Publication Date

November 1, 1988

Perspectives Section


In 1983 the National Commission on Excellence in Education published a report based on its findings on student achievement in the United States. The report sparked efforts to reform school curricula and improve the quality of instruction in a variety of disciplines, including history. The consensus among historians was that all practitioners of history, including university faculty, should assume responsibility for the quality of secondary education. It was agreed that one requirement for reform was to break down artificial barriers which traditionally had separated university teachers from their colleagues in the secondary schools.

In 1984, three of the oldest and largest professional humanities organizations—the American Historical Association, the National Council for the Social Studies, and the Organization of American Historians—established the History Teaching Alliance (HTA) to provide direction and secure community support for the creation of collaborative programs designed to improve the content and quality of history education. The executive officers of those organizations were appointed to act as the executive board of HTA and join appointed members of their associations in forming an Oversight Committee to review and evaluate alliance operations, administration, and policy. The President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities also has actively supported the HTA since its inception and has been instrumental in its success.

The Alliance brings university and secondary school teachers of history together for a year-long program of study and fosters ongoing association among history professionals in the community. Alliance programs are organized to include a two-week summer institute, followed by monthly meetings throughout the year. They provide for the rigorous study of significant historical issues and concentrate on content rather than pedagogy. Discussion and interaction are emphasized, and evaluations of the Alliance collaboratives prove that secondary teachers appreciate the challenge of new material as well as the collegial experience.

Two pilot programs were initiated in 1984, at Iowa State University and at the University of Florida. The success of those two programs was crucial to attracting the support of several corporate and foundation sponsors who have provided needed funding to the program. These funders included the Exxon Educational Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Bush Foundation, the Bigelow Foundation, the Cleveland Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Bicentennial Commission of the United States Constitution. More corporate and institutional sponsors have since joined the effort, including the Ford Motor Company, Time, Inc., the Martha Holden Jennings Foundation, the Atlantic Richfield Corporation, the Brown Foundation, the Joyce Foundation, the Duke Power Company, the Gannett Foundation, and the University of Massachusetts. State humanities councils have also assisted projects in South Carolina, Utah, Wisconsin, Florida, Illinois, and Virginia.

In 1987 the University of Florida, home of one of the oldest and most successful Alliances, made a major commitment to history education by offering its support. The Alliance, which was formerly housed at the offices of the AHA in Washington, D.C., moved its national offices to the Department of History at the University of Florida. The philanthropy and generous support of the many corporate and institutional sponsors make possible the operation of the national headquarters and provide seed-money grants to the projects. The Alliance also works to identify local funding for the collaboratives and to encourage universities and school districts to commit long-term support. The ultimate goal is to institutionalize History Teaching Alliance collaboratives across the nation.

Since 1984, the Alliance has grown rapidly. More than one thousand secondary-school teachers and one hundred university faculty and administrators have participated in Alliance programs. We hope to build on this success and look forward to continued growth.

The Alliance accepts topics in all fields of history, with particular interest in world history and the ethnic and minority aspects of American history. Applicants submit a proposal which details collaborative plans and demonstrates the support of university and secondary school administrators. Recent projects which demonstrate the diversity of Alliance topics include “Women in European History,” directed by Stephen Pistono of the University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point; “Latin American History,” directed by Susan Schroeder, Loyola University of Chicago; “Historical Geography of the United States,” directed by Lawrence Estaville, Clemson University; and “Interdependence and Cultural Diversity: The Historical Approach to Global Education,” directed by Ronald Davis, Western Michigan University. The upcoming Quincentenary of the Columbus voyages may further encourage interest in issues of global linkages, the formation of new societies in America, and the multi-ethnic nature of those societies. The History Teaching Alliance invites applications for history collaboratives.

The deadline for applications has been extended to January 2, 1989. The Oversight Committee will review applications in that month and promptly notify successful applicants, Interested parties may direct inquiries to Dr. , Director, History Teaching Alliance, 4131 Turlington Hall, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611; 904/392-8188.

Jane Landers is director of the History Teaching Alliance.