This disagreement over the basic purpose of history education is reflected in American education circles where the National Council for History Education favors intellectual discipline, emphasizing “history's habits of mind,”3 while the National Council for Social Studies believes history should be "education for citizenship."4
These two positions represent a conflict between an inward and an outward focus for historical studies. It's an unresolved dispute with a long history. Attendees at a 1905 session of the American Historial Association advocated teaching historical thinking and historical methods to first-year college students, but after World War I prompted anxieties about the strength of democratic societies, universities adopted a new emphasis on education for citizenship.5
If historians and history educators can't agree on the purpose of history education, the public can hardly be expected to figure it out either. But even if every academician in the country were to agree on the purpose of history education tomorrow, this still wouldn't be enough to secure the future of history teaching in America because society imposes a higher standard. Society expects a school subject to have a useful purpose like math, language, and science have.
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1. Fischer, Fritz, "The Historian as Translator: Historical Thinking, the Rosetta Stone of History Education," Historically Speaking, June, 2011, p. 16
2. Symcox, Linda and Wilschut, Arie, eds., National History Standards: The Problem of the Canon and the Future of Teaching History, Information Age Publishing, 2009, p.6
3. "Core Purpose and History's Habits of Mind," National Council for History Education, Online: http://www.socialstudies.org/print/121, accessed Nov. 26, 2011
4. "A Vision of Powerful Teaching and Learning in the Social Studies: Building Social Understanding and Civic Efficacy," National Council for the Social Studies, Online: http://www.socialstudies.org/print/121, accessed Nov. 26, 2011
5. Sipress, Joel M., Voelker, David J., "The End of the History Survey Course: The Rise and Fall of the Coverage Model," The Journal of American History, Organization of American Historians, March, 2012, pp. 1054, 1056
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