National History Education Network Begins Operation
Christine L. Compston, January 1994
The National History Education Network (NHEN) began operations on June 1. A coalition of over thirty organizations and agencies committed to improving the quality of history education, the network serves as both a clearinghouse for information related to the teaching of history and an advocate for improved history education at the primary and secondary levels.
The Network News, a quarterly newsletter distributed to individual as well as institutional members of the network, includes announcements of curriculum materials, workshops and institutes, fellowships, and conferences; descriptions of successful models for teaching history; and reports of organizational activities aimed at improving the quality of history education. The newsletter is published in October, January, April, and July.
General informational meetings are held three times each year in conjunction with annual conventions of network members. Open to all convention attendees, these meetings provide a forum for representatives of member organizations to describe activities relating to history education, "advertise" opportunities for teachers, and distribute a variety of materials of interest to educators.
The first general information meeting was held in November at the National Council for the Social Studies' convention in Nashville. Representatives from the following network members contributed to the meeting: American Historical Association, History Teaching Alliance, National Council for History Education, National Register for Historic Places, National Trust for Historic Preservation, Organization of American Historians (OAH), Organization of History Teachers, Social Studies Development Center (SSDC), and World History Association.
General informational meetings are also scheduled this year in conjunction with the annual conventions of the AHA in San Francisco and the OAH in Atlanta (April 15, 9:00–10:00 a.m., in the Clayton Room at the Hilton).
By April, we hope to have preliminary results from a survey of state social studies coordinators, which is being devised and distributed in collaboration with SSDC. The survey deals with teacher certification, high school graduation, and curriculum/content requirements relating to the teaching of history. Intended as a resource for policymakers and educators, the final report will be sent to state coordinators and will be available through NHEN and SSDC.
The network has also been invited to serve on the advisory board for a survey, entitled "How Americans Understand and Use the Past," to be conducted by the Center for History-Making in America at Indiana University. Funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, this survey will explore ways in which Americans learn and incorporate history into their thinking and experience. The results should assist educators (classroom teachers, museum educators, and public historians) in identifying and, therefore, building on the acquired and assimilated knowledge of their audiences.
The informative role of the network complements its commitment to policies and programs that will effectively improve the quality of history education in the nation's schools. The survey of state social studies coordinators, for example, will enable us to recognize legislative trends, choose our battles, and develop strategies to improve the teaching of history. Working with member organizations, the network is beginning to identify individuals within the states who might be willing to monitor legislative action relating to history education and, in the future, support proposals likely to result in a better classroom experience.
Membership in the National History Education Network is available to individuals as well as organizations. Applications may be obtained from HTA/NHEN, Dept. of History, University of Tulsa, 600 S. College Ave., Tulsa, OK 74104-3189. (918) 631-2349. E-mail: email@example.com.
—Christine L. Compston is director of the National History Education Network/History Teaching Alliance.