History, Democracy, and Citizenship: The Debate over History’s Role in Teaching Citizenship and Patriotism

April 1, 2003

“Traditional History” vs. “Revisionist History”: A Summary of the Debate over History’s Role in Teaching Citizenship and Patriotism
Laura Puaca

A report commissioned by the Executive Board of the Organization of American Historians.
Copyright © 2004, Organization of American Historians. All rights reserved.


We are engaged in a national conversation about the role of history in furthering democracy and civic engagement. The White House, members of Congress, and several major foundations and interest groups have accelerated the long-running discussion of how to strengthen history education in America’s schools and use history to promote democratic values and patriotism. The language they are using, the decisions they are making, and the money they are spending promise to dramatically affect how U.S. and world history will be taught.

Several broader issues as well as an increasing number of federal legislative efforts form the context of this discussion. Defining America’s superpower role in the post-Cold War world and at the start of the new millennium and comprehending the attacks of September 11, rising terrorism, and the war in Iraq—these have caused many to turn to history and to attempt to use the study of the past to define and inculcate patriotism, American values, and civic engagement. Meanwhile, and for similar reasons, vast amounts of federal money have been flowing into history education. In 2001, Congress approved Senator Robert Byrd’s (D-WV) Teaching American History (TAH) grant program. The Department of Education TAH program already has directed a quarter of a billion dollars to fund collaborative three-year projects between precollegiate schools and historians in history departments, museums, historical societies and elsewhere who can help improve teachers’ knowledge, understanding, and appreciation of American history. Senator Byrd’s program emphasized a return to teaching history as a separate subject and specifically excluded social studies projects. This program has funded some 289 three-year projects around the country, each of which involves dozens of teachers. Congress is considering an additional $120 million for TAH in fiscal 2004.

In fall 2002 the Bush administration launched its We the People initiative to further improve history education. It began with a National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) essay contest for high school students and an annual NEH “Heroes in History” lecture. The We the People launch also included a White House forum in spring 2003 to explore, in the words of the president, “new policies to improve the teaching of history and civics in elementary and secondary schools, and in our colleges and universities.” Unfortunately, few of the panelists were historians, and professional and academic associations of historians were invited as spectators rather than as participants. A smaller forum in July 2003 was an improvement, with panelists and audience agreeing on the need for more history content for students and more history training for teachers. We the People also involved a National History Day (NHD) and National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) joint effort to identify and promote classroom use of the nation’s “one hundred milestone documents.” For the current fiscal year NEH received $10 million in additional We the People funding. This substantial increase to the NEH budget will be used for projects on American history across all NEH program areas. Applicants are encouraged to “submit grant applications that explore significant events and themes in our nation’s history and culture and that advance knowledge of the principles that define America.” The president’s fiscal 2005 budget would increase NEH funding by $26.7 million, primarily to strengthen support for We the People.

Other major bills introduced this Congress demonstrate a growing concern about the state of history education. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), a former U.S. secretary of education, introduced his “American History and Civics Education Act” in 2002, which would create summer academies for students and for K-12 teachers of history and civics. Alexander called for an emphasis on traditional American history, which in recent versions of his bill is defined as “key events, key persons, key ideas, and key documents that shaped the institutions and democratic heritage of the United States of America.” Judd Gregg (R-NH), another senator who has long taken an interest in the teaching of American history, introduced the “Higher Education for Freedom Act.” This bill would “establish and strengthen postsecondary programs and courses in the subjects of traditional American history, free institutions, and Western civilization.” Representative Pete Hoekstra (R-MI) introduced the “Graduate Opportunities in Higher Education Act of 2003,” which would provide millions of dollars for establishing college and university courses, seminars, research programs, new teaching materials, and other means of support for the teaching of “traditional American history (including significant constitutional, political, intellectual, economic, diplomatic, and foreign policy trends, issues, and documents; the history, nature, and development of democratic institutions of which American democracy is a part; and significant events and individuals in the history of the United States).”

This debate about using history to teach citizenship, democracy, and patriotism is also taking place across the nation in places where state social studies and history standards for the schools are being reconsidered. Minnesota, for example, is in the middle of a contentious process of revising its state social studies standards. Commentators around the country, including parents, teachers, journalists, curriculum specialists, state officials, and politicians, are casting a new eye at how American history is treated in the schools in their states.

Much of the recent attention has been productive and, for example, has resulted in a sudden abundance of funds for the NEH and the Department of Education to be spent on promoting the understanding and teaching of American history. While most members of the Organization of American Historians would support much of what is being said and done, these developments have been accompanied by a rhetoric of antagonism directed at the way historians have been practicing their craft for the past few decades. The new national debate over history pits what is being called “traditional history” against “revisionism,” or the continual exploration and reinterpretation of the past. Revisionist history is blamed for being critical of the United States and uninterested in conveying the singularity of the America experience and the significance of our nation’s values. In 2003 the Albert Shanker Institute, Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, and American Council of Trustees and Alumni published reports that attempt to strengthen this notion of “traditional history.” (See bibliography below for web links to these reports.) Whether they are employed in colleges, museums, schools, research universities, historical societies, publishing, government, historic sites, or in the private sector, historians seek new information about and new understandings of the past. They continually revise what we know about history, they sharpen and fine tune, bring new approaches and ideas to bear, and reinterpret in light of the present. This does not necessarily change the facts of history; but neither are the facts nor our interpretation of them static.

The Executive Board of the Organization of American Historians urges more professional historians and history teachers to become familiar with this debate. At its fall 2003 meeting, the board directed OAH staff to present a compendium of views that summarizes some of the major reports published last year, places them in the larger context of the culture wars of the mid-1990s, and offers several old and new responses to the proponents of “traditional history.” This summary, largely the work of Laura Micheletti Puaca, is offered as a starting point for all those interested in joining the conversation so far.

Proponents of “Traditional History”

Why history matters

Proponents of “traditional history” argue that in the aftermath of 9/11, it is more important than ever for students to “learn the history of their nation, the principles on which it was founded, the workings of its government, the origins of our freedoms, and how we’ve responded to past threats from abroad.” History also teaches students how to be citizens, to understand their world, and to comprehend America’s relationships to other nations.[1] The Shanker Institute’s report, Education for Democracy concurs: “[T]he mastery of a common core of history binds us together, creates a common civic identity based on a patriotism of principles, and unites us in the shared undertaking that is both our past and our future.” As more than one person has noted in reference to 9/11, the Shanker Institute adds, “We were attacked for being American. We should at least know what being American means.” [2]

Students don’t know history

Schools are responsible for teaching students about America’s past, but many studies have shown “that history is the core subject about which young Americans know least.”[3] According to the Shanker Institute, “our students are woefully lacking in a knowledge of our past, of who we are as Americans.”[4]Sheldon Stern, writing for the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, also notes that secondary students are no longer expected to write research and term papers in U.S. history and that many students come to college with no experience writing papers.[5] J. Martin Rochester cites historian Sean Wilentz who says that educators “pose as courageous progressives dedicated to liberating schoolchildren from the tyranny of rote instruction…But if they have their way, the widely lamented historical illiteracy of today’s students will only worsen in the generations to come.”[6]

Stern links this phenomenon to low voter turnout and contempt for the democratic process, as does Rochester in his essay on the “training of idiots.” The Shanker Institute adds that, as a result, students have been left to flounder in a state of moral confusion and do not seem interested in people outside their immediate circle of friends and relatives (except for entertainment/sport figures).[7]

And what they do know is skewed

Additionally, proponents of traditional history have charged that the “serious issues…such as what constitutes appropriate history” have been altered beyond recognition by “political correctness,” if not neglected completely.[8] In their introduction to Where Did Social Studies Go Wrong?, James Leming and Lucien Ellington use David McCullough’s testimony to support this assertion. In his NEH Jefferson lecture, they write, McCullough “decried the way in which the kind of political correctness exposed in this volume [Social Studies] has stripped the American history that today’s students study of any messages as to why we should appreciate the ideals and sacrifices that have made this country great. He called the emerging national historical amnesia rooted squarely in vapid politically correct accounts of our history, a threat to liberty: ‘Something is eating away at our national memory…For a free, self-governing people, something more than a vague familiarity with history is essential if we are to hold on to and sustain our freedom.’” [9]

Proponents of “traditional history” also link this issue to the politicization of the university by “tenured radicals” who have taken over the university and indoctrinated their students with their leftist agendas. Education has become political, and objectivity, traditional values, and academic discipline have gone out the door.[10]

Teachers don’t know history either

Perhaps part of the problem, Fordham Institute President Chester Finn, Jr. suggests, is that too many teachers of history have never seriously studied the subject. Rather, they “have been certified as ‘social studies’ teachers after majoring in sociology, psychology, or social-studies pedagogy.”[11] Stern agrees, and notes that many history teachers were education majors with little or no background in history. Moreover, these teachers are “rarely encouraged, evaluated or rewarded for their knowledge of subject matter.” This leads to bad habits, such as over-dependence on textbooks and “promotes simplistic or inaccurate history teaching.”[12] Leming and Ellington add that the field of social studies brings with it its own problems. Social studies theorists—aka education professors—portray American society as morally bankrupt, advocate using the classroom for societal transformation, and are hostile toward the kinds of basic knowledge ordinary Americans want their children to have. “The theorists’ passion for radical social change and their propensity to use the public schools as a tool to do so…. has resulted in a field that eschews substantive content and subordinates a focus on effective practice to educational and political correctness.”[13] Stern proposes that states must raise the bar by requiring that new teachers of the subject possess a bachelor’s degree in history. He also advocates that they must earn the master’s in history within a contractually agreed upon number of years. Degrees in education should be unacceptable. Furthermore, as Stern notes in his recommendations, history should be removed from social studies.[14]

The need for state standards

The Shanker Institute applauds the “standards movement,” or “the long overdue idea that a common core and orderly sequence of learning in each of the major subject fields, including history/social studies, should be set forth in specific terms as a guide for curricular materials and teaching.”[15] Most states, though, do not have high-quality standards for the teaching and learning of history. While supportive of President Bush, Finn argues that the No Child Left Behind act of 2001 might actually worsen this condition. The act requires such standards for reading, math, and science, but allows other subjects such as history to “fly beneath the federal radar.”[16] According to Stern, though, the act should be considered “a floor, not a ceiling.” Forty-eight states and D.C. have already established social studies standards which are “necessarily and properly the starting point for determining what America actually intends its young people to know about their nation’s history.” Standards will also shape teacher preparation, textbook selection, etc.[17]

Challenges faced when implementing state standards. Includes broader concerns about what constitutes history, how history should be taught, and what students should know.

Stern argues that “[s]tate history standards must acknowledge the key issues and events that comprise the whole American story, including both the inspiring and terrible events in our past.” But he also notes that education does not exist in a vacuum, and history standards have become entangled with the “profound realities of American life,” namely “the anti-educational values promoted in popular culture and the bitter turf wars, culture wars, and legitimacy wars among interest groups at all levels of American society.”[18]

One important challenge Stern argues is that of presentism, examples of which include high school students charging Columbus with genocide and elementary school students rewriting the Constitution the way women might have had they had the opportunity. Stern writes that while the injustices of the past should not be expunged, they should be contextualized: “It is the task of honest history education to be anchored in context and to reject corrosive and meaningless presentism.”[19]

Another consideration is the post-9/11 “history education crisis.” The big question was what to teach children about the 9/11 attacks. Many in the social studies field as well as the education establishment in general advocated tolerance, forgiveness, diversity, and the possibility that America was responsible for the events. Teachers were not encouraged to explain to their students “why some bad people abhor freedom and seek to obliterate democracy; why America, because of what it stands for, is abhorrent to those who would enslave minds, subjugate women, and kill those who differ from themselves; why the United States is worth preserving and defending; and how our forebears responded to previous attacks upon their country in particular and freedom in general.”[20] So at a time when the country needs—more than ever—its future citizens to learn why America is worth defending, its greatest source of would-be help has turned into a hindrance.[21] Rochester adds that the NEA’s 9/11 lesson plans “were a textbook example of the trends toward not only the nonjudgmental classroom but also the therapeutic, fact-free classroom.”[22]

For Stern and others, the 9/11 debate recalled those surrounding the 1994 proposed National Standards for United States History. They argue that both sides “force inconvenient new facts through handy ideological filters” and neither will ever be satisfied.[23] The inclusion of those previously excluded had resulted in the exclusion of those previously included. New (revisionist) histories, curricula, and state standards do not provide balance, but rather, replace old distortions with new ones. Stern writes, “Today’s students can readily identify Sacajawea and Harriet Tubman but often can barely discuss Washington or Jefferson—except as slave owners….The once well-known story of the growth and expansion of American democracy and human rights is barely perceptible in many state standards and curricula.”[24] Rochester sees this emphasis on inclusion as impractical since there are only 180 days in a school year. Not everyone can be included. “Even the imperative to give equal time to women alongside men can lead to silliness.” “For better or worse,” he concludes, “DWEMS [dead white European males] dominated much of the political history of the world, certainly the history of the United States.”[25] Rochester also cites Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. who argues that those intellectuals advocating “inclusion” are actually “promoting the ‘balkanization’ of America by legitimizing divisive identity politics over the ‘melting pot’ metaphor.”[26]

Stern admits that democracy is not well served by teaching a sterilized history devoid of conflict but adds that democratic institutions will not flourish if students “swallow the distortions and half-truths promoted by leftist ideologues…who dominate the social studies establishment in our schools, the faculty in our graduate schools of education, and the history and ‘studies’ departments in our colleges and universities. Young Americans are being consciously taught to hate and be ashamed of their nation’s history and to believe that America is a uniquely evil and oppressive society.”[27] The Shanker Institute adds, “It is not just that we are flawed, the account goes, but that we are irredeemably flawed. Such an interpretation is distorted, harmful to students, and strongly counter to the views of parents.”[28]

On the role of multiculturalism, Lucien Ellington and Jana Eaton distinguish two visions of multiculturalism: “cultural pluralism” and “critical separatism.” According to Ellington and Eaton, most multicultural theorists (textbook writers, standards creators) espouse the critical separatist view. They cite studies showing that social studies education professors lean far more to the left than other teachers and fault them for their ideas about white privilege, knowledge/power, impossibility of objective truth, etc.[29]Multicultural theorists’ “postmodern perspective” also challenges what is history, what can be taught as history, and what is evidence. “If there are always ‘multiple truths,’” Ellington and Eaton write, “then what is taught as content becomes simply a matter of competing opinions.”[30]

The trend toward global education exacerbates these problems by generating suspicions about American institutions while uncritically celebrating the institutions of most other societies. For example, Diane Ravitch’s textbook study, cited in Education for Democracy, notes that world history texts present all cultures as “great and glorious,” sugarcoat non-Western practices that would otherwise be condemned if practiced by Europeans and Americans, and only portray Europeans and Americans as imperialistic.[31] InWhere Did Social Studies Go Wrong?, Jonathan Burack identifies three global history “contradictions,” including: “a multiculturalism that is neither ‘multi’ nor ‘cultural’”; ‘the unbearable blandness of diversity”; and “tolerating the intolerance of the ‘other.’”[32] Burack also views global history as problematic insofar as it diminishes the role of the nation-state. More specifically, Burack criticizes the movement to internationalize the study and teaching of U.S. history, as proposed in the OAH La Pietra Report. The report’s agenda, he argues, is based on political advocacy, not historical scholarship.[33]

Other standards issues include: the “dumbing-down” of academics, which in itself is long-standing (Rochester traces it to 1893), but now must consider the Internet, the shift in cultural values (“the excesses of the Woodstock nation”), and constructivism, or the idea that students should construct their own historical interpretations (which “assumes that uninformed students can make informed judgments”). The result is a collapse of standards. And the “educational have-nots” are hurt the most. Rochester also surveys a number of social studies texts and finds: emphasis on critical thinking; focus on controversy; America-trashing; the anti-intellectualism of constructivist learning theories; cynicism (vs. skepticism); and progressive groupthink.[34]

The Fordham Institute conducted its own review of state standards in the 48 states and Washington D.C. which have them in order to determine whether students would be “adequately educated in American history—particularly in the origins and development of democratic institutions and values.”[35] The study used three broad criteria: 1) comprehensive historical content; 2) sequential development; and, 3) balance. The results were six “outstanding” grades, five “very good” marks, seven Cs, eight Ds and 23 Fs (including the District of Columbia). Model states are Indiana, California, and Alabama.

Proposed Solutions

For Stern, the most decisive step toward achieving strong U.S. history standards in all states would be “to emancipate this subject from the miasma of social studies.” Stern depicts social studies as a “nebulous, anti-historical, and a-historical invention.”[36] Ravitch traces the history of social studies and shows that when social studies was first introduced in schools in the early twentieth century, history was at its core. But over the years, and especially in the latter decades of the twentieth century, “many social studies professionals disparaged history with open disdain, suggesting that the study of the past was a useless exercise in obsolescence that attracted antiquarians and hopeless conservatives.”[37]

Rochester offers his own solutions for correcting the imbalances in the teaching of history/civics/social studies. These include teaching American history in its own right (rather than as part of world history), not being bashful about the political achievements of the American political system, insisting on facts, hiring informed teachers, and emphasizing complexity instead of relativism. [38]

Burack proposes several approaches for the teaching of global education. They include re-centering the West, approaching other cultures “honestly,” “warts and all,” “noting the contradictions of global education ideology,” “stressing the superficiality, inaccuracy, and blandness” of world cultures/history materials, and encouraging “stronger narrative history with a focus on moral and political action.” [39]

Ellington and Eaton suggest that social studies teachers should “reject critical separatist multiculturalism because it is misleading, attacks ideals integral to American success, fosters ethnic discord, promotes extreme relativism, and is objectionable on educational, evidentiary, and political grounds.”[40] They want teachers to embrace a kindler, gentler version of multiculturalism which they call “cultural pluralism.” Multicultural education should be based “on evidence and sound scholarship, instead of the ideological and affective perspectives that the theorists espouse.”[41] Ellington and Eaton recommend that: teachers should “develop American history courses that fairly describe the experiences” of minority groups; social studies instruction “should reject the theorists’ idea that all cultures are equal”; teachers should not be negative-minded social activists; and policy makers and the general public should be made aware “that radical leftist multicultural ideas have been institutionalized in teacher education programs.”[42]

The Shanker Institute advocates critical thinking that rests “on a solid basis of factual knowledge.” Content and facts—“central ideas, events, people, and works that have shaped our world, for good and ill”—should be emphasized over “learning skills.” Facts are real, important, and should be learned.[43] The Shanker Institute proposes four essentials for teaching young democrats: 1) a “robust” history/social studies curriculum, to be taught every year beginning in elementary school; 2) “a full and honest teaching of the American story”; 3) “an unvarnished account” of life in nondemocratic societies; and 4) “a cultivation of the virtues essential to democracy.”[44]


Short summary

In response to the charge that students don’t know history and that the little they do know has been corrupted by “tenured radicals” and the like, many historians point out that: 1) debates over history teaching and interpretation are long-standing, and cannot be pinned on some imagined recent takeover of schools by hyperliberal teachers and professors; 2) no history is “objective”—it never has been, it never will be, and it should not pretend to be; 3) revising historical narratives is not a bad thing, a new thing, or an unnecessary thing; and 4) understanding American history in its entirety (for better, for worse) is not “unpatriotic” or “un-American” as critics have charged. “Truthful,” inclusive history is essential to understanding this country’s past and present.

Re: Students don’t know history.

True, many students don’t know “history.” But this is not a recent phenomenon, nor is students’ resistance to “facts.” In his article, “Don’t Know Much About History—Never Did,” Richard J. Paxton urges readers to situate recent claims about poor student performance in a historical context. After examining nearly a century of history surveys, Paxton concludes that students have consistently scored low on history surveys. In 1917, for example, a history survey conducted by J. Carleton Bell and D.F. McCollum revealed that elementary school students answered questions correctly at a 16% rate, while high school students, normal school students, and university students scored somewhat higher, at 33%, 43%, and 49%, respectively. This outcome, the authors explained, “does not show a very thorough mastery of basic historical facts.”[45]

That students in 1917, as well as another group surveyed in 1943, scored low on history surveys did not mean, however, that they were in danger of losing their “civic memory.” Nor did they jeopardize America’s civic identity or commitment to democracy, helping instead to win two world wars. Although critics continually issue such charges against contemporary students with low scores on history surveys, it is important to point out that Tom Brokaw’s “Greatest Generation” performed no better on history surveys than the high school students of the 1980s, labeled by Diane Ravitch and Chester Finn as the “Generation at Risk.”[46] Therefore, to blame students’ low survey scores on recent changes in the composition of the faculty, unorthodox teaching methods, multiculturalism, or broader social changes is ineffectual, artificial, and anachronistic.

Moreover, Paxton explains, students perform roughly the same on history surveys as those testing other subjects. While critics might look to these results as evidence of American students’ intellectual decay, Paxton argues that they reveal much more about the surveys themselves. Paxton questions the reliability of “recall-on-demand” surveys and wonders, “If standardized tests do a poor job of capturing the full spectrum of student ability and knowledge, then what can be said of surveys in which a telephone rings and an interviewer quickly begins asking unexpected questions?” “In reality,” Paxton explains, “these surveys say much more about the nature of out-of the blue questions than they do about students’ knowledge of history. Even then, they say more about what students don’t know than about what they do.”[47]

Roy Rosenzweig and David Thelen also take up this issue in The Presence of the Past, which explores the paradox in which the so-called crisis of historical amnesia coexists alongside a clear and growing public interest in history, as evidenced in museum attendance, historical tourism, festival participation, etc. Instead of focusing on what Americans don’t know about history, then, Thelen and Rosenzweig—along with other colleagues—set out to understand what Americans do know about history, how they use it, and what makes it meaningful. That Americans are lacking in “factual knowledge,” Thelen and Rosenzweig argue, does not mean that they are either uninterested in or indifferent to the past.[48]

Thelen and Rosenzweig find that people generally become interested in history through family and personal experiences. Through photographs, conversations with relatives, movies, books, museums, family reunions, etc., Americans actively engage history. To be more specific, informants ranked the following in order of importance: family gatherings; visiting museums/historical sites; celebrating holidays; watching movies/TV about the past; studying history in school. (When asked about which accounts they considered most credible, respondents ranked them in this order: museums, personal accounts from relatives; conversations from those who participated in or witnessed events; college history professors; high school teachers, nonfiction books, and movies/tv. People wanted to get as close to the past as possible, thus the less mediation, the higher the credibility assigned to each).[49] As a result, Rebecca Conard explains of Thelen and Rosenzweig’s findings, community, state, and national histories “are most effectively approached through doors or perception that link personal experience(s) to broader patterns of history.”[50] Thelen and Rosenzweig show that when folks think of history as “dull” and “irrelevant” (as most respondents characterized studying history in school) it is because they feel unconnected to the past as they learn it in the classroom, largely because “they don’t recognize themselves in the version of the past presented there.”[51] Respondents’ rejection of the nation-centered accounts they were forced to memorize in school, though, is not the same as an overall rejection of national history. Asked about the event that most affected them, Thelen explains in his Public Historian article, two-fifths of respondents “named public events like wars or political movements but also identified how they had experienced it as individuals. And they described how they felt both swept along by and fighting against trends in the larger society.”[52] Thelen and Rosenzweig show that as they “build bridges between personal past and larger historical stories, Americans—especially white Americans—tend to personalize the public past.”[53] People want to approach the broader past on their own terms. “Only by getting close to experience could they see the ambiguities, multiple perspectives, and transformative potential they had learned to expect in their intimate worlds.”[54]

In effect, Rosenzweig writes, “What respondents told us runs counter to the narrative of declension that says Americans are disengaged from history because cultural radicals have captured the schools (and museums) and are teaching gloomy stories about our nation—stories about McCarthyism rather than America’s triumph in the cold war, about Harriet Tubman rather than the Founding Fathers, about destroying Indians rather than taming the West. If only we would get back to the good old facts of American triumph (and the old-fashioned methods of teaching those facts), they maintain, then Americans would be reengaged. The people we interviewed said that they are already quite involved with the past….They liked history in museums and didn’t like history in schools—not because Harriet Tubman has been added, but because the schools require dry recitation of facts instead of inspiring direct engagement with the ‘real’ stuff of the past and its self-evident relationship to the present.”[55]

Re: The need for state standards

In October 2003, a group of historians at the University of Minnesota submitted to the state Department of Education a formal statement concerning the proposed Minnesota Academic Standards in History and Social Studies. “As teachers,” they argue, “we share the concerns expressed by many teachers throughout the state that the standards are unwieldy and impractical, and as historians we believe that many of the proposed standards are inaccurate, misleading, and represent an oversimplified view of American and World History.”[56]

The standards, they maintain, fail to reflect the breadth and depth of contemporary historical knowledge. This failure, they add, “leads to important omissions, misplaced and misleading emphases, and, in a number of instances, clear factual errors.”[57] The U.S. standards downplay or suppress the history of dissent, for example, while the world standards advocate the discredited characterization of global development as a “clash of civilizations.” Additionally, by overemphasizing European history and by “focusing on American ‘roots’ in the guise of world history, the standards perpetuate a myopic and misleading understanding of other civilizations.”[58] Both standards generally depict the United States as isolated or distinctly different from the rest of the world and fail to capture the complexities of America’s role as a superpower.[59]

“We do not point out these problems in order to diminish anyone’s pride in their own history,” they write. “But we are convinced that only by admitting, exploring, and analyzing these vital faults of American history alongside America’s triumphs and by more fully addressing World History, past and present, will we be enabled to learn from our shared past and resolve its complicated legacies. If not, then what is historical study for?”[60]

Similarly, in February 2004, the Georgia State University Department of History passed a resolution protesting the proposed state standards in their field. The proposed standards attempt to revise an earlier version, which had received a “B” from the Fordham Institute in part because they overemphasized social history. According to the State Superintendent and the architects of the new standards, the existing curriculum is “bloated” and based on “mediocrity and shallow standards.”[61] While the Georgia State history educators agree that the curriculum is in need of improvement, the group argues that the proposed standards are too narrow in scope, emphasize memorization over understanding, omit important information and chunks of history, ignore recent scholarship, fail to prepare students for college, and ensure continued mediocrity. Moreover, the proposed standards reinforce a conventional narrative that equates national history with a monolithic nation-state, even though most American do not recognize the lives of themselves or their families in this account. And it is this disconnect that leads many people to view the history that they learn in school as “boring.”[62]

Re: Schools aren’t what they used to be, and they’re only getting worse.

In The Opening of the American Mind, Lawrence W. Levine explores the familiar grumblings of critics: “Never before has there been such disorder, such lack of discipline, such disregard for tradition. Never before have the young shown similar contempt for good sense and for their elders (the repositories of Good Sense). Never before have educators dared to challenge the canons of learning with such abandon and lack of reverence for our cultural heritage. Never before has everything in the realm of culture become so uncompromisingly politicized—so Politically Correct—that teachers and students fear to articulate their views openly and freely. Never before has the educational canon become so diluted by the forced addition of works chosen not for their quality but because of the race or gender of their creators. Never before has the study of the Significant been so dwarfed by the pursuit of the Trivial. Never before have we lived in such a fragmented and inchoate condition in which immigrants and minorities manifest group consciousness and an unwillingness to learn the language, adhere to the traditions, or enter the structures of the larger society.” But these developments are not new ones, and by treating them as though they were, we are in effect avoiding, if not ignoring, the past.[63]

Re: abandonment of the educational “core”

Critics’ call for a return to the educational “core,” Levine argues, results from an artificial nostalgia and a misunderstanding of American educational history. As he explains, “We are told again and again that until the 1960s university education was ruled by the study of Western Civilization and a canon of the Great Books. In fact, Great Books and Western Civilization courses enjoyed only a brief ascendance: they emerged largely after World War I and declined in the decades after World War II.”[64] The inclusion of “modern” writers such as Shakespeare and Walt Whitman emerged only after divisive and heated disagreements. In other words, there is no essential, immutable core as critics imagine there to be. There have always been arguments about what works to study, and the controversies that we are experiencing today are neither new nor radical.

With regard to the charge that history has been politicized, Levine claims that current emphases on social and cultural history are no more permanent, or any more politicized, than were past emphases on political, intellectual, economic, or diplomatic history. “It also reflects the fact that history today is written, as it has always been written, by human beings who are part of their own societies and cultures.”[65] History is notskewed, but it is selective. “If we think of the American past as a text,” Levine writes, “any reading of U.S. history will be conditioned by who is reading the text and what is transpiring in the society at the time. This has always been the case. George Bancroft, James Ford Rhodes, Henry Adams, Frederick Jackson Turner, Charles Beard, and their peers, were all conditioned in their reading of the text of the American past by who they were, by what was going on in their times, by the prisms through which they chose to look at the past. This is no less—and no more—true of contemporary historians.”[66]

Contemporary critics have charged that the push for “political correctness” has served to stifle students, impose conformity, and harm classroom interactions. As a result, students become afraid to share dissenting views. Again, Levine points out that this has long been the case (although without the “politically correct” label). When was it not risky to go up against the professor on controversial issues? He writes, “Students have always had to learn to accommodate to the whims and prejudices of professors, to the attitudes and sensitivities of fellow students, and to the values and beliefs of the larger society; to, that is, the complex of considerations that today is referred to much too simply as ‘political correctness.’”[67]

What is particularly problematic, though, is that critics “have made this long-standing condition in the academe a partisan one (unique to the Left) and an exceptional one (unique to our time).”[68] The condition is neither. According to Levine, “The trouble with the widespread apocalyptic view of the sudden takeover of the university by forces essentially alien to its basic spirit is that this vision removes the American university from the context of its own extended history and transforms long-term processes of change and development into short-term accidents.”[69]

Re: “revisionism”

In the September 2003 Perspectives, James McPherson expresses concern and confusion over the charge of revisionism being levied against historians. Historians “know that revision is the life blood of historical scholarship. History is a continuing dialogue between the present and the past.” According to McPherson, “Interpretations of the past are subject to change in response to new evidence, new questions asked of the evidence, new perspectives gained by the passage of time. There is no single, eternal, and immutable ‘truth’ about past events and their meaning. The unending quest of historians, for understanding the past—that is, ‘revisionism’—is what makes history vital and meaningful.”[70]

McPherson notes that without revisionism, we might be still be stuck with images of Reconstruction as they appear in Birth of a Nation, to give one example. He adds that Supreme Court decisions have also been “revisionist” and doubts that President Bush would want to be associated with southern political leaders of the 1950s who condemned Earl Warren, et al. for their Brown decision, which was based, in part, on the research of historian John Hope Franklin and others.[71]

In History on Trial: Culture Wars and the Teaching of the Past, Gary B. Nash, Charlotte Crabtree, and Ross E. Dunn add that the act of history requires revision and reinterpretation—and always has—because “the past is necessarily embedded in the present human condition.” They quote Carl Becker who wrote, “In the history of history a myth is a once valid but now discarded version of the human story, as our now valid versions will in due course be relegated to the category of discarded myths.”[72] Indeed, interpretations of historical events have evoked disagreement—and “revision”—for centuries. The meaning of the American Revolution was first revised the day after the Paris Peace Treaty was signed on September 3, 1783. By the mid-1790s, Americans were so divided over the legacy of the Revolution that men who had fought side by side found it necessarily to organize separate events “and raise glasses to astoundingly conflicting toasts.”[73]

Nash, et. al., also raise the question of whether history that looks at the dark side of the American past is really “unpatriotic.” They maintain that “nothing can serve patriotism worse than suppressing dark chapters of our past, smoothing over clearly documentable examples of shameful behavior in public places high and low, and airbrushing disgraceful violations of our national credo such as the actions of the Ku Klux Klan or the internment of the Japanese Americans during World War II. If events like these are seen as mere footnotes to history, America’s youth are unlikely to swallow the story, especially when they see around them systemic problems that eat at the national fabric. Sooner or later they will discover that a self-congratulatory version of American history sheds little light on how we got to the place we now occupy.”[74] Moreover, they add, it is in authoritarian regimes that those in power routinely represent the national past in any way they like; in a democracy, students and citizens think for themselves.[75]

Furthermore, Nash et. al., maintain, the same critics who are “contemptuous of American historians who reexamine and reinterpret the American past are jubilant that Russia, Germany, and Japan have revised their history textbooks so that students will learn about such things as the Russian appeasement of Hitler, Stalin’s slaughter of twenty-one thousand Polish army officers, the Ukrainian genocide against Kiev’s Jews, the Japanese enslavement of Krean women for wartime sexual services, and the Holocaust. Almost all Americans would agree that children in other nations must look squarely at the dark side of their history. Is the same wisdom not applicable in the worlds leading democracy?”[76]

Lastly, Nash et. al., implore us to consider science education and the “recently” released National Science Standards, which were produced in a way similar to the National History Standards. Although the science standards have generated some debate about how much science students should learn, in what grades, etc., they “have not evoked attacks on science educators, charging them with ‘bastardizing’ their discipline because they draw on new research. No one so far is protesting that scientific revisionism is subversive or that teachers and scholars are ‘science thieves’ or ‘science bandits’ because they built standards on new knowledge—the existence of uranium, radon, and the isotope carbon 14, for example—that was unavailable several generations ago. Nor would American parents want their college-bound children to major in science if they were not going to learn E=mc2, a formula unknown two generations ago.”[77]

Re: multiculturalism

As Levine notes in his introduction, “The United States has always been a multicultural, multiethnic, multiracial society, but in our own time these truths—and their implications for higher education—have become increasingly difficult to ignore.” As education becomes more open to and representative of the diverse people, backgrounds, and cultures that make up America, its impulse to understand those parts ofour history and culture that have been given short shrift grows as well.[78]

In response to critics’ claims that Western European civilization has been dominant in this country and as a result, we must pay proper attention to it, Levine notes that this assertion refers only to origins. “Western Europe was indisputably the point of origin of some of our most influential national values, attitudes, practices, and institutions. But as anyone who studies culture seriously should know, the point of origin is only part of the story; it has to be balanced by a comprehension of what happened to the values, practices, and institutions after they arrived. For they came not to an empty continent but to a peopled one; they came not to a homogenous land but to an increasingly diverse one. Nor is it accurate to speak of “Western European” culture as if it were a unified whole when in fact it comprised a host of different peoples and aseries of cultures—languages, religions, nationalities, worldviews, political systems, folkways—that often were in tension with and ran counter to one another. It is simply not sufficient to speak about Western European culture, which was really a heterogeneous complex of related cultures, as if it continued to exist in some pristine form once it arrived in the United States.”[79] Therefore, Levine suggests that we discusstransformations instead of dominance or purity. The transformations that occurred as these cultures came into contact with each other and shaped each other are what define American culture.[80]

In The Presence of the Past, Thelen and Rosenzweig consider how different groups understand history. They explain that “African Americans, American Indians, and evangelical Christians sometimes construct a wider set of usable pasts building ties to their communities as well as their families. Mexican Americans occupy a figurative—as well as geographical—borderland. Like white European Americans, they rely on family pasts as they work though multiple allegiances and sort out fundamental issues of identity, but they also draw on their ethnic and national roots. Unlike white European Americans, Mexican Americans tell a version of the traditional national narrative of progress: they talk about getting closer to owning a piece of the American dream.”[81] African Americans and American Indians whom Thelen and Rosenzweig interviewed, for example, tended to link their personal histories more closely with broader history than did white Americans. According to Thelen and Rosenzweig, “All Americans use the past to build on and affirm primary relationships; African Americans and American Indians also use the past to affirm and build ties to their communities. They not only see themselves as sharing a collective past, they sometimes use these collective pasts to construct the sort of progressive narratives—history with a capital ‘H’—that seem harder to find among white Americans. And in some ways American Indians and black Americans also connect their narratives much more explicitly to the American national story than most white Americans do, even while they dissent sharply from its traditional formulation.”[82]

When asked about people from the past who had affected them most, African Americans and Indian Americans chose national figures, as did white Americans. But the figures were different ones: Martin Luther King, Jr., Crazy Horse, and Kennedy, Lincoln, and Christ were among the most popular, respectively.[83] African Americans and American Indians also constructed different timelines of American history, thus decentering the “traditional” narrative. African Americans were more likely, though, than American Indians to place their experiences within “American” history.[84] As Thelen and Rosenzweig explain, both groups “offered sophisticated counternarratives of U.S. history. African Americans, however, most often saw themselves as part of the traditional story, which they told in conventional Americanist terms of emancipation and progress; they demanded inclusion in the basic narrative and complained of white failures to live up to the nation’s principles. The Sioux seemed to reject the traditional narrative structure altogether, defining themselves as a separate nation with a history that followed a dramatically different trajectory.” But, at the same time, it was the Sioux who most often invoked events and people from conventionally defined U.S. history. “In contrast to the indifference with which white respondents viewed textbook narratives of American history, the Sioux spoke with the passionate interest of the outside critic.”[85]

Thelen and Rosenzweig write, “A collective voice comes easily to these two groups….The ‘we’ they invoke stands in sharp opposition to the triumphal American ‘we’ the narrative of the American nation-state—the story often told by professional historians—is most alive for those who feel most alienated from it. This departure from conventional wisdom, like so many other insights that emerged during survey interviews, eloquently supports the hunch…[that] professional history practitioners have much to learn from listening to Americans talk about how they use and understand the past.”[86]

More Solutions

Nash et. al., propose five concrete solutions:

1) Commit ourselves to a history education that is fit for a democratic society. Information should not be considered off-limits, nor should it be considered sacrosanct and indisputable. We should give up all projects to write the final word—“Leave such stipulations to authoritarian states, which have always imposed that kind of curriculum.” “Our collective memory is bound to change as the issues that matter to us as a nation change. Historical research will continue to yield new information and interpretations….To invoke historical revisionism as a form of foul play serves democracy poorly.”

2) Recognize that the debate over whether to teach more “historical content” or more “historical thinking” sets up false dichotomy. The two are interrelated.

3) Nurture the flourishing alliances between schools and universities. Legislatures should also insist that history teachers be trained in the subject.

4) Aim for a history curriculum that embraces yet goes beyond the goal of representing a diverse variety of groups and cultures. In other words, identification is not enough. Lessons should help students “explore the broader landscapes in which groups, societies, and peoples interact. If pursued honestly, such an approach would produce unequivocally inclusive history.”

5) Reconcile the differing views of “committed multiculturalists and those Americans who believe classrooms should emphasize the study of democracy’s evolution and the Western heritage.”[87]

On a broad scale, Levine writes, “We need to integrate learning more fully and to have more sequential courses that build on one another. We need to minimize the use of inaccessible jargon wherever possible, particularly in those fields where jargon has become a way of life. We need to make a greater effort to communicate with colleagues in other disciplines, with students, and with the general public. We need to ensure that teaching ability is considered seriously in all faculty personnel decisions. We need to learn how to respond to the considerable challenge of teaching the most wide-ranging and heterogeneous body of students in the history of American higher education.”[88] Rosenzweig advocates “a historical practice that is somehow simultaneously more local and intimate and more global and cosmopolitan, more shaped by popular concerns and more enriched by insights based on systematic and detailed study of the past.”[89]

More specifically, as Thelen and Rosenzweig have shown us, history becomes interesting to people when it draws on their personal experiences. By incorporating these lessons in schools, teachers can help reconnect students with the past and make history meaningful. In his conclusion, Thelen envisions what he calls a “participatory historical culture” in which using the past could be a shared human experience and opportunity for understanding, instead of a breeding ground for divisiveness.[90] Even if they did share conservative critics’ desire to cram more facts into students, their survey results indicate that “the revival of traditional stories and traditional teaching methods…isn’t the way to do it.”[91]

In his conclusion to The Presence of the Past, Rosenzweig discusses the excitement generated when teachers incorporate primary documents in classroom lesson and projects. Although the past is still mediated, Thelen and Rosenzweig’s findings do indicate that Americans want to get as close to the past as possible, and thus, this approach helps to make students feel ‘connected.’[92] According to Thelen in hisHistory News article, many of the study’s respondents were very much aware that the past is mediated and it is because of their understanding that different people could mediate the past very differently that they wanted to experience it themselves. Thelen writes, “They would rather engage an artifact for themselves than be told about it…. Participants in experiences certainly mediated what they reported, but their participation in the original experience gave them a better opportunity to see and report a wide range of possibilities that existed in that experience than those who reconstructed it later for other agendas.”[93] In his article in the Indiana Magazine of History, Thelen also advocates “re-enactment” as a way of making history open up.[94]

In his review of The Presence of the Past, Robert Archibald notes that both Thelen and Rosenzweig are aware that in order to connect professional and popular historymaking, history professionals would need “to relinquish exclusive authority over the significance and meanings assigned to the past—a disorienting but necessary experience.”[95] The extent to which they did so in their study, by taking seriously their respondents understandings of the past, is lauded by Ronald Grele as “democratic.” “Historians should take seriously The Presence of the Past’s initial claim about the importance of historical activity and begin to understand how we as public historians can collaborate in the building of a more democratic history, and, we hope, a more democratic society.”[96] Could this approach be an example of what critics’ call “education for democracy”?

Some Points of Agreement

There are certainly points of agreement between the traditionalists and their critics which suggest the possibility of working toward some common goals. Perhaps the most important point of agreement between these two schools of thought is the need for better training of future history teachers in the subject of history itself. Secondary school teachers should have a major, or at least a minor, in history at the college level. Yet, at his time, no state requires a major in history to teach that subject in its public schools.

The Shanker Institute acknowledges that the study of the past should…“give youngsters a sense of historical consciousness—a connection and continuity with those who came before. This feeling, which is one of both belonging and responsibility, begins with knowledge but touches something that knowledge cannot reach: the mystic chords of memory that Lincoln immortalized. In feeling the presence of the past in their lives, students begin to see that there is a path that has been made ready for them, one on which they can find their place, extend into uncharted territory, and leave their footprint.” In order to avoid turning history instruction into a parade of facts, the Shanker Institute also advocates the importance of selectivity and meaningfulness to memory. [97]

The Shanker Institute is right: “We should at least know what being American means.”[98] How we go about doing that, and how we define “American” of course, is where the contentions lie.


Albert Shanker Institute. Education for Democracy.http://www.ashankerinst.org/Downloads/EfD%20final.pdf

American Council of Trustees and Alumni. “We the People,” A Resource Guide to Promoting Historical Literacy for Governors, Legislators, Teachers and Citizens.” http://www.goacta.org/flashindex.html

Archibald, Robert. Review of The Presence of the PastThe American Historical Review. Vol. 105, Issue 2.http://www.historycooperative.org/journals/ahr/105.2/br_4.html

Conard, Rebecca. “Do You Hear What I Hear? Public History and the Interpretive Challenge.” The Public Historian. Vol. 22, No. 1 (Winter 2000), pp. 15-18.

Georgia State University History Department. “The History Department of Georgia State University finds the proposed Georgia Performance Standards (GPS) inadequate to meet the needs of Georgia students.” 16 February 2004. http://www.gsu.edu/~wwwhis/.

Grele, Ronald J. “Clio on the Road to Damascus: A National Survey of History as Activity and Experience.”The Public Historian. Vol. 22, No. 1 (Winter 2000), pp. 31-34.

Hall, Jacquelyn. “Don’t Know History? Here’s Why.” The Boston Globe. (March 20, 2004), p. A15.

____________. “Don’t Know Much About History.” OAH Newsletter. 32 (February 2004), p. 1 and 10.

Historians in Minnesota protest the Proposed Social Studies Standards; complain that they are inaccurate, misleading and simplistic.” http://mapsss.no-ip.org/MNHistoryStandards.pdf

Kohn, Richard H. “History and the Culture Wars: The Case of the Smithsonian Institution’s Enola Gay Exhibition.” The Journal of American History. Vol. 82, No. 3 (Dec. 1995), pp. 1036-1063.

Levine, Lawrence W. The Opening of the American Mind: Canons, Culture, and History. Boston, MA: Beacon, 1996.

McPherson, James. “Revisionist Historians.” Perspectives. Vol. 41, Issue 6 (Sept. 2003), pp. 5-6.

Nash, Gary B., Charlotte Crabtree, and Ross E. Dunn. History on Trial: Culture Wars and the Teaching of the Past. New York: A.A. Knopf, 1997.

Paxton, Richard J. “Don’t Know Much About History—Never Did.” Phi Delta Kappan. Vol. 85, Issue 4 (Dec. 2003), pp. 265-273.

Rosenzweig, Roy and David Thelen. The Presence of the Past: Popular Uses of History in American Life. New York: Columbia University Press, 1998.

Thelen, David. “But Is It History?” The Public Historian. Vol. 22, No. 1 (Winter 2000), pp. 39-44.

_____.“Individual Experience and Big Picture History.” History News (Winter 1998), pp. 10-13.

_____. “Learning from the Past.” Indiana Magazine of History. Vol. XCIX, No. 2 (June 2003), pp. 155-165.

Thomas B. Fordham Foundation. Effective State Standards for U.S. History: A 2003 Report Card.http://www.edexcellence.net/socialstudies/socialstudies.html

_____. Where Did Social Studies Go Wrong? http://www.edexcellence.net/foundation/global/index.cfm


[1] Chester E. Finn, Jr., foreword to Effective State Standards for U.S. History: A 2003 Report Card , by Sheldon Stern (Thomas B. Fordham Institute: 2003), 5, 8:http://www.edexcellence.net/socialstudies/socialstudies.html.

[2] Albert Shanker Institute, Education for Democracy, (Albert Shanker Institute: 2003), 3-4, 14:http://www.ashankerinst.org/Downloads/EfD%20final.pdf.

[3] Finn, foreword to Effective State Standards, 5.

[4] Albert Shanker Institute, Education for Democracy, 6.

[5] Stern, Effective State Standards, 15.

[6] Quoted in J. Martin Rochester, “The Training of Idiots,” in Where Did Social Studies Go Wrong?, ed. by James Leming, Lucien Ellington, and Kathleen Porter (Thomas B. Fordham Foundation: 2003), 21:http://www.edexcellence.net/institute/publication/publication.cfm?id=317.

[7] Albert Shanker Institute, Education for Democracy, 6-7.

[8] Leming and Ellington, introduction to Where Did Social Studies Go Wrong? ii.

[9]McCullough quoted in Leming and Ellington, introduction to Where Did Social Studies Go Wrong?, vi.

[10] See Lawrence W. Levine, The Opening of the American Mind: Canons, Culture, and History (Boston: Beacon, 1996), especially pages 7-8.

[11] Finn, foreword to Effective State Standards, 5.

[12] Stern, Effective State Standards, 16.

[13] Leming and Ellington, introduction to Where Did Social Studies Go Wrong, i-ii.

[14] Stern, Effective State Standards, 90.

[15] Albert Shanker Institute, Education for Democracy, 3.

[16] Finn, foreword to Effective State Standards, 5.

[17] Stern, Effective State Standards, 5-6, 9.

[18] Stern, Effective State Standards, 9.

[19] Stern, Effective State Standards, 9, 19.

[20] Finn, foreword to Where Did Social Studies Go Wrong?, III.

[21] Finn, foreword to Where Did Social Studies Go Wrong?, IV-V.

[22] Rochester, “The Training of Idiots,” in Where Did Social Studies Go Wrong?, 25.

[23] Stern, Effective State Standards, 10.

[24] Stern, Effective State Standards, 23.

[25] Rochester, “The Training of Idiots,” in Where Did Social Studies Go Wrong?, 21.

[26] Rochester, “The Training of Idiots,” in Where Did Social Studies Go Wrong?, 24.

[27] Stern, Effective State Standards, 14-15.

[28] Albert Shanker Institute, Education for Democracy, 19.

[29] Ellington and Jana Eaton, “Multiculturalism and Social Studies,” in Where Did Social Studies Go Wrong?, 70-77.

[30] Ellington and Eaton, “Multiculturalism and Social Studies,” in Where Did Social Studies Go Wrong?, 79-80.

[31] Albert Shanker Institute, Education for Democracy, 25-26.

[32] Jonathan Burack, “The Student, the World, and Global Education Ideology,” in Where Did Social Studies Go Wrong?, 49-57.

[33] Burack, “The Student, the World, and Global Education Ideology,” in Where Did Social Studies Go Wrong?, 61, 45-47.

[34] Rochester, “The Training of Idiots,” in Where Did Social Studies Go Wrong?, 12-13, 16-20.

[35] Stern, Effective State Standards, 11. See pages 89-90 for additional information about “strong” versus “weak” standards.

[36] Stern, Effective State Standards, 90.

[37] Diane Ravitch, “A Brief History of Social Studies,” in Where Did Social Studies Go Wrong?, 1-2.

[38] Rochester, “The Training of Idiots,” in Where Did Social Studies Go Wrong?, 26-28.

[39] Burack, “The Student, the World, and Global Education Ideology,” in Where Did Social Studies Go Wrong?, 65-66.

[40] Ellington and Eaton, “Multiculturalism and Social Studies,” in Where Did Social Studies Go Wrong?, 71.

[41] Ellington and Eaton, “Multiculturalism and Social Studies,” in Where Did Social Studies Go Wrong?, 87.

[42] Ellington and Eaton, “Multiculturalism and Social Studies,” in Where Did Social Studies Go Wrong?, 87-88.

[43] Albert Shanker Institute, Education for Democracy, 10.

[44] Albert Shanker Institute, Education for Democracy, 12-14.

[45] Richard J. Paxton, “Don’t Know Much About History – Never Did,” Phi Delta Kappan 85, no. 4 (December 2003): 266.

[46] Paxton, “Don’t Know Much,” 267, 269.

[47] Paxton, “Don’t Know Much,” 272.

[48] Roy Rosenzweig and David Thelen, The Presence of the Past: Popular Uses of History in American Life(New York, Columbia University Press, 1998), 3.

[49] Robert Archibald, review of The Presence of the Past, by Roy Rosenzweig and David Thelen, The American Historical Review 105, no. 2 (April 2000): 511.

[50] Rebecca Conard, “Do You Hear What I Hear? Public History and the Interpretative Challenge,” The Public Historian 22, no. 1 (Winter 2000): 17.

[51] Rosenzweig and Thelen, Presence of the Past, 12.

[52] Thelen, “But Is It History?” The Public Historian 22, no. 1 (Winter 2000): 42.

[53] Rosenzweig and Thelen, Presence of the Past, 13.

[54] Rosenzweig and Thelen, Presence of the Past, 90.

[55] Rosenzweig and Thelen, Presence of the Past, 180.

[56] “Historians in Minnesota protest and Proposed Social Studies Standards,” 1: http://mapass.no-ip.org/MNHistoryStandards.pdf.

[57] “Historians in Minnesota protest and Proposed Social Studies Standards,” 2.

[58] “Historians in Minnesota protest and Proposed Social Studies Standards,” 11.

[59] “Historians in Minnesota protest and Proposed Social Studies Standards,” 2, 7.

[60] “Historians in Minnesota protest and Proposed Social Studies Standards,” 12-13.

[61] Quoted in Georgia State University History Department, “The History Department of Georgia State University finds the proposed Georgia Performance Standards (GPS) inadequate to meet the needs of Georgia students,” 16 February 2004, 3: http://www.gsu.edu/~wwwhis/.

[62] See Georgia State University History Department, “The History Department of Georgia State University finds the proposed Georgia Performance Standards (GPS) inadequate to meet the needs of Georgia students.”

[63] Lawrence W. Levine, The Opening of the American Mind: Canons, Culture, and History (Boston: Beacon, 1996), xv-xvi.

[64] Levine, The Opening of the American Mind, 15.

[65] Levine, The Opening of American Mind, 26.

[66] Levine, The Opening of the American Mind, 158-159.

[67] Levine, The Opening of the American Mind, 26-27.

[68] Levine, The Opening of the American Mind, 26.

[69] Levine, The Opening of the American Mind, 33.

[70] James McPherson, “Revisionist Historians,” Perspectives 41, no. 6 (September 2003): 5.

[71] McPherson, “Revisionist Historians,” 5-6.

[72] Quoted in Nash, History on Trial, 11.

[73] Nash, History on Trial, 18-19.

[74] Nash, History on Trial, 16.

[75] Nash, History on Trial, 259.

[76] Nash, History on Trial, 17.

[77] Nash, History on Trial, 12.

[78] Levine, The Opening of the American Mind, xvii.

[79] Levine, The Opening of the American Mind, 159.

[80] Levine, The Opening of the American Mind, 159-160.

[81] Rosenzweig and Thelen, Presence of the Past, 10, 13.

[82] Rosenzweig and Thelen, Presence of the Past, 149.

[83] Rosenzweig and Thelen, Presence of the Past, 165.

[84] Rosenzweig and Thelen, Presence of the Past, 151-152, 157, 164.

[85] Rosenzweig and Thelen, Presence of the Past, 165-167.

[86] Rosenzweig and Thelen, Presence of the Past, 13.

[87] Nash, History on Trial, 272-276.

[88] Levine, The Opening of the American Mind, 31-32.

[89] Rosenzweig and Thelen, Presence of the Past, 188.

[90] Rosenzweig and Thelen, Presence of the Past, 190.

[91] Rosenzweig and Thelen, Presence of the Past, 180.

[92] Rosenzweig and Thelen, Presence of the Past, 181.

[93] Thelen, “Individual Experience and Big Picture History,” History News (Winter 1998): 10.

[94] Thelen, “Learning From the Past,” Indiana Magazine of History 99, no. 2 (June 2003): 160-165.

[95] Archibald, review of Presence of the Past, 512.

[96] Ronald J. Grele, “Clio on the Road to Damascus: A National Survey of History as Activity and Experience,” The Public Historian 22, no. 1 (Winter 2000): 32-34. See also Rosenzweig and Thelen’s discussion of shared authority in Presence of the Past, 181-182, 185.

[97] Albert Shanker Institute, Education for Democracy, 14, 16.

[98] Albert Shanker Institute, Education for Democracy, 3-4.