Publication Date

December 1, 1995

Editor's Note: , the director of the National Center for History in the Schools, sent the following letter to organizations that critiqued the history standards.

Dear Colleague,

On October 11, in a national press conference held in Williamsburg, Virginia, the Council for Basic Education (CBE) released an outline of the recommendations from the two panels formed last June for the purpose of reviewing the National Standards for United States and World History and of offering suggestions for their improvement. As you know, this review was supported by the Pew Charitable Trusts, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and the Ford Foundation.

In developing their recommendations, the panels look into consideration the broad support established for the standards by virtually all of the 30 major organizations that actively participated in the development of the standards over the 32 months preceding their publication last November. The panels also took into consideration the many published reviews, critiques, and acclamations of support that have appeared since their publication and Lynne Cheney's initial criticisms published in the Wall Street Journal and then republished in the Reader's Digest. The strong motivation behind this review has been to contribute to quelling the political turbulence that surrounds the standards, to focus national attention on the standards themselves, and to suggest revisions that might be made as we enter into “stage 2” of this continuing national consensus-building process.

The National Center for History in the Schools has supported this effort and welcomes these reviews by the distinguished members of these two panels, working independent of the center. You will recall that the National Council for History Standards, in authorizing publication of the standards at its meeting of May 1994, recognized that this must be a continuing process and that the broader national reviews that were expected to follow publication of the standards would lead to future revisions, as recommended in the January 1992 report to Congress of the congressionally mandated National Council for Education Standards and Testing (NCEST). Accordingly, the preface to each of the three published volumes carried the statement that "the History Standards, as finally drafted, would in fact mark a critical milestone but not the final destination in what must be an ongoing, dynamic process of improvement and revision over the years to come." (p. iii)

The History Center, therefore, is prepared to undertake a revision of the basic edition of the standards in time for publication sometime in spring 1996. This volume will contain the K-4 standards and the K-12 standards in U.S, and world history. To that end, we will request your comments concerning the detailed recommendations of the CBE panels that will be sent to you after the full report is issued in early November. In sending your comments, please note our new mailing address: 1100 Glendon Avenue, Suite 927, Box 951588, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1588.

You can be assured, and should be very proud, of the support for the standards that every day reaches the center from teachers, social studies supervisors, and faculty of history departments in colleges and universities from throughout this nation. Nearly 30,000 copies of the standards have been ordered; at least five states we know of drawn heavily on the standards in creating their state curriculum frameworks and standards, and many more have been influenced by them. Moreover, throughout the nation, dozens of teacher institutes and workshops are being sponsored by professional organizations, school districts, and departments of history and education in local colleges to discuss ways of utilizing the standards and of improving history education in the schools. This bridge building between two communities of history educators has been an unexpected product of the controversy over the history standards.

Sincerely yours,

Gary B. Nash, Director, National Center for History in the Schools

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