995 09:59:20 PCT
February 16, 1995
To: Humanities and Social Studies Colleagues
MAILING OF NATIONAL HISTORY STANDARDS
During the past few days the National Center for History in the Schools has mailed more than 500 sets of the three volumes of the NATIONAL STANDARDS FOR HISTORY to the chairs of history departments (and in some cases humanities departments) of most public universities and many of the larger private universities in this country. These books have been sent unsolicited in order to encourage post-secondary teachers and scholars to assess the standards and to engage in productive discussion of them.
The mailing includes some press information as well as a cover letter from Joyce Appleby, Professor of History at UCLA and member of the National Council for History Standards. In her statement, Joyce encourages chairs and their colleagues to read and assess the three volumes, to get the word out to their local area and state, and to contact members of Congress. Joyce emphasizes that legislators probably cannot take time to discover whether Thomas Edison is duly covered in the Standards (you will find him in both the World History and K-4 books) or whether Bart Simpson gets more coverage than Benjamin Franklin (he doesn't), but they will listen to knowledgeable people in their districts.
If you think your institution might be receiving a set of the standards, check with your department chair.
I should also mention that I know of a number of colleges and universities that are organizing colloquia to discuss the history standards, the standards movement in general, and the connection between standards and the controversies over the NEH, NEA, and CPP.
Joyce can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Author: "Daniel A. Segal"
Date: Thu, 16 Feb 1995 13:04:27 PCT
I want to again suggest that we not allow extremist attacks from the right to define the debate about the proposed "National Standards" for world history. What I find striking about the proposed "Standards" for world history is how little they depart from a number of problematic conventions of our discipline.
Earlier on H-WORLD, for instance, Piers Larson wrote critically about the reliance in the "Standards" on a compromised and vexed notion of "civilization"--and specifically, on the implicit privileging of stationary peoples over more nomadic peoples.
And previous to that, I had criticized the "Standards" for failing to develop critical thinking skills about the contingency of modern identities of race, nationality & ethnicity.
Here I would like to add what I see as a third, though clearly related, limitation of the proposed "Standards" for world history. As I read them, these "Standards" have not adopted a fully global scope and as a result, they contain a highly circumscribed understanding of the what Ruth Benedict called "the great arc" of human possibilities (*Patterns of Culture*, 1934: 24). This, in turn, means that the "Standards" do not provide students the comparative perspective needed to see the contingency of their own social conventions and cultural presuppositions. In the version of "world history" embedded in the proposed "Standards," modern global capitalism is not, for instance, compared with the kula exchange of the Western Pacific, nor the potlatch of Northwest Coast Native Americans. This "world" is too small for my taste at least.
Author: rdunn@sciences.SDSU.Edu (Ross E. Dunn) Date: Thu, 16 Feb 1995 09:54:36 PCT
I just learned that Eric Foner and Lynne Cheney will face off on CNN's "Crossfire" on Thursday, Feb. 16. The subject is the National History Standards. Check local listings for time.
Author: "Daniel A. Segal"
Date: Mon, 13 Feb 1995 10:11:51 PCT
Forwarded by Ross Dunn, rdunn@sciences.SDSU.Edu
From Gary Nash & Charlotte Crabtree, UCLA
The teaching standards for United States and world history coordinated by the UCLA National Center for History in the Schools have been under attack recently. Right wing political figures are trying to persuade teachers, schools, and education authorities to reject these standards. These critics are in our view obstructing progress toward creating more challenging and comprehensive classroom material for the study of history.
We are happy to report that last week the U.S. Senate dropped a resolution calling on the National Education Standards and Improvement Council to disapprove the history standards.
We welcome debate among educators, parents, and the general public over the merits of the standards. As the preface to the standards volumes states:
In undertaking this process, it was widely agreed that the History Standards, as finally drafted, would in fact mark a critical advance but not the final destination in what must be an ongoing, dynamic process of improvement and revision over the years to come. History is an extraordinarily dynamic field today, and standards drafted for the schools must be open to continuing development to keep pace with new refinements and revisions in this field.
We would like to urge you to contact your lawmakers to express your support for a reasoned national discussion of these documents. Your own words will have the greatest impact; however, we have also attached some "talking points" that can be used or adapted as needed.
If you would like "hard copies" of the attached material, or newsclips and other information about the history standards, then please send an e-mail to us at HISTORY@LANDS.SSCNET.UCLA.EDU, and we will transmit this material to you. Finally, if you write to Congress, it would be very helpful if you could send us a copy of your letter. Please send it to Linda Symcox, UCLA, 10880 Wilshire Blvd., #761, Los Angeles, CA 90024-4108, or the e-mail above. If you have questions, please call us at (310) 825-4702.
Gary Nash, Co-Director
Charlotte Crabtree, Co-Director
Nash & Crabtree "Talking Points"
RE: Standards for U.S. History and World History
(Name) U.S. House of Representatives Washington, DC 20515
(Name) United States Senate Washington, DC 20510
William Goodling 2263 Rayburn House Office Building Washington, DC 20510
James M. Jeffords SH-513 Hart Senate Office Building Washington, DC 20510
Please send copies of letters to:
Linda Symcox UCLA 10880 Wilshire Blvd. #761 Los Angeles, CA 90024-4108 (e-mail: HISTORY@LANDS.SSCNET.UCLA.EDU)
Author: David Fahey
Date: Tue, 7 Feb 1995 14:38:06 PCT
National Standards: Since to date I have had time but to sample the published NATIONAL STANDARDS FOR WORLD HISTORY, it is unreasonable for me to express an y specific opinion about the book. Yet I can make two generalizations that bea r on the controversy. (1) there is supposed to be a difference between Western Civilization courses and World History courses; (2) for several decades (mayb e many decades) historians have shifted their focus from biography of elite figures to previously neglected persons and topics. The critics of the pub- lished NATIONAL STANDARDS appear to denounce these facts about the historical profession, not simply the books out of UCLA.
Author: Chris Garton-Zavesky
Date: Mon, 6 Feb 1995 18:04:12 -0500
North Carolina State University
Ross Dunn has torpedoed the standards he was so intent on defending. The standards apparently encourage the students to examine how "Enlightenment thought, Christian piety" and other currents influenced the end of the slave trade. Since Christian piety (in any legitimate use of that term) is not currently being taught in the schools, do the standards propose to introduce such schools of thought? I am willing to believe it possible, although previous experience would argue strenuously against accepting such a posiiton: groups on both sides of this fight (Cheney/Nash) have no interest that I can detect in teaching genuinely Christian piety -- even as a philosophical approach to the world.
But let's assume for the moment that either side would support such a notion. St Martin de Porres would be a logical person to study, since he is the Patron Saint of Inter-racial justice. The Catholic Church would warrant substantial mention -- after all, it was the Pope himself who condemned mistreatment of Indians in the early 16th century. The WASP arm (Cheney et al) would have no interest in such issues, and the Multiculturalists (Nash et al) would find the religious discussion unpalatable. Hmm.. Food for thought.
Author: Alan Fisher
Date: Mon, 6 Feb 1995 18:14:27 -0500
Michigan State University
Views which indicate that published statements about the standards are incomplete or false should also be addressed to the journals/newspapers which have published these views. Not to speak of sending them to Sen. Lieberman, etc.
Author: Raymond Lewis
Date: Mon, 6 Feb 1995 18:12:43 -0500
Eastern Kentucky University
You are so right about the "competing considerations" yet in KY higher education was literally been abandoned by the legislators in regards to funding for the past 15 or more years. Now they are applying KERA to higher ed. to get "quality" education on a assembly line basis. I doubt it will happen. All the documentation required is expensive in itself and takes a great deal of any teacher's time (univ. or secondary). Anyway there is a great debate going on now over how effective the Kentucky Education Reform Act has been. Many Kentuckians believe it has been a costly failure while other defent it for their own reasons. Thank God I am no longer a part of the education system. Have just completely retired and plan nothing more than giving lectures on cruise ships where the audience is large, attentive and very much interested.
Author: Pandy Pouwels
Date: Mon, 6 Feb 1995 18:09:22 -0500
University of Central Arkansas
Dear Ray I agree that political meddling is scary. For example, I would hate for a college biology dep't to have to teach creationism. There are however problems with this point of view. The people of Kentucky pay a lot of money for colleges and if they do not believe that colleges are doing what they are paid to do, the people have some right to a say through their elected officials (a.k.a. politicians). There are competing considerations here, and I don't think there is an easy way top resolve the tension. Dan
I appreciate your point. However, *when* are politicians representing their constituencies? Or should constituencies always be represented? It's called demogoguery, and sometimes even worse: Facism. Consider, for example, the duly elected ex-Senator from Wisconsin, Joseph McCarthy. Hitler, too, was a politician who respresented, arguably, a constituency. D--- right this is scary business. It appears that the Republican "mandate" has gone beyond, I suspect, what lot of people thought they voted for....
Randall L. Pouwels
Department of History
University of Central Arkansas
Conway, AR 72035-0001
Author: Daniel Klenbort
Date: Mon, 6 Feb 1995 08:55:29 -0500
From: Raymond Lewis
Eastern Kentucky University
Mel: You should turn your attention to the university situation in Kentucky where a school reform bill legislated has been mandated to apply to higher education. The political meddling is scary. There is always a problem when we allow politicians to dictate the contents of our courses. My opinion and possibly that of others. Ray email@example.com
I agree that political meddling is scary. For example, I would hate for a college biology dep't to have to teach creationism. There are however problems with this point of view. The people of Kentucky pay a lot of money for colleges and if they do not believe that colleges are doing what they are paid to do, the people have some right to a say through their elected officials (a.k.a. politicians). There are competing considerations here, and I don't think there is an easy way top resolve the tension.
Daniel Klenbort, Morehouse College Klenbort@Halcyon.com "Human blunders, however, usually do more to shape history than human wickedness." A.J.P. Taylor
Author: Raymond Lewis
Date: Sun, 5 Feb 1995 20:19:13 -0500
Eastern Kentucky University
You should turn your attention to the university situation in Kentucky where a school reform bill legislated has been mandated to apply to higher education. The political meddling is scary. There is always a problem when we allow politicians to dictate the contents of our courses. My opinion and possibly that of others.
Author: Sandi Cooper
Date: Sun, 5 Feb 1995 20:16:51 -0500
City University of New York
The partial response to Chris Garton-Zavesky's "inquiry" about the Senate vote is obvious to anyone who has either lived through the McCarthy era or knows any US history. When the US Senate votes 99:1 on an issue which never ought to be discussed in such an ideological and politicized fashion, refusing to hear the opposite side of what one senator presented, then I would hope that faculty senates across the country should send in resolutions such as SUNY's.
I do not know if I shall succeed but I shall try to persuade the CUNY senate, which I now chair, to endorse SUNY's resolution and invite faculty everywhere to join us. Silence was complicity from 1946-55.
If Garton-Zavesky is troubled by the SUNY action, ok. Why is he not troubled by the ideological campaign of the neo conservative intellectual community that works out of privately funded right wing think tanks and who never have to pass an academic peer review, to grab hold of the intellectual discourse in this country?
Author: Ross Dunn
Date: Sun, 5 Feb 1995 19:28:26 -0500
San Diego State University
To: History Colleages
JOHN LEO ARTICLE
Some of you will have seen John Leo's new attack on the National History Standards in the Feb. 6 issue of US NEWS & WORLD REPORT. The article is rife with inaccuracies and misrepresentations. I cannot say who feeds him his material, but Lynne Cheney's lieutenant John Fonte is continuously busy extracting bits and pieces from the standards, twisting them out of shape, and reciting the distortions over and over in the national media.
I will limit my comment to merely one of Leo's paragraphs.
"In the World History Standards . . . slavery is only mentioned twice, and both times as practices of white cultures: in ancient Greece and in the Atlantic slave trade. The long and well-documented slave trade around the world, including Muslim and black slave traders, is not mentioned."
Let's look at the standards.
First of all they don't simply "mention slavery twice." There are numerous references to slavery and slave trade. In Era 6 (1450-1750) one of the six major standards calls for students to understand "economic, political, and cultural interrelations among peoples of Africa, Europe, and the Americas." The overall aim here is to encourage student to think about the lands rimming the Atlantic as a single field of historical interaction. A major recommended topic in this standard is the Atlantic slave trade. Its links to understanding of American society are of course obvious.
The topic of the Atlantic trade asks students to understand certain events, transformations, and patterns of change that involved peoples of Europe, Africa, and the Americas. There is not a single line in this standard (or any other standard anywhere in the world history book) that juxtaposes "white cultures" against black cultures, or red, green, or blue ones.
Leo alleges that there is nothing in the book about slavery except in relation to ancient Greece and to "white culture" in the Atlantic trade. In fact, the standards refer to slavery or slave trade in connection with ancient Mesopotamia and China, the Abbasid empire, the medieval Indian Ocean, and Africa. One standard calls on students to compare "ways in which slavery or other forms of social bondage were practiced in the Islamic lands, Christian Europe, and West Africa." Another asks students to analyze "the circumstances under which African governments, elites, merchants, or other groups participated in the sale of slaves to Europeans." Still another calls for assessment of "how the slave trade affected population, economic systems, family life, and relations between men and women in West and Central Africa."
One suggested activity for high school students asks them to "research evidence that slavery and slave trade became more widespread in both West and East Africa in the 19th century, even as the trans-Atlantic slave trade came to an end."
The standards also devote an entire sub-standard (a shaded box) to the abolition of the trans-Atlantic slave trade and slavery in the Americas. The recommended topics include:
"Assessing the relative importance of Enlightenment thought, Christian piety, democratic revolutions, slave resistance, and changes in the world economy in bringing about the abolition of the slave trade and the emancipation of slaves in the Americas."
"Describing the organization of movements in Europe and the Americas to end slavery, and explaining how the trans-Atlantic trade was suppressed."
Sen. Lieberman (D, Conn) made almost the same remarks about slavery as Leo did when the standards issue came up in the Senate. I doubt that Sen. Lieberman is closely associated with Lynne Cheney. It is unfortunate that he accepted at face value whatever information John Fonte or other hostile critic supplied to him.
Author: Mel Page
Date: Sat, 4 Feb 1995 18:04:02 -0500
East Tennessee State University
As frequently is the case, Chris raises interesting questions:
From: Chris Garton-Zavesky
North Carolina State University Forgive my obtuse question, but would anyone like to hypothesize about the reasons the SUNY faculty felt obliged to request explanations of votes from the two New York Senators?
My own view is that, as people interest in history and in education, and as consituents of the two legislators, it is perfectly reasonably that they should ask for understanding about how (or even if!) their interests are represented. Isn't that intended to be a part of our "democratic" system?
In any event, the standards in question apply to High School, not University level work, so why is the university feeling so threatened?
Ah, but as the educators of teachers, many in the university/college community have a vital interest in what is expected, hoped for, or even despised in high school teaching. If we ignore those things we do not do a very good job of meeting our responsibilities to our students!
Melvin E. (Mel) Page--History firstname.lastname@example.org East Tennessee State University fax: (615) 929-5373 Johnson City, TN 37614 voice: (615) 929-6802
Author: Chris Garton-Zavesky
Date: Thu, 2 Feb 1995 17:52:25 -0500
North Carolina State University
Forgive my obtuse question, but would anyone like to hypothesize about the reasons the SUNY faculty felt obliged to request explanations of votes from the two New York Senators? Academic freedom is not under attack, at least, not the way I read the Senate resolution. In any event, the standards in question apply to High School, not University level work, so why is the university feeling so threatened?
I'm not trying to flame anyone, but my exasperation with "free flow of ideas" arguments is growing daily.
Author: Ross Dunn
Date: Wed, 1 Feb 1995 09:48:43 -0500
San Diego State University
Subject: SUNY Faculty Senate Resolution on U.S. Senate Action of Jan. 18;
please acknowledge and pass on
Resolution of the University Faculty Senate, State University of New York, passed January 28, 1995 Resolution on the January 18, 1995, U.S. Senate Resolution on National History Standards
Whereas the United States Senate, on January 18, 1995, by a vote of 99-1 on "National History Standards" resolved that recipients of federal funds for the development of content and student performance standards in history should have "a decent respect for the contributions of western civilization, and United States history, ideas, and institutions, to the increase of freedom and prosperity around the world," implicitly making judgment about the scores of eminent scholars and teachers who participated indeveloping the history standards,
Whereas the action (as exemplified by the quoted phrase) may represent an unwarranted and potentially harmful political and legislative interference in the academic freedom and responsibility of scholars and teachers in the field of history (including the casting of a chilling effect upon others) to seek truth, engage freely in the interchange and dissemination of ideas, and pass on their findings to others,
And whereas the University Faculty Senate of the State University of New York resolved in April, 1986, to affirm its belief in the principle of academic freedom as essential to the academic process,
Therefore be it resolved that the University Faculty directs the President of the University Faculty Senate to:
(a) seek from Senator Alfonse D'Amato and Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan explanation of their votes on the January 18, 199, resolution of the United States Senate on "National History Standards," and
(b) declare the University Faculty Senate's commitment in behalf of the 26,000 faculty and professional staff of the state-operated and funded campuses of the State University of New York to ,maintain the principle of academic freedom as essential to the academic process.
Passed by vote of 28-2-0.
James R. Chen, President
University Faculty Senate
State University Plaza
Albany, New York 12246
This information being sent forward by
Robert N. Seidel
History and Politics
SUNY Empire State College
8 Prince Street
Rochester, New York 14607-1406
(716) 244-3641 X122
Author: Kris Troost
Date: Wed, 29 Mar 1995 16:05:45 -0500
I cannot resist responding to the comments about patriotism and its relationship to the debates on the world history standards, although I cannot respond at length nor as thoughtfully as might be desired. Nonetheless, I find the statement that "Patriotism is considered an outdated concept which clouds, rather than expands, students horizons" outrageous. I was not involved in writing the standards, but I cannot but suspect that most if not all writers are in fact ardent patriots who, while critical of some actions taken by the U.S. in the past, prefer to live in the United States rather than elsewhere.
I have two problems with the statement. First, patriotism is a value; history is the study and analysis of the past. I would like my students to learn to ask questions and to analyze material; these are skills which will serve them throughout their lives.
Second, even if we were to assume that one of the goals of the social studies courses is to teach patriotism, I still have some problems. It seems to me that the remark implies that only an uncritical approach is appropriate. There is much in our history to be proud of, but we also must recognize our mistakes/failures etc. Further, as the recent debate over the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki illustrates, events must be seen in their own context, not in the light of hindsight. And I also think that seeing the U.S. in a comparative or world framework is not going to destroy one's patriotism, but instead should give the student a keener insight into what makes the U.S. the country it is, its strengths and weaknesses, what is shared and what is unique or different.
In general, however, I must admit I was taken aback by the remark. The issue of patriotism seems so irrelevant to the study and teaching of history. But the remark has provided food for thought.
Author: John I. Brooks
Date: Wed, 29 Mar 1995 16:02:03 -0500
Teikyo Loretto Heights University
In response to Jack Owens's query and Chris Garton-Zavesky's comment, I would like to suggest a couple of ways of responding to the latter's questions, which I agree would probably come up in any perceptive, much less hostile, audience. I have just been looking over the Standards myself, and in general I find them admirable.
Mr. Garton-Zavesky writes,
>The proponents deem these standards necessary because they believe that american students must be able to master philosophies of history and develop an appreciation for the place which the United States holds in the world community. Patriotism is considered an outdated concept which clouds, rather than expands, students horizons.
Yes, the standards do assume that students need to understand American history in a global context (see. p. 4, criterion 11). I am not sure what Mr. Garton-Zavesky's specific objection to this is. I suspect it has something to do with the following comment:
>I remain convinced that the standards are a bad idea whose proponents have no interest in history at all, but rather in inculcating a new generation with "world-forces" understandings of history.
This may be a reference to the idea that history is shaped exclusively by large impersonal forces. If so, my response would be that the Standards explicitly ask students to consider the contributions of "specific groups and individuals" (p. 3) as well as larger socio-economic and other forces. The Standards do include such large forces, but they repeatedly ask students to consider how these interact with individual agency.
In the same fashion, the Standards ask students to consider different spheres of human activity--'social, political, scientific/technological, economic, and cultural' (p. 5)--in world history, but they do not require that any one sphere be considered dominant. The Standards are committed to a multicausal view of history, but it is not clear to me what the objection to this would be. In other words, without denying that there are some philosophical assumptions embodied in the Standards (and I would argue that this is inescapable, and so do the Standards), it seems to me that the Standards can accommodate a wide variety of philosophies of history. Indeed, the standards do suggest that students be exposed to a variety of different approaches to history; they are not called philosophies of history, but I suppose they could be. This is done in the spirit of developing skills in "historical thinking," and one could argue that the Standards are too ambitious in what they expect of young students. I for one would be happy if my college-level students came out with the skills suggested for high school students.
Another assumption that will surely come up in any public discussion is that studying world history is inconsistent with patriotism. The Standards do not state this, and indeed they are predicated on the opposite assumption: that a critical understanding of U.S. and world history is necessary for an informed citizenry. "Knowledge of history is the precondition of political intelligence" (p. 1). This is a debatable proposition, but I think it is also defensible. I would add that my own experience, as a teacher first of Western Civ and later of World History, has been that studying other cultures has helped me better understand and appreciate my own. Indeed, the only criticism I have, based on a cursory reading, is that the standards for the Scientific Revolution are too Eurocentric. There is no consideration of scientific traditions in other cultures, unless I have missed it elsewhere.
I do not say this because I think that all belief systems are identical, but rather because I think that the story of modern Western science is so extraordinary that it needs to be placed against the background of other scientific traditions--Chinese, Islamic, etc.
In short, there are many legitimate issues in the World History Standards over which reasonable people can disagree: Should students study world history? Should they study world history for 3 years, as the Standards recommend? To what extent should history and civics classes in public schools promote generally held values such as patriotism as opposed to simply teaching about them? What is the best way to promote such values in schoolchildren--through inculcation or critical understanding? Are the standards appropriate at the suggested levels of education? Do we need national standards in history, or should this be left to the states and local communities? (Personally, I am concerned that the current enthusiasm for returning everything to the states and "letting a hundred flowers bloom" is eroding our sense of national identity just as surely as the more strident claims of some ethnic and interest groups.) This is why we need a public debate on the Standards, and I applaud Mr. Owens for partaking in such a debate.
John I. Brooks III
Division of Social Sciences
Teikyo Loretto Heights University
3001 S. Federal Blvd.
Denver, CO 80236
phone: (303) 937-4544
fax: (303) 937-4243
Author: Chris Garton-Zavesky
Date: Tue, 28 Mar 1995 08:48:50 -0500
North Carolina State University
I suspect I would be as hostile an audience as you might find in polite company. I would want to know, in language that does not suggest "hedging" or skirting issues, what the standards purport to do, how they purport to do it and why the proponents think the standards are necessary. Let me give you examples:
With this as a starting point (I believe I have been generous by accepting the viewpoint of the proponents) there is some merit in asking "What does the committee understand by 'contemporary concerns of justice and inclusivity'" -- from which the discussion of the text itself can begin.
I remain convinced that the standards are a bad idea whose proponents have no interest in history at all, but rather in inculcating a new generation with "world-forces" understandings of history. I would be one very harsh questioner at your presentation. But, I have offered the statements above as a means of getting through the initial "knee-jerk" opposition to the standards which may be due to the enormous expenditure of emotional energy thus far in the debate. One word of caution. If you want to talk about what the standards actually say, you must be willing and able to defend the language in which they make their proposals.
Hope that helps,
Author: Ray Lewis
Date: Tue, 28 Mar 1995 08:45:23 -0500
East Kentucky University
It sounds as if you have quite a problem on your hands. My advice would be to use humor as much as possible and try to make the point that the purpose of an education is not propaganda but critical thinking skills. It won't be easy because a large number of people perceive education as critical to putting across their agenda and that means they want propaganda not analytical skills.
Best of luck to you!
Author: Jack Owens
Date: Mon, 27 Mar 1995 08:23:44 -0500
Idaho State University
I need ideas for a brief, introductory talk on the World History part of the new History Standards. My department has scheduled a public panel discussion on the standards, and I have agreed to present the world history ones. Given the nature of regional coverage of the standards issue, a significant proportion of the audience will be hostile to the project but will not have read any part of the standards themselves. I will give a five-minute introduction in which I would like to direct attention to the standards themselves and away from the false claims made about them. Obviously, I will not have time for the detailed refutation of the erroneous statements of Cheney and others.
Has anyone faced a general audience of this sort to talk about the World History Standards? What introductory points have helped to defuse the general hostility to the point where the audience will consider what the document is really about? ...to generate questions about the specific standards for instruction about different periods or about the types of student thinking the standards seek to encourage at the different grade levels?
As context for my query: The head of the U.S. militia movement operates out of Blackfoot, Idaho, 20 miles north of campus. Since the militia folks gave a lot of support to her campaign, the newly-elected state superintendent of public education attended their recent convention. In addressing the convention, the militia leader suggested that when the civil war to restore the original constitution arrives, they would have to kill a number of state legislators (who were then in session). The superintendent neither criticized the murder threat at the time, nor would she do so later when the matter was raised by the press. The State Board of Education just blocked her attempt to refuse the federal Goals 2000 money, and it has withdrawn all of the authority which the Board had previously delegated to her predecessor. But, of course, her office still retains a high level of involvement in curriculum development.
Any suggestions about how to deal with a potentially hostile audience in this sort of political environment will be most appreciated.
J. B. "Jack" Owens
Department of History
Idaho State University
Pocatello, ID 83209 USA
Voice: (208) 233-8589
Author: Ross Dunn
Date: Wed, 8 Mar 1995 08:09:53 -0500
San Diego State University
Many of you have inquired about having access to the National Standards for World History, as well as the US and K-4 standards, on line. I am happy to report that barring technical difficulties, the world history standards should be available some time next week through H-Net. This will not be just main headings but virtually the entire book, including the 1,300 or so teaching exemplars. You will be receiving further information on accessing all or pieces of the standards.
Of course one of the aims of putting the standards on line is to stimulate debate and discussion. Comments and critiques will be welcome at the National Center for History.
On the subject of Sheldon Hackney's appearance before the Senate Appropriations Committee, Page Miller reported that Sen. Gorton asked if the [History] Center that had produced the standards had any pending applications.
Hackney responded that one would be determined in May. "Be very careful with that application," Gorton said.
This comment suggests that Gorton believes the NEH should not fund the History Center for any project. The Center has two proposals before NEH. One of them does relate to standards dissemination and interpretation and is designed to assist teachers. The other is a proposed project of the Center related to world history but not directly to standards.
It appears that the Senator believes the National Center for History should be "punished" for supervising the national consensus-building process that produced the standards.
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