Published Date

January 1, 1944

From American History in Schools and Colleges (1944)

The content of courses in the history of the United States has varied from generation to generation. Different aspects have been emphasized at different times. Political administrations, wars, names, and dates provided the framework and formerly dominated the content of textbooks and courses. As the country grew in size and population, other themes attracted attention. Economic developments, social movements, cultural activities, and the daily life of the people slowly won their way into the curriculum, replacing some of the content formerly devoted to military details, presidential terms, and political affairs. History thus expanded its scope and enriched its content.

These shifts in content were closely interwoven with the growth of scholarship in American history. Research and interpretation gradually wrought many changes in viewpoints, pro-portion, and organization. John Bach McMaster demonstrated the interest and importance of a study of the daily life of the people. Frederick J. Turner’s emphasis upon the frontier gave rise to reappraisals of older treatments. Herbert E. Bolton’s emphasis upon the continental viewpoint modified the former view of the early period. Hundreds of detailed studies enriched American history. While new evidence and sounder interpretations have not always been promptly and fully utilized, they have gradually modified the content of history textbooks and courses.

The changing social scene also has affected the content of American history courses. The disputes over the Mexican War and slavery were once vigorously reflected in textbooks. The issues which caused the Civil War were stated and restated in classrooms. Public discussions of constitutional questions had their effects upon the curriculum. The growth of cities, the rise of industry, the condition of agriculture, and the uncertainty of employment have markedly affected content and emphases. Expansion overseas and two world wars have inevitably expanded the scope and viewpoint of American history courses. Many if not all of these factors have introduced new elements into textbooks and courses.

The new emphases in content and organization may be summarized under three heads. First, American history courses to-day are characterized by great interest in social and economic factors. While the political aspects are by no means neglected, they have been interwoven into the larger fabric of American life. Second, increased attention is given to the international setting. The hemispheric approach and the interdependence of cultures and peoples are given more recognition. Events in Latin America, the Far East, and other remote areas have become matters of concern in our national life. Third, within the past decade the ideals and traditions of democracy have received increasing stress. The concept has been expanded far beyond its exclusively political connotation.

These developments and trends have determined the prevailing content of present courses and textbooks in American history. While there are many local variations, the composite picture of American history courses at each grade level can be drawn with reasonable correctness.

In the middle grades (IV, V, VI) pupils study the biographies of prominent Americans, the discovery and settlement of America, and the everyday life of the people with emphasis on houses, clothes, furniture, food, work, transportation, travel, and customs. The westward movement receives much attention, for it deals with trails, covered wagons, log cabins, Indians, gold rushes, and cowboys. Most teachers lay great stress upon projects which involve the making of models and upon field trips to nearby places of current and historical interest. In the middle grades the course is necessarily somewhat informal, but it is often taught with great effectiveness.

In Grades VII and VIII the pupils study a more formal course in American history, based chiefly upon a textbook. Supplementary books, which may include a few source readings, are frequently used. The account usually covers the whole history from the landing of Columbus to the latest presidential election. Unfortunately the course is not well differentiated from that in Grade XI or XII, but it frequently stresses social rather than political or economic aspects. Written and oral reports, class programs, projects, field trips, and special celebrations are common. In rural and small-town schools the teacher usually has several other subjects to teach and so cannot give special attention to American history. In the larger systems the course is usually assigned to a teacher who has had at least some college or graduate training in history. In many systems the course is offered in the second semester of Grade VII and the first semester of Grade VIII, being preceded and followed by geography.

In Grade XI or XII the course again covers the whole span from 1492 to the current period. While the textbooks in common use vary greatly in their emphases, they all furnish many political, economic, and social facts. The trend in recent years has been to minimize military details and political affairs but to stress social movements and daily life. Many teachers use unit outlines or workbooks and assign rather ambitious projects for reports, discussions, and assemblies. Supplementary books are widely used and most high-school libraries are equipped with a few volumes of sources. Many teachers use films and radio programs in connection with classroom work. The teacher at this grade level usually has a college degree and a major or minor in history or some other social study.

At each of these levels many teachers use class time for a study and discussion of current events. The practice of supplying each pupil with a weekly news magazine is widespread, and one day each week is often set aside for reports based on the latest issue of the periodical. Good teachers succeed in showing the interrelations of the history recorded in the books and the events reported in the magazines. In other instances the period devoted to current events seems like an unjustifiable interruption.

While the content of American history courses was being modified and enriched, the number of courses increased, as the evidence in Chapter III indicates. Throughout much of the nineteenth century many boys and girls left school after three or four years. Realizing the desirability of teaching everyone national history, educators introduced the history of the United States into the early grades. As the average length of attendance in school increased, the course in American history was shifted to the last school years. The theory was that the future citizen should study the history of his country just before leaving school. An additional and a less advanced course was introduced into the middle grades in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. The rise of high schools during this same period was accompanied by the introduction of a third and presumably a more advanced course in American history.

The addition of each new survey of American history left those already in existence virtually unchanged. Each course was introduced on the assumption that it was the last chance to give the pupils a survey of our national history. The result was that each course was organized, developed, and taught with almost no consideration of the preceding one. The teacher of American history in Grade XI or XII, for example, was likely to ignore the fact that the pupils had already had two exposures to the subject; consequently, he duplicated much of the content which had already been presented.

In recent years teachers have realized the overlapping and duplication in American history courses and have discussed various ways of grading the materials by adjusting them to the growing maturity of the pupils. Some teachers have advocated the grading of American history on the basis of chronology, assigning different periods to different school levels. Some writers of textbooks seemed to think that a brief history for the first course, a longer one for the junior high school, and a still longer one for the senior high school provided adequate differentiation. Others felt that the differentiation should be determined by the nature of the materials. They believed that narrative history was easy and expository history difficult. Yet others thought that the style of writing was the best method of grading the contents. Simple vocabulary, short sentences, and concrete imagery were regarded as sufficient to make the most difficult material intelligible to children. Still others insisted that dramatic episodes and brief biographies were best suited for the middle grades, while the continuous story of political and economic development should be reserved for more advanced students. Some felt that the method of teaching in the classroom was the determining factor in grading content. Each of these theories has merit and each has made some contribution toward the differentiation of American history for the various grade levels. No one of these theories has led, however, to adequate grade placement of historical materials for teaching purposes.

The blunt truth of the situation is that courses in American history are often outright duplications of one another. This repetition is particularly obvious at the senior high school level, where the course is often practically indistinguishable from that given in Grade VII or VIII. The same men, events, dates, and movements are presented repeatedly. The pupils are solemnly informed over and over that Columbus discovered America in 1492, that Jamestown was settled in 1607, and that Lincoln was born in a log cabin, and in each case as though they had never heard the fact before.

In addition to this repetition there is no assurance that the teacher at a higher grade level knows more history than the one at the preceding level. More than one student has had the experience of finding his senior high school teacher less well informed than the one who taught the subject in Grade VII or VIII. Some have even realized that their general course in United States history in college has added almost nothing to what they learned in senior high school.

This direct overlapping in American history courses has several unfortunate consequences. It lessens or destroys the interest of most pupils, for they realize that they are going over familiar ground. The practice produces boredom and actual distaste for a study which should be a challenging and stimulating experience. It promotes superficial and shallow results, for the pupils, recognizing familiar names and events, unwarrantedly assume that they already know and understand the materials. It results in a waste of the pupil’s time.

Unplanned overlapping of content not only destroys interest, but may also interfere seriously with retention. Repetitive courses are likely to be catalogic and unvaried in content and emphasis. Pupils are frequently very much in doubt as to what should be learned. From the catalogues of facts they cannot wisely select or interpret the significant trends, movements, and generalizations. The selection of fewer topics would enable both writers and teachers to give them enough attention to develop their significance. The treatment can thus be graduated from simple narrative, through descriptive accounts, and on into interpretation and synthesis.

The Committee proposes a solution to the problem of duplication in the content of American history. It does so with a keen realization of the fact that any proposed plan will not be entirely satisfactory. It believes that any clear and workable plan, even granting inadequacies, will be preferable to the deadening duplication which now prevails. In making its plan, the Committee assumes, in view of current trends, that almost all students will complete high school and will therefore have a chance to take the senior high school course in American history. Having considered as deciding factors the maturity of pupils, the competence of teachers, and the nature of history, the Committee proposes to differentiate history for the various levels of instruction on the basis of (1) content, (2) chronology, and (3) study skills.

With respect to content, the Committee proposes the following major themes:

Middle Grades—How People Live

Junior High School—The Building of the Nation

Senior High School—A Democratic Nation in a World Setting

College Level—American Civilization (See Chapter VII)

In differentiating according to historical content the Committee has tried to recognize the interests and level of maturity of pupils. More difficult topics are allocated to higher school levels, and an effort is made to capitalize on the interests of younger people in dramatic action, in frontier stories, and in customs and ways of living. The Committee has recognized to a certain degree the progression from descriptive through narrative to expository history, and has sought to balance topics of political, military, economic, and social history.1 It suggests that in the middle grades the emphasis be largely on the theme How People Live, that the junior high school course deal largely with the Building of the Nation, and that in the senior high school emphasis be placed on the topic A Democratic Nation in a World Setting.

In respect to chronology, the Committee believes that a hard-and-fast allocation of specific historical periods to specific grade levels would be an artificial differentiation, but that distinction by emphasis on chronological periods can well be made. A course in American history for the intermediate grades, based on the topics listed below, will inevitably stress the colonial and early national periods, with perhaps two thirds of its time allocated to the period before 1789.2 At the junior high school level, the recommended topics call for devoting about two thirds of the allotted time to the hundred years from about 1776 to 1876. At the senior high school level the course will cover the entire chronological period. However, at this level if the topics recommended in the outline are emphasized, about one half of the time will be devoted to the period since 1865. This plan of topical-chronological differentiation is presented in the accompanying graph.

A third differentiation among grade levels is made on the basis of study skills. History is in part a method of thinking about human affairs, and instructors in the subject have the responsibility for developing certain skills of thought and study. Aspects of critical-mindedness, of ability in reflective thinking, of locating and using materials, of judgment and comparison are elements in the study of history. Educational research has not yet shed full light on the age or mental levels at which these skills of thought and action can best be developed. Yet, even without this background of needed research, the Committee has attempted to outline in practicable fashion the kinds of skills most appropriate for emphasis at the various grade levels. From vocabulary development to map reading, from outlining to systematic comparison, from simple generalizations to historical criticism, the entire range of thought and study skills should be subjected to extensive research. Pending the accumulation of research data, a working plan for developing these skills at appropriate levels of maturity is here presented. It is recognized by the Committee that the development of many skills and habits will take place gradually, not at any one level but through the entire span of schooling. Each skill is listed, however, only at the particular level at which it is to be introduced or especially emphasized.

The enrichment of American history by broadening its scope and emphasizing cultural and social elements is a desirable trend. The Committee rejects the narrow conception of history which would limit it to political, constitutional, diplomatic, and other official activities of government. The endorsement of an enriched course in American history should not be construed, however, as justifying the introduction of extraneous materials, no matter how deserving they may be of attention in some course. For example, American history, so labeled, should place major emphasis upon historical developments rather than upon a study of contemporary problems and conditions. The study of the past throws light upon the present, but if we run to view the present before the light of history is fairly kindled it will not give us much illumination. The course in American problems has definite values, but it should not be identified with or labeled as history. This mislabeling is regrettable, not because the extraneous materials are objectionable or unimportant but because they confuse the student, misdirect the teacher, and misrepresent the course.

The Committee favors the greatest possible enrichment of the American history course at every grade level. Its scope should be as wide as the time and capacities of the students allow. Our overseas interests and responsibilities and relations with Latin America, Canada, the Far East, and all other pertinent areas should be studied. Medicine, science, education, religion, art, literature, architecture, music, in fact every field of human endeavor has contributed to American life and is therefore a part of American history. In suggesting the minimum content of courses at each school level the Committee is not advocating the omission of other topics. Rather, the teacher should try to discuss as many aspects of American life as his knowledge and the time at his disposal permit.

No attempt is made here to prescribe the form of organization. Teachers and textbook writers can organize the recommended materials by units, topics, projects, or by any other feasible plan. The major purpose of this chapter is to reduce duplication by securing a reasonable degree of uniformity with respect to the content of American history at each level where it is taught. The acceptance of a specific minimum content would prevent the aimless inclusiveness which sometimes characterizes American history courses and textbooks, and at the same time it would provide a satisfactory basis for the more intensive study of significant materials.

The Committee presents the recommended minimum content for American history courses for the middle grades, the junior high school, and the senior high school. The themes with their accompanying topics, dates, persons, and skills constitute the irreducible minimum. Provision is made for some planned repetition, but not for outright duplication, or even extensive overlapping. It is assumed that the events to be studied in the middle grades need not be studied in detail again later, though they will be reviewed and referred to as background. Some of the important names mentioned at one level reappear at later levels, but for recall rather than re-study. It is also recognized that some names must necessarily be repeated because the persons functioned in different spheres. For example, Washington the farmer, Washington the general, and Washington the President clearly call for different levels of treatment. In order to understand the Committee’s plan for differentiating content, the reader is urged to study the whole program for all the grades before centering attention upon the course at any particular level.

In brief, the plan of the Committee is to suggest the irreducible content and principal emphasis for each level at which American history is taught. This minimum content is designed to be national in scope and application. It is recommended as the core of content for all schools in the United States. It is designed to consist of the enduring elements of American history. Shifts in emphasis will occur, but it is likely that this content will persist. Social changes and research may modify details and interpretations, but these elements will still constitute the core of American history.

Middle Grades

In the middle grades, there should be the equivalent of one full year of work in American history, although the historical materials may be organized for teaching purposes in various ways and may be distributed over Grades IV, V, VI. Here the emphasis is to be on the periods of exploration and colonial history and on the simpler patterns of life in the pre-industrial era. The following topics should be emphasized; they do not constitute an outline of work, but indicate areas to which the major part of the study of the United States should be devoted.

How People Live

  1. Exploration of the hemisphere: With attention not only to the early discoverers but also to the later western explorers, and with emphasis on the geographic discoveries as well as individual explorers.
  2. Type settlements: Spanish; French; Dutch; Southern, Middle, and Northern English colonies; special attention to a few typical settlements or colonies, with only a rapid survey of the entire group of European settlements.
  3. Ways of living; in the early English colonies of the Atlantic Seaboard; among the French in Canada; in the Spanish colonies of the Southwest; and on the frontier: Home life, transportation, religion, amusements, education, ways of making a living, customs.
  4. A narrative account of the westward movement of peoples: With attention to successive frontiers; to the Indians; to dramatic incidents in the peopling of the continent; and to outstanding pioneers and frontier leaders.
  5. Peoples who came to America: Varied national, religious, and economic groups which settled the early colonies; new nationalities on the frontier; the concept of America as a homeland of a mixed people.
  6. Study of the map of North America: As it was known in 1607, 1763, 1783, 1803, 1819, 1848, with attention to topography, distances, and the boundaries of our major territorial acquisitions.

Representative Dates
Discovery of America, 1492
Magellan’s voyage, 1519
Settlement of Jamestown, 1607
Settlement of Plymouth, 1620
Treaty of Paris, 1763
Declaration of Independence, 1776
Inauguration of Washington, 1789
Louisiana Purchase, 1803
Acquisition of Florida, 1819
Mexican Cession, 1848

Representative Persons
Daniel Boone
William Bradford
William Clark
Samuel de Champlain
Christopher Columbus
Francisco Coronado
Hernando Cortes
Hernando De Soto
Francis Drake
Benjamin Franklin
Sam Houston
Thomas Jefferson
La Salle
Meriwether Lewis
Fernando Magellan
Jacques Marquette
William Penn
John Smith
George Washington
Roger Williams
Brigham Young

Skills to be Emphasized: Many skills have their beginning in the middle grades, and the alert teacher utilizes the history class for the development of these habits, skills, and techniques which are the concern of the elementary school. The Committee recommends that special emphasis be given to the careful and systematic training of pupils in the following skills, which are early phases of the development of the historical method.

  1. The use of table of contents, paragraph and section headings, and index for efficient location of material in books.
  2. The acquisition of a vocabulary of terms basic to American history, such as colony, discovery, settlement, pioneer, frontier, migration.
  3. The reading of simple maps, with attention to location, direction, and distances, and the recognition of map symbols.
  4. Ability to list items and trace simple sequences.
  5. Ability to distinguish simple generalizations from specific statements.

Junior High School

Between the beginning of Grade VII and the end of Grade IX all pupils should study the phases of national history listed below. It is expected that the equivalent of one daily period for a year will be devoted to the study of United States history. The materials suggested may be organized for teaching purposes in various ways; the materials are not here presented as a course outline. These topics indicate phases of history which should be heavily emphasized at this school level.

The Building of the Nation

  1. The American Revolution: As the outgrowth of colonial development, with attention to outstanding military events, the government during the war, the Articles of Confederation, and the Constitution.
  2. The Rise of Industrial Northeast, Plantation South, and Free-Farm West: With attention to the geographic and economic factors which promoted sectionalism; sectionalism versus national interests.
  3. Territorial Development, the Struggle over New States, and the Civil War: With attention to the use and influence of public lands, and to the strengthening of national unity.
  4. The Development of Waterways, Highways, Railways, and Airways, and of Domestic and International Trade: With attention to pertinent inventions, trade routes, and the social effects of the cargoes carried.
  5. Recreation, Sport, and Social Life: The rise of typical American games, and of resorts and vacation trips, of social clubs and organizations, of theaters, music, movies, and other commercialized amusements.
  6. The Rise and Influence of Major Communication Industries: Postal service, press, telegraph, telephone, and radio; with attention to pertinent inventions, the industrial organization of these agencies and their cultural power.

In developing these emphases in United States history, it is suggested that the following dates and persons should be studied by all pupils:

Representative Dates
Beginning of the Revolutionary War, 1775
Declaration of Independence, 1776
Surrender of Cornwallis, 1781
The Drafting of the Constitution, 1787
Inauguration of Washington, 1789
Invention of Cotton Gin, 1793
Fulton’s Steamboat, 1807
War with England, 1812
Missouri Compromise, 1820
Civil War, 1861–1865
Invention of Telegraph, 1844
Transcontinental Railroad, 1869

Representative Persons
Samuel Adams
John Jacob Astor
Clara Barton
Alexander Graham Bell
Jefferson Davis
Thomas A. Edison
Cyrus W. Field
Henry Ford
Robert Fulton
Charles Goodyear
Ulysses S. Grant
Nathan Hale
Alexander Hamilton
Patrick Henry
James J. Hill
Elias Howe
Andrew Jackson
Thomas Jefferson
John Paul Jones
Robert E. Lee
Abraham Lincoln
Henry W. Longfellow
Cyrus McCormick
Samuel F. B. Morse
Thomas Paine
Samuel Slater
George Washington
Eli Whitney
Orville Wright
Wilbur Wright

In the junior high school the following skills should be emphasized:

  1. Ability to interpret pictures, charts, diagrams, and cartoons.
  2. Study of more maps and of more complex maps.
  3. Ability to make simple outlines.
  4. Locating library materials and using supplementary volumes efficiently.
  5. Training in making and criticizing generalizations.
  6. Ability to summarize.
  7. Expansion of the vocabulary of American history, including such concepts as revolution, economic, industrial, factory system, homestead, plantation system, territory, sectionalism, federal.

Senior High School

A full year course in the senior high school should present an overview of national development, giving only brief review to the topics emphasized at lower grade levels and emphasizing the topics listed below. Again it should be pointed out that the topics listed do not constitute a course outline, but only indicate areas of special importance at this grade level.

A Democratic Nation in a World Setting

  1. The Development of the American Political System: The growth of the Constitution; role of the Supreme Court; the safeguarding of civil liberties; civil service; government aid through land grants, pensions, subsidies, tariffs; political parties and critical elections; state-federal relations.
  2. The Growth of Democracy: Extension of the franchise; rise of universal public education; humanitarian and reform movements; changing concepts of democracy; legislation for social security; regional and national planning.
  3. The Growth of the American People: Immigration and its control; the composition and distribution of the population; domestic migration; rise of cities and metropolitan centers; improvements in health and sanitation; improved standards of living; population trends and their significance; industries and agriculture; rural life and aspirations.
  4. The Second Industrial Revolution: Economic developments since the Civil War; technological advances; the rise of corporations; the organization of manufacturers and la-borers; government stimulation and regulation of business; financial crises; third party movements.
  5. The International Influence and Responsibilities of the United States: Significant phases of American foreign policy since 1789; acquisition of overseas areas; cultural contacts of the United States and other nations; international trade and investment; the tariff; the issue of imperialism; First and Second World Wars; relations with Canada and Latin America.
  6. American Ideas and Ideals: The rise of American literature, music, science, and the fine arts, and the social institutions by which their products are distributed; the place of education and religion in American life.

Representative Dates
House of Burgesses, 1619
Toleration Act, 1649
Stamp Act, 1765
Rush-Bagot Convention with Canada, 1817
Monroe Doctrine, 1823
Dred Scott Decision, 1857
Interstate Commerce Commission, 1887
Spanish-American War, 1898
First World War, 1914–1918
Nineteenth Amendment, 1920
New Deal, 1933
Second World War, 1939

Representative Persons
John Quincy Adams
Jane Addams
Susan B. Anthony
Simon Bolivar
William Jennings Bryan
John C. Calhoun
Andrew Carnegie
Henry Clay
Samuel Clemens
Grover Cleveland
Eugene V. Debs
Dorothea Dix
Stephen A. Douglas
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Stephen Collins Foster
Samuel Gompers
Horace Greeley
Winslow Homer
Herbert Hoover
Andrew Jackson
Joseph Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson
Andrew Johnson
Robert La Follette, Sr.
James Madison
Horace Mann
John Marshall
William McKinley
James Monroe
Francis Parkman
John D. Rockefeller, Sr.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt
Theodore Roosevelt
Jose de San Martin
Carl Schurz
Louis Sullivan
William H. Taft
Booker T. Washington
Daniel Webster
Walt Whitman
John Greenleaf Whittier
Frances E. Willard
Woodrow Wilson
Frank Lloyd Wright

In the senior high school, the following skills should be emphasized:

  1. Skill in distinguishing between fact and opinion.
  2. Skill in distinguishing between primary sources and secondary accounts.
  3. Understanding people and events in their time and cultural setting.
  4. Ability to carry on orderly and constructive group discussion.
  5. Taking systematic notes on written materials and on oral reports.
  6. Making systematic comparisons in the weighing of evidence.
  7. Ability to draw inferences and make generalizations.
  8. Skill in reading various types of map projections.

These recommended contents will not constitute the total program of work at any grade level. Each school and each teacher will need to enrich the suggested content with materials drawn from the regional, state, and local scene. For example, the national minimum content may pay slight attention to the Five Nations which lived south of Lake Ontario. In New York the schools will doubtless wish to give them fuller treatment. The national content may be too abbreviated in its treatment of the Texan Republic to satisfy the teachers of Texas. While the Spanish movement northward is mentioned in national history, it will receive still fuller treatment in the southwest. Teachers in the Pacific northwest will naturally wish to add additional details about their region. The national content may give insufficient attention to industry to satisfy teachers and pupils in industrial areas like that of the upper Ohio valley. In all such instances the Committee urges upon teachers and program-makers the desirability of enriching the materials from the national scene with those from the region, state, and community. Thus there is a distinct place for the use of state and local history.

In addition to the enrichment from local scenes, the teacher will naturally utilize current events and contemporary trends. Current events constitute a challenge, a kind of standard of measurement of the pertinency and success of the history which has been taught. For example, whether or not the students understand a current strike in the coal industry is determined by their knowledge and understanding of the background out of which the strike grew as well as by their knowledge of the current situation. The teacher will therefore see that the past and the present are interwoven into an indissoluble unity.

A third way in which the teacher will enrich the minimum content is by capitalizing on the special competency that he has and by utilizing the resources that are available. While no teacher is justified in perverting a course to his own inclinations, it is wise for the school to take full advantage of his special abilities, interests, and resources.

The content to be taught will naturally be affected by the background and quality of students. When the average level of ability is high the teacher can utilize more, and more difficult, materials. The typical class contains students with a wide range of reading ability, which according to some studies may spread over about six grades. Thus the students in an eighth-grade American history class would have reading abilities from about Grade V to Grade XI. The significance of this great variation cannot be ignored. It will force the teacher to vary his content, differentiate his assignments, and adjust his methods. The program proposed here is sufficiently flexible to make such adjustments possible.

In selecting its minimum content for each level the Committee took into account the principles of pupil growth and psychological development. It makes no claim that its recommended content constitutes the only means through which to acquire a knowledge and an understanding of American history. It does urge its program, however, because its widespread adoption would certainly lessen the prevailing duplication in history courses. A core of content, valid throughout the nation, would facilitate the school work of the thousands of children who move from one community to another; it would vastly simplify the work of the teacher, enabling him to become more proficient in the teaching of American history; it would promote unity and solidarity; it would assure a national fund of common information, thus facilitating communication and understanding; it would promote the acceptance of common traditions and ideals.

The Committee’s program has several advantages. It is in advance of current practices, but it is not so far in advance as to be unworkable under present conditions. Its adoption would entail few if any radical rearrangements of classes, courses, and schedules. In the first place, it will appeal to students because it eliminates repetitious duplication. It enables them to distinguish the relevant from the unimportant. In the second place, teachers will have little difficulty in carrying out its proposals, because the Committee has rearranged and differentiated materials already available. In the third place, many extant textbooks and other materials can readily be adjusted to the program. Lastly, it seems to facilitate the distinction between routine factual items and more significant outcomes. It places factual content in its true perspective as the raw material out of which significant learning evolves. For these reasons we urge that the program be given a trial in the schools of the United States.

Next section: American History in Schools and Colleges


  1. A general outline of the topics to be emphasized in each course in on pages 74–80. []
  2. The period which will be stressed in the middle grades is from 1492 to 1789. The period of emphasis in the junior high school is 1776 to 1876; the period to receive increasing emphasis in the senior high school is that since 1865. These slight overlappings are deliberate; they provide a reminder of the continuity of our history. []