Published Date

January 1, 1944

From American History in Schools and Colleges (1944)

The Committee on American History in the Schools and Colleges has conducted a brief but intensive study of the problems involved in the teaching of American history. It has utilized not only its own findings but also the extensive body of data which has accumulated in recent years. Throughout this report the Committee has criticized practices, drawn conclusions, recommended policies, and proposed changes. Here it repeats some of these findings and states them in categorical form.


American History Courses in the Schools and Colleges

  1. Every pupil should study American history on at least three grade levels.
  2. Teachers of American history at every level from the grades to the graduate school should cooperate to determine the content of American history courses. No one group should assume the whole responsibility.
  3. American history is now taught with sufficient frequency. Improvement in quality rather than increase in quantity should be the major concern of educators and the public.
  4. History should be taught with a full awareness of its relations to other subjects, especially to the other social studies.
  5. Instruction in the social studies cannot be successful with-out the constant use of the library. The Committee therefore urges social studies teachers to demand adequate libraries. The budget for social studies books should at least equal the annual expenditure for equipment for physics, chemistry, and the other sciences.
  6. The primary obligation of the college teacher of history is to present his subject in an interesting and stimulating manner. We believe in the value of research and publication, but we deplore any tendency to stress research at the expense of good teaching.

Content of American History Courses

  1. We recommend the selection of a reasonable number of topics and the development of each one fully enough to give it significance, rather than the meaningless enumeration of events, names, and dates.
  2. National programs and textbooks in American history should stress the minimum topics, leaving time and space for the full and adequate treatment of the selected elements. Teachers in each locality will thus have opportunities to enrich the course by utilizing materials from local and state histories and other sources.
  3. Without deprecating facts or minimizing details, teachers of history should stress the more enduring values which that subject affords, namely, historical perspective, a sense of continuity, and the ability to use the historical approach in their teaching.
  4. Unplanned repetition of random details should be eliminated from American history courses, but we recognize that planned and orderly repetition of essential materials is necessary and desirable.
  5. We recommend that teachers of American history at each grade level, including college, familiarize themselves with the materials which are taught at other grade levels. Awareness of the content which precedes and follows will thus enable teachers to avoid needless repetition.
  6. We believe that American history should be so written and taught as to produce in the minds of the students a keen consciousness of the world beyond the United States. Our country has never been isolated; its contacts with other peoples and countries are now more numerous and important than ever before.
  7. We believe in the educational utility of subject organization. While pupils of the primary and middle grades have small need for such organization, they should learn as they advance up the grade scale to appreciate the usefulness of subject categories. By the time they graduate from high school they should know the general nature and content of each of the principal social studies.

Training of Social Studies Teachers

  1. The Committee believes that social studies teachers should take more college and graduate courses in the other social sciences as well as in history. This recommendation should not be construed as a disparagement of courses in other fields.
  2. We recommend that departments of history and of education cooperate in the development of better courses for the training of history teachers.
  3. We recommend that graduate schools and social science departments study the needs of social studies teachers and offer courses designed to promote their effectiveness in the classroom.
  4. We recommend that certifying authorities consider the feasibility of certifying teachers for specific fields and for limited periods.

American History in Relation to Society

  1. Libraries, newspapers, magazines, the radio, motion pictures, the stage, the platform, and all other informal agencies which teach history deserve commendation for their efforts and encouragement to raise their standards.
  2. Historians and out-of-school agencies should cooperate for the purpose of improving the quality of historical materials which are presented beyond the classroom.
  3. We believe that business, labor, and all organized groups should express their interest in education, but that they should refrain from dictating specific programs for the schools.
  4. School administrators should protect teachers by requiring that complaints be reduced to writing and by ac-cording teachers a full opportunity to be heard.
  5. State legislatures should not pass punitive and restrictive laws concerning teachers.
  6. State legislatures should not write the social studies curriculum; it should be made by social studies teachers, educational experts, and professors of the social sciences.


Next section: Appendix: American History in Schools and Colleges