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Social studies reform: Q&A with Gary B. Nash. (Curriculum Update: the latest developments in math, science, language arts and social studies).

Q: What is your take on the "turf wars" within the social studies profession, with the debate about the use of history-centered curriculum vs. an integrated social science approach to the subject?

A: This tension goes back many decades. The social science approach was prompted in part by dissatisfaction with the conservative cast of history when the profession was heavily dominated by white male Protestants. Now, [it] looks much like America. A more inclusive and democratically conceived history is playing a role in re-establishing history as core knowledge within the social studies. The trend is toward solid courses in world and U.S. history.

Q: How do the National Council for History Education and the National Center for History in the Schools differ?

A: Both organizations promote bridge-building between academic historians and K-12 history teachers.... NCHS [also produces] primary source-based curricular units ... devised through partnerships of K-12 teachers with academic historians.

Q: What aspects of history education care in most critical need of reform?

A: The greatest need is for professional development among those who teach world history. [It] is beginning to achieve a rightful place in the curriculum, but ... teachers have frail backgrounds [in] this vast subject NCHS's curricular units and on-line projects are helping to fill this need.

Q: What advice can you offer districts about improving history education?

A: First, subscribe to the Organization of American History s Magazine of History and the World History Association's Journal of World History. Both teem with lesson plans, syllabi, book reviews, historiographical essays and other materials created by and for teachers. Second, encourage teachers to [attend] history conferences.

Q: What trends are you seeing in history education partnerships?

A: The Gilder-Lehrman summer institutes are doing a great job promoting this. The Teaching American History grants are doing even more with hundreds of grants to districts collaborating with college history departments, historical societies and museums. Gradually, we are bridging the chasm separating history educators in the schools and the colleges.

Q: What should administrators keep in mind as they make history textbook selections and other curriculum decisions?

A: Stay abreast of the wholesale diversification of the history profession and how this has resulted in more inclusive and balanced textbooks that invite critical thinking and student engagement. Beware of those who deplore historical revision; who would deplore "revisionism" in chemistry, physics or any other topic?

When listening to those who want to go back to earlier renditions of history, retrieve a history textbook used in the schools 40 years ago or so. You are likely to be shocked at the narrowness and Eurocentric bias of these books. History on Trial: Culture Wars and the Teaching of the Past (Knopf, 2000) investigates arguments over whose history to teach and how to teach it and the flare-up in the 1990s of this perennial question.

Gary B. Nash is director of the National Center for History in the Schools at the University of California, Los Angeles. He also serves on The National Council for History Education's board of trustees.
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Title Annotation:history study and teaching
Author:Nash, Gary B.
Publication:District Administration
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 2003
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