The Morality of Democratic Citizenship: Goals for Civic Education in the Republic's Third Century

R. Freeman Butts
Center for Civic Education
Calabasas, California

Chapter 1
One Clear Mandate: Teach History

C. Citizenship as Paramount Theme

This trend toward dealing with values is noticeable within the academic disciplines themselves. It includes powerful voices in the academic mainstream of humanities and social science scholarship: the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, Daedalus of the American Academy of Arts and Science, the Rockefeller Commission on the Humanities, the Association of American Colleges, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. I shall deal in Chapter Two with some examples of the recent emergence of normative scholarship in philosophy, political science, sociology, law, and public administration. Some notable scholars have become more concerned with the normative, moral, and civic role of their disciplines in order to counteract the heavily empirical and value-free emphasis that has dominated teaching as well as research in these fields. I can only hint at this trend, which could profitably become a most valuable resource for teachers of history and social studies in the schools, as they seek to give life and vitality to the statements on essentials I have mentioned.

The Narrative Impulse Among Historians

At this point I can mention only a few examples of a similar trend in history itself. And I can do no better than begin by quoting from the presidential address to the American Historical Association by Gordon Wright, Stanford's eminent historian, who in the aftermath of Watergate called in 1975 for a reaffirmation of history as one of the moral arts:

... I believe that a case can be made for relegitimizing the writing and teaching of history by liberals whose model is neither the neutral scientist nor the "hidden preacher," but the exponent of a self-conscious and coherent value system. If one purpose of historical study is to broaden and enrich the minds of students so that they can shape their own values and arrive at their own judgments (as I think they should), that purpose is likely to be best served if they are not only offered raw data and quantified facts, but also broad exposure to various interpretations of the past. The liberal interpretation belongs in that spectrum: indeed, perhaps more so today than ever before. In our age of unprecedented complexity, when ideological fanaticism, sporadic bursts of tribal fury, and the advocacy of "realism" in both its crude and its sophisticated form put world stability and even human existence at risk, the liberal temper may offer the nearest thing to a set of guideposts through the mine field. Its rejection of a black and white world in which the battalions of good and evil line up in serried ranks, its awareness of ambiguity as a profound pervasive presence in human affairs; its respect for such qualities as skepticism, tolerance to make up a world view that in some ways overlaps those of the radical or conservative, but proposes its own integrity, its central core of values by which to judge its past and to relate past to the present....

What many of us have hesitated to do, I believe, is to take that final step—to risk a conclusion, to make a judgment and defend our view of how things were and why, and what this meant to people of the time, and what it means to people today....

...our search for truth ought to be quite consciously suffused by a commitment to some deeply held humane values. The effort to keep these two goals in balance may be precarious; but if we can manage it, perhaps we will be on the way to re-establishing the role of history—and not the least—of what we might fairly call the moral arts.  54 

I agree with Wright's general view of the role of history, and I do not hesitate to underline the values as liberal. In another vein, I agree that teachers need what William H. McNeill, chairman of the history department of the University of Chicago, calls a picture of the past "that speaks to the general concerns of ordinary citizens:

Specialized "post-hole" courses in subjects of arcane professional debate will not do.... Better than any other discipline, history can defend shared, public identities–national, civilizational, human, as well as local, ethnic, sectarian.  55 
Paul L. Murphy, professor of American Constitutional History and American Studies at the University of Minnesota, focuses the normative argument explicitly upon U.S. history:

Students must again be exposed to the constitutional basics of why we retain a two hundred year old document, the principles and values it incorporates, where it has worked and when and how it has failed. Above all they should understand what they can do generally and concretely to see that it continues to function to restrain human frailty and channel human creativity toward the positive ends of a society dedicated to "liberty and justice for all."  56 
Recent meetings of historical associations and writings of other noted historians have elaborated the theme that history writing should be "made whole again." Among these have been Lawrence Stone of Princeton, Bernard Bailyn of Harvard, J.H. Hexter of Washington University, and others. I point to two articles of particular relevance to my argument here, both by Thomas Bender, University Professor of the Humanities and Professor of History at New York University. In an article in The New York Times Book Review Bender stresses the centrality of the public realm as the coherent theme for history writing:

Historians, to whom we once confidently entrusted the custody of our public memory of ourselves as a nation, have been unable to pull together the vast mountain of scholarship produced in the past quarter century and make of it a coherent and explanatory account of American life. Both readers and writers have been drawn or directed, by a variety of social and cultural mechanisms, to histories of their chosen or inherited group. It is a phenomenon that may represent a disintegration of the civic sense as much as purely intellectual trends in historiography 57 
Bender pays tribute to the high quality of the "new history" and its rewarding scholarship about immigrants, blacks, ethnics, women, American Indians, workers, and the social history of ordinary people. But:

What has not been much explored, however, are the relations among these groups and their relation to public life—that essentially civic arena where groups interact, even compete, to establish the configuration of political power in a society and its cultural forms and their meanings....

In the process of reaching out to incorporate more social territory for historical narrative, writers seem to have lost their bearings, lost their sense of the central institutions of society, of the state and of civic or public culture. 58 

Bender reminds us that the history of public life was the prime goal of Robinson and Beard in their efforts to achieve a synthesis incorporating social and intellectual history with political history. And now he believes historians should return to that task of synthesis and go beyond partial analysis: "They must reclaim the public realm, where groups interact to make a national politics and culture, as the central territory of history."  59 

Bender returned to this theme in a long and scholarly paper in The Journal of American History in which he stressed the concept of history as the making of a "public culture" and creating an image of society through the rhetorical structure of theme and plot: "Politics, power, public life—concerns of both Beard and Hofstadter—remain a viable scaffolding for a synthetic national history."  60 

I believe that Bender points in the direction that history writing and history teaching, and indeed the history of education, ought to take. It is in this kind of framework that I believe the theme of civic values could become a lively and enlightening synthesis for the study of history in the schools:

This essay offers a reconceptualization of our history that stresses the interplay of various groups, usually characterized as homogenous, whether defined socially (for example, ethnic groups) or as private worlds (for example, the family), and the larger, heterogeneous, and contested political and cultural realm of the nation. How do the worlds of private life, the group meanings and interests of smaller social units, affect and effect the configuration of public life? How does the character and quality of relations with public life affect private life and the life of social groups? The present task is to begin establishing the relationship over time of the interclass, multiethnic, and multicultural center, what I call public culture, and the smaller, more homogenous gemeinschaftlich groups of the periphery.... A focus on public culture and its changing connections with cultures smaller than the whole offers an image of society capacious enough to sustain a synthetic narrative.  61 
This synthetic view of history, however, runs up against the predilection of historians not only to dig deeper into specialized interests but also to try simply to describe narratively what happened in the past, presumably with no ideological biases. This view ranges, interestingly enough, across a fairly wide spectrum of social and political points of view. On one side are those who fear left-leaning historians will slant the history: Diane Ravitch argued at the CLIO Conference for the study of history for its own sake, and Frances Fitzgerald has argued that history should be taught simply as the story of the past. On another side are those who are convinced teaching of values will exert capitalist hegemony over students. Revisionist historians of education like Henry Perkinson, Clarence Karier, and Michael S. Katz have argued that history in public schools should not try to teach any lessons of civic values, because it would inevitably indoctrinate a capitalist ideology. 62  More recently, however, left-leaning curriculum specialists have attached their views of political empowerment to education for democratic citizenship.  63 

Renewal of the Civic Purpose in Social Studies

In contrast, the California Framework of 1981 argues that the designated civic purpose of social studies is to apply the best scholarship the academic world can produce in history, political and social science, law and jurisprudence, and the humanities in its efforts to perform the citizenship function of dealing with civic values:

The history-social science curriculum, K-12, should be most particularly and most explicitly concerned with those substantive values which form the common core of American dtizenship. At all grade levels and subjects, and in accordance with the developmental capabilities of students, the curriculum should focus on the basic civic values and principles which undergird our democratic constitutional order.
Drawing on ideas suggested by the motto e pluribus unum... [t]he authors of this framework adopted... [a] conceptualization of those values as follows:
  1. Those which seem primarily to promote desirable cohesive and unifying elements in a democratic political community, or the unum values. Among them are these:

    • Justice
    • Equality
    • Truth
    • Authority
    • Responsibility
    • Participation
    • Respect for persons and property
    • Personal obligation for the public good

  2. Those which seem primarily to promote desirable pluralistic and individualistic elements in a democratic political community, or the pluribus values. Among them are these:

    • Diversity
    • Privacy
    • Freedom
    • Due process
    • Human rights
There is a continuing tension, sometimes overt conflict, between the values of unum and the values of pluribus. Even so, American democracy historically and presently is committed to honoring and promoting both. Balancing those competing but complementary value claims is essential to the health and vitality of our democracy in society. Balancing those value claims, however, has not proved to be an easy task. The values of unum sometimes are distorted or corrupted into such things as "majoritarianism," chauvinism, insistence on sameness or conformity, cries of "law and order" without sufficient regard for justice and due process. The values of pluribus sometimes are distorted or corrupted into such things as: anarchy, privatism, self-centeredness, special interest groups which disregard the interest of others or the good of the whole, cultural imperialism, and allegations of being "soft on criminals."

It is essential that students at all grade levels have opportunities to encounter both the cohesive, unifying unum values and the pluralistic, individualistic pluribus values to which our democratic constitutional society is committed. It also is important that students have opportunities to learn about the distortions or corruptions to which those values or principles sometimes have been subjected so that as citizens they will have the knowledge, the will, and skills with which to prevent such recurrences.  64 
When the California Model Curriculum Standards for grades 9-12 of 1985 and the new Framework of 1987 were adopted by the State Board of Education, many of these ideas were retained, but not in a similar or schematic form.

I am not at all sure that simply installing chronological narrative history as the centerpiece of social studies will necessarily be sufficient for civic education. I refer to a single, but a very important, example. In July 1987, the California State Board of Education adopted, as it has done every six years, a revised version of the History-Social Science Framework for the California public schools, kindergarten through the 12th grade.

In general, I believe that the 1987 Framework, which had been in preparation for a year and a half, is an excellent document. It reflects the advice, scholarship, and work of a wide range of academic consultants as well as professional educators, both inside and outside California. It embodies national as well as state points of view. It clearly responds to the call of the excellence reform movement to emphasize chronological history, closely followed by and integrated with geography, in six of the eight grades from 5th through 12th. And it strongly restates the purpose of history-social science to contribute to preparation for citizenship:

The goals of this History-Social Science Framework fall into three broad categories: Knowledge and Cultural Understanding, incorporating learnings from history and the other humanities, geography, and the social sciences; Democratic Understanding and Civic Values, incorporating an understanding of our national identity, constitutional heritage, civic values, and rights and responsibilities; and Skills Attainment and Social Participation, including basic study skills, critical thinking skills and participation skills that are essential for effective citizenship.  65 
Thus, citizenship stands as the second of three major goals, and it appears prominently in the other two, insofar as all three are integrated throughout the substance of the curriculum. In the introduction to the second goal, the Framework states

The curricular goal of democratic understanding and civic values is centered on an essential understanding of the nation's identity and constitutional heritage; the civic values that undergird the nation's constitutional order and promote cohesion across all groups in a pluralistic society; and the rights and responsibilities of all citizens.  66 
In these respects, the 1987 Framework carries forward the stress on civic values, which were so prominent in the 1981 Framework. But it does not identify so concisely or explicitly what values it is talking about. All of the 1981 values are to be found somewhere scattered through the long document if one has in mind what to look for. Whatever the demerits of the 1981 Framework, it had the advantage of clarity and conciseness adhering in a thematic listing of concepts, which lengthy paragraphs do not convey so readily.

This is not the place to undertake a critical review of the details of the 1987 Framework. My impression, however, is that it does carry forward some of those major thrusts of the excellence movement that could serve to downplay civic learning in favor of masses of chronological history and geography, which might overwhelm teachers or textbook authors whose concern for coverage outruns the Framework's own recommendations for study­in­depth. This tendency is reflected in the opening pages of the Framework where its seventeen "distinguishing characteristics" are described.

The first nine characteristics have to do with history as the centerpiece of study; history in its geographic setting as the basis of an integrated approach; history as a story well­told, using literature as enrichment along with biographies, myths, and fairy tales in the early grades; historical events and periods in depth; a chronological and sequential curriculum from K through 12; a multicultural, pluralistic perspective throughout; and an increased attention to world history.

The next five characteristics deal very effectively, but discursively, with matters of ethical thinking, civic virtue and values, constitutional principles, democracy, controversial issues, and the role of religion in history. The final three characteristics have to do with critical thinking, lively teaching methods, and active student participation in school and community service programs. Again, the same general order is followed in the 15 criteria listed at the end of the Framework to assist teachers and curriculum committees in evaluating textbooks and curriculum materials for use in the schools. The criterion of dealing with ethical issues is eighth, of civic values and democratic institutions is tenth, and of commitment to civic values (patriotism) is thirteenth.

In general, then, I believe that the ingredients for improved civic learning are present in the 1987 Framework. The question, however, is what teachers and students will make of them. Much will depend on the perspectives and theoretical frames of reference that teachers bring to the task. To promote the development of such perspectives is my main reason for writing this book. I believe the 1987 Framework splendidly emphasizes the values of diversity, pluralism, and multiculturalism. Over and over again, it indicates where special attention should be given to women, blacks, American Indians, and other minorities in the United States and around the world. Another real gain, to my mind, is the repeated effort to highlight the attention that should be given to the role of public education in history and in democratic society, a topic seldom dealt with in teaching high school history or social studies.

But, still, I must say that the 1987 Framework could have been stronger and more emphatic on what Thomas Bender called the "central institutions of society, of the state and of civic or public culture." It has done exceedingly well in arguing for more attention to social groups and diversity in society. Now, the next step for history teaching, as for history writing, is to reclaim "the public realm, where groups interact to make a national politics and culture, as the central territory of history."

A Framework designed to give guidance for the six years from 1987 to 1992 embraces the Bicentennial years from 1987 to the end of 1991. I believe it missed an opportunity to reinforce the "history and civics lesson" that Chief Justice Burger and the U.S. Bicentennial Commission have been urging upon us. I deal with that point in the next chapter, but my general point is made even more timely and urgent by the events of the summer and fall of 1987. The Congressional hearings on the Iran-Contra affair during the summer and the hearings on the appointment of Judge Robert H. Bork to the Supreme Court in the fall raised once again questions concerning what should be taught in the schools about our common civic values. There is a monumental task ahead to give meaning, life, and vitality to these ideas as students and teachers seek to find their way through the mountains of facts, information, and knowledge projected in even the best of curriculum guidelines.

For more than 200 years the basic values of political democracy have been proclaimed, applauded, and debated. Assertions range from the most eloquent and persuasive statements in the English language to endless pedantic and trite mouthings. Yet, when crises arise or fundamental decisions are made, certain key concepts emerge that lay claim to the beliefs, commitments, loyalties, and actions of American citizens. I believe that the basic ideas or value-oriented claims set forth in the California Framework of 1981 could well be used as an intellectual framework for designing civic education programs for the schools. They are familiar but they are fundamental. Too much has been thought and said over too long a period of time to make any claim for their originality. And they are complex; each value often elicits wide differences of interpretation. There is a continuing tension, often overt conflict, between these values of Unum and the values of Pluribus, but I believe that programs of civic education must, just as American democracy must, try to balance, honor, and promote both.

As a whole, the concepts set forth in the 1981 California Framework and in Chapter Four of this book represent the kinds of civic values that I believe schools should seek to exemplify in their whole operation as well as in their teaching and curriculum. As "values" they are not lists of "competencies" or specific goals of behavior. They are, rather, conceptions of the desirable elements in our political system that could be used as criteria by which particular competencies or specific goals of behaviors may be selected and practiced. To put it another way, I believe that those in charge of designing curriculums in history as well as in the other social studies should re-examine the elements of their programs to determine to what extent they incorporate these values in their textbooks, instructional materials, learning activities, and governance practices.

It will be obvious that these are normative concepts, each with extensive histories of scholarly analysis and controversial interpretation whether in the humanities, the law, or the socialsocial sciences because they are also the very stuff of practical political life and public affairs, I believe that schools should confront these concepts directly, explicitly, and critically, in ways appropriate to the age and capacity of students. They are not the "new" social science concepts of "role," "status," "stratification," "socialization," "political culture," "decision-making," and the like, as behavioral political scientists or sociologists might prefer. Nor are they couched in the terms of the personal moral qualities of character (such as persistence, tact, self-reliance, generosity, or hard work) that some parents might prefer. But they do appear in the highest reaches of political discourse and Jurisprudence as well as in the ordinary language of governance in schools and communities, in political discussions and campaigns, and in the proceedings of courts, hearings, grievance committees, and policy councils. These concepts require nothing less than a lifetime of consideration if they are to become more than sunshine symbols or crisis crutches.

Such ideas and values as these are not discrete or mutually exclusive; some often conflict with others; and all are subject to many different interpretations, as all really important ideas are. What some may view as corruptions, others may view as true forms. But I believe they exemplify the kinds of ideas that should be uppermost in any efficacious program of civic education. I would not argue for a particular order of priority in pedagogical treatment. Some teachers, some schools, some systems may well start at different points or even with different words for the concepts, depending upon their sense of fitness for the local situation, but it seems to me that a full-fledged acknowledgment of the civic role of education will lead to a consideration of them all–at major points in the school's program–and in relation to each other.

I have no illusions that such a formulation will have universal appeal in the profession or in the public, but I would argue that these concepts more nearly define a revitalized civic education than do the laundry lists of "traits" or "competencies" so often listed by professional educators in curriculum guides. And I believe the proper civic mission of education is to stress those civic values that bind us together in a democratic political community rather than the "traditional moral values" that are mentioned in the public statements of advocates of particular personal life-styles or religious persuasions. The "traditional values" that schools should promote are the common cioic vacivicthat underlie our democratic constitutional order. The morality of citizenship should be the central theme.

From the founding of the Republic, civic education has been a mandate for public education; civic education is the main business of public education. History and the humanities are essential to that business. Charles Frankel once described it this way:

In every generation in which the humanities have shown vitality, they... have performed an essential public, civic, educational function: the criticism and reintegration of the ideas and values of cultures dislocated from their traditions and needing a new sense of meaning.  67 
I believe that Frankel's statement about the humanities applies equally to the task that lies before the whole academic community and the educational profession, namely, to engage in thoroughgoing study of the traditional values that underlie our common civic life; and to reintegrate those ideas and values into a new, defensible, normative vision of American citizenship for the decades that lie beyond the bicentennials of the framing and adoption of the Constitution and Bill of Rights.

This requires the most exhaustive and continuing kind of self-study through professional meetings, commissions, and academic courses; but also a concerted series of discussions, seminars, and national commissions which will enlist the support of those public groups and voluntatvoluntaryations with the welfare of public schools at heart. This is not a task for the educational profession to undertake in isolation from the public, but it is one in which the profession and the academic community should take the lead. Many public interest associations are already in place for such collaboration. Two newly-formed coalitions of national organizations seem particularly appropriate: The Council for the Advancement of Citizenship and the Domestic Policy Association.

The time is ripe for renewed efforts along these lines. What is called for is a frankly normative analysis of moral and philosophical assumptions that could become the basis of a common framework of civic ideals and that could bind together the nation's diverse racial, ethnic, religious, political, and economic interests. This formulation of a defensible normative vision of American citizenship could be the basis of a variety of programs of civic education in the coming decades. This is not an appropriate task to leave solely to agencies of government, for fear of political or partisan indoctrination. It is not appropriate to be left to voluntary groups organized to promote special economic or political interests, nor to research think­tanks that favor "value-free" empirical research or that push monolithic ideological views. It should not be left to sectarian religious, ethnic, or social groups, nor to the press, to the media, or to the commentators.

Such groups, of course, will continue making their special claims for particular social, civic, or moral values, as they are, and should be, free to do. But what is needed is a sustained effort by outstanding public leaders, scholars, and teachers in the humanities, in the social sciences, and in the law to state explicitly and persuasively what American citizenship should mean during the coming decades, and what schools, colleges, universities, and teacher education institutions can and should be doing about it. This would involve not only the most fundamental consideration concerning the kind of society and world we face in fact, but also the kind of society and world we would like to bring about as the United States enters its third century. Thus far, no major group in the educational reform movement has undertaken this task.

As of this writing, it remains to be seen if any group will do so. The time was especially ripe at the end of 1987. At least three national projects were being envisioned to take a hard look at the future of the social studies field and history's place in it. As early as 1984 discussions were under way within the counsels of the American Historical Association regarding the establishment of a new National Commission on the Social Studies. In fact, the Council of AHA approved unanimously the appointment of such a commission whose purpose would be "to survey, as did the Committee of Seven, the current situation regarding history in our high schools and proper standards for the training of high school history teachers."  68 

These were the words of the outgoing president of AHA, Arthur S. Link, who had devoted his presidential address to the subject. Thereafter, the AHA was loined bjoinedNational Council for the Social Studies, the Organization of American Historians, and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching in sponsoring the Commission. Three co­chairs were appointed: Link, professor of history at Princeton and editor of the Woodrow Wilson papers; Ernest L. Boyer, president of the Carnegie Foundation; and Donald H. Bragaw, former president of NCSS. By the time of the first meeting of the 40-member Commission in November 1987 it consisted of representatives from the several social sciences as well as history, social studies professionals, and members from government and public education. Some 80 professional and academic organitaorganizationsdged cooperation. Clearly, this was intended to be a fundamental effort to reexamine the entire social studies curriculum in elementary and secondary schools.  69 

Toward the end of 1987 two other projects were announced with ap- pa t hat different agendas. Both were to concentrate on the teaching of history in the schools. One was a follow-up of Lynne Cheney's critique of history teaching in her American Memory. The National Endowment for the Humanities announced plans to fund a new research center to consider what history should be taught in elementary and secondary schools. In March 1988 the N.E.H. awarded $1.5 million to establish the center at UCLA. Charlotte Crabtree, the director, stated that the California Framework of 1987 may become the model for the center's work.  70 

The other project, linked to the Educational Excellence Network, will concentrate on the teaching of history in the K-12 curriculum. The Bradley Commission on History in Schools includes schoolteachers of history as well as such prominent university historians as Gordon Craig of Stanford, Nathan L. Huggins of Harvard, Michael Kammen of Cornell, William E. Leuchtenberg of North Carolina, Leon F. Litwack of Berkeley, William H. McNeill of Chicago, and C. Vann Woodward of Yale. Kenneth T. Jackson of Columbia is chairman of the panel, and Paul A. Gagnon will write the final report. Hazel Whitman Hertzberg of Teachers College, Columbia University and William H. McNeill were the only persons to be named to both commissions.  71 

How each of these projects will fare in the competition for the attention of teachers, textbook writers and publishers, curriculum planners in the schools, boards of education, and legislatures remains to be seen. Above all, in my view, how will citizenship and civic values fare? Will one or more of these projects try to reinstate the intellectual goals of the Committee of Ten, or the Committee of Seven, or perhaps bring up to speed the conclusions and recommendations of the AHA's Commission on the Social Studies of the 1930s? Will they confront the "public, civic, educational function" of history, the humanities, and the social sciences?

Teaching Civic Values Through History

What does all this say about what history should we teach in the public schools? It calls for greater attention to two kinds of linkages: (1) making more explicit the connection of the past with the present by stressing, even requiring, sustained study of the historical origins and present meaning of such civic ideas as have been cited in the 1981 and 1987 California Frameworks, and (2) making more explicit the connection between the historical study of such civic values and the present realities of students' concerns and interests. Both kinds of linkages could be strengthened and enlivened by study of those basic constitutional ideas and principles involved in past and recent Supreme Court cases and in legislative proposals that directly affect the educational policies and activities of students and teachers.

Take, for example, the several contemporary controversies over the separation of church and state. This, one of the oldest and most complex issues, was involved in the very founding of the American colonies and states, in the framing of the federal Constitution, in establishing a common public school system, and in the continuing viability of a pluralist democratic society. Students, teachers, administrators, and politicians are woefully weak in their historical understanding of what constitutional principles and values are at stake in organized prayers, or Bible reading, or the Ten Commandments, or Christmas pageants in public schools or public places. We have had recurring political battles over religious issues ever since the debates over the framing of the First Amendment nearly 200 years ago, but never more rancorous or persistent as in the past few decades when they became directly involved in educational policies and practices.

After long Congressional wrangling, the efforts to amend the Constitution to permit organized prayers in the public schools were diverted into passage of the Equal Access Act in August 1984. This requires local public schools to permit student groups to hold discussions (outside of regular classroom hours) on "religious, political, philosophical, or other matters," if the school receives federal funds and has created a limited open forum for student activities. Since such discussions are to be in student hands, not under guidance of teachers or public authorities, who will undertake the serious study of the historical origins of the relevant constitutional principles? Will classroom history teaching deal with such issues, or will it avoid them and become even more bland or remote from the practical arenas where civic virtues or civic vices are being molded? Will the teachers of history take seriously Jefferson's hope that history can qualify citizens as "judges of the actions and designs" of their rulers?

The converse of the conflicts over religious instruction in the public schools is the long-running battle over the use of public funds for private and religious schools. This issue goes back at least 50 years, to the Cochran case of 1930, and especially to the Everson case of 1947. It involves the original meaning of the "establishment" clause of the First Amendment, the meaning of which itself goes back more than 200 years. The contemporary versions have to do with tuition tax credits or vouchers to aid parents to send their children to religious schools. By and large, the Supreme Court has tended to hold to a wavering line against myriad efforts to channel tax funds into private schools. In 1983, however, the Court upheld state tax credits in Minnesota on the grounds that applying them to public as well as to private school expenses would avoid violating the establishment clause. (For detailed examples of historical debates over the establishment clause, see Chapter Two.)

At almost the same time, the Supreme Court held that tax exemption was not appropriate for religious educational institutions that discriminated against black students, even though the administrators of these schools argued that their religious convictions required them to discriminate. Here was a fascinating complex of constitutional issues involving questions of justice, freedom, equality, diversity, and due process, involving both the First and Fourteenth Amendments.

And, of course, the interpretation of the Fourteenth Amendment's equal protection clause has had a tortured history from the early 1950s through the Brown case in 1954, the civil rights acts of the 1960s, and right down to the Civil Rights Act of 1984. Even though desegregation mandates requiring busing did not directly affect most American students, affirmative action mandates for equality in women's sports, more flexible admission standards for minorities, and competency tests that allegedly discriminate against minority students and teachers did come close to home for many millions of students. Again, nearly all the civic values and democratic beliefs listed in the California 1981 Framework are at stake here. These issues call for much greater historical treatment if wise political Judgments are to surmount sheer advocacy for special interests.

The range of contemporary controversies that affect education in one way or another and that should be viewed with greater historical perspective indudeincludesefforts of certain groups to censor textbooks for classroom use and limit what books should be in the school library; the rights of children of illegal aliens to a public education; creationism versus evolution in science teaching; the constitutionality of the draft registration act and of compulsory attendance laws; state certification of private school teachers; and state regulation of curriculum requirements in private schools. And, even if none of these issues sparks the interest of the students, the question of the privacy of student lockers and purses (suspected by teachers or principals of containing illegal drugs) would certainly lead some students to be interested in their constitutional rights, if not their civic obligations.

And, finally, if the issues of religion and politics as they touch on such matters as abortion and homosexuality are too explosive for the serious, scholarly, classroom study of their legal and constitutional implications, then teachers and students might ponder together the ruling of a federal Judge in September 1984 that Brown County (Illinois) High School officials violated the civil rights of a pregnant student by expelling her from the school's chapter of the National Honor Society.  72  What a web of "traditional values" and "educational excellence" that situation reveals.

I am, of course, not arguing that U.S. history courses be given over to discussion of the whole range of contemporary issues or current events. Rather, I would argue that there are plenty of current issues that could profitably be approached through fundamental historical study of constitutional principles, especially those that directly affect the rights and obligations of students and teachers under the First, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments. And these cannot be adequately understood in isolation from political, social, and cultural history in general.

I am arguing for greater attention to the role of history in developing an intellectual frame of reference whereby students will be better prepared to make the political Judgments necessary for preserving and strengthening such civic values as those set forth in the CalifomCaliforniameworks and in Chapter Four hereafter. In this way the teacher of 10th grade World History could anticipate the U.S. History and GovemmeGovernments lying ahead; the teacher of 1lth grade U.S. History could build upon the 10th grade World History and anticipate the Government/Civics course to come; and the 12th grade teacher of Government/Civics could draw upon and deepen the concepts and values studied in the earlier history courses.

The basic idea is to find a way to connect and integrate the social studies as a whole. Such a framework of common civic concegtconceptsmes could provide a coherent bridge among grade levels as well as a meaningful connection among the subject matters of history, the humanities, and the social sciences, which together make up the scholarly foundations for the so- cial studies. Such a frame of reference could not only provide useful criteria for selecting topics and subject matter to be studied, but also the stress on civic values would reaffirm the overall civic mission of public education. Rather than trying to compromise with or bow to the strongest of the conflicting private religious and moral values that are so much on the agenda of particular organized campaigns, teaching in history and the social studies should concentrate on the effort to form the political judgment of the citizenry through the serious study of the common civic values of the democratic constitutional order. This is the modern educational road to civic virtue envisaged by the founders.

But this goal will not be achieved unless students are required throughout the middle and high school years to encounter the basic civic values upon which our democratic constitutional system rests. Sustained study of the idea of citizenship, based upon scholarly knowledge and searching criticism, could provide a perspective and frame of reference by which teachers and curriculum makers could select pertinent material from the almost limitless resources of the humanities and social sciences. From Graeco-Roman times through the modem revolutions in Europe and America to the present-day aspirations and struggles of the Third World, the theme of citizenship–revealing the varying ideas, values, and practices of the past and present and the struggles to expand, limit, or deny it in democratic and non-democratic regimes–could provide a meaningful coherence and integration to the entire social studies curriculum.

Such an outcome will depend not only on what teachers and students in the schools attempt to do but also on the way historians write and teach history. I was enormously heartened by what Carl Degler, Stanford's U.S. historian, was saying to his fellow historians as he concluded his year as president of the American Historical Association in 1986. He argued, somewhat as Thomas Bender had, that the valuable contributions of recent research in social history still need to be related to some central themes or a coherent framework:

Our ethnic, racial, and religious diversity helps define us as a people, but diversity, by its centrifugal nature, threatens continually to attenuate, even to dissolve, the identity it helped to define. To shape our past around the ways in which we differ from other peoples will assist us in articulating what it means to be an American. Finally, in pursuing our historical identity, we obtain a framework that can encompass and integrate the new knowledge Qameredgarneredhe explosion of research in the last two decades. This pursuit will gain for us a history that is distinctively American, not simply because it happened to us, but because it did not happen to others.  73 
I could not agree more heartily with his proposal:

I am recommending that we begin to shape our presentation of American history around the question, "What does it mean to be an American, that is, a citizen of the United States?"  74 
I believe that his view of history would find a particularly hospitable reception among those following the new syllabuses prepared by the New York State Education Department for the social studies courses in grades 7-12. In the very first substantive paragraph of the Introduction, appearing in every syllabus for the six years of social studies, the citizenship theme is the clear, explicit, and overriding goal:

The principles of a democratic system should serve as organizing ideas for the sodal ssocials program and for student learning. The development of civic values consistent with life in a democratic system is an overriding goal of the entire program. The values at the base of our democratic system include justice, a belief in the dignity of the individual, responsibility of the individual to others and to the community, rule by the will of the majority with respect for the rights of the minority, respect for the rights of others, appreciation of the achievements of diverse cultures and individuals and participation off all persons in government. In dealing with the specifics of the syllabus and in planning the curriculum which implements it, the development of these values should be a constant goal.  75 
Not only is this general theme stated for all six years of mandated social studies in the secondary school curriculum, but also each syllabus identifies 15 recurring concepts that can be treated at appropriate points in the outline of contents. At least half of these "Main Ideas" could fairly be called "civic values:"

The New York State syllabuses are much more detailed and lengthy than the frameworks or guidelines developed in many other state systems of public education. They are the bases upon which the state examination system is administered under the supervision of the Board of Regents. The key concepts are to give continuity to the entire social studies curriculum, which now includes:

Beginning in 1988 the above courses for grades 9 through 12 are required for high school graduation, namely four years of social studies.

There is, of course, a great deal of ongoing debate among educational professionals regarding the role of state authorities in defining the goals of public education, the content of the curriculum, the adoption of textbooks, and the testing of student achievement. But the fact is that state curriculum frameworks are becoming increasingly important and influential as guidelines for local curriculum-makers and for textbook-writers. There are at least 23 "state adoption" states in which textbooks are selected from lists approved at the state level. Among these, California, New York, Texas, Florida, and North Carolina are the most prominent.

Amidst the clamor for reform of education, the development of civic teaching and learning must proceed with utmost care and scholarship in order to take seriously the stated civic goals while avoiding politicization by special interest groups of a public nature as well as aggrandizement by special interest groups within the profession itself.

Continue to Chapter 2

54. Gordon Wright, "History as Moral Science," American Historical Review, February 1976, pp. 9-11.  back 

55. William H. McNeill, "History for Citizens," AHA Newsletter, March 1976, pp. 4-6.  back 

56. Paul L. Murphy, "The Obligations of American Citizenship: A Historical Perspective," The Journal of Teacher Education, November/December 1983, p.10.  back 

57. Thomas Bender, "Making History Whole Again," The New York Times Book Review, October 6, 1985, p. 1.  back 

58. Ibid., p. 42.  back 

59. Ibid., p. 43.  back 

60. Thomas Bender, "Wholes and Parts: The Need for Synthesis in American Histoty," Journal of American History, June 1986, p. 125.  back 

61. Ibid., p. 132.  back 

62. Frances FitzGerald, America Revised (Boston: Little, Brown, 1979); Henry Perkinson, review of "Historical Inquiry in Education," in Educational Studies, Winter, 1983, pp. 321-326; and History of Citizen Education Colloquium (Philadelphia, Pa.: Research for Better Schools, Inc., Winter 1978).  back 

63. See, e.g., Michael W. Apple, Education and Power (Boston: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1982); Stanley Aronowitz and Henry Giroux, Education Under Siege (South Hadley, Mass.: Bergin and Garvey, 1985); and George H. Wood, "Action for Democratic Action," Issues in Education, Winter 1986, pp. 287-300.  back 

64. California Framework for History-Social Science, 1981, pp. 7-8.  back 

65. History-Social Science Framework for California Public Schools, Kindergarten Through Grade Twelve (Sacramento: California State Department of Education, 1988), p. 10. Draft adopted by State Board of Education, July 10, 1987. Diane Ravitch of Teachers College and Charlotte Crabtree of UCLA were the principal writers of the final document; Matthew Downey of UC Berkeley compiled the first draft.  back 

66. Ibid., p. 20.  back 

67. Charles Frankel, "The Academy Enshrouded," Change, December 1977, p. 64.  back 

68. Arthur S. Link, "The American Historical Association 1884-1984: Retrospect and Prospect," American Historical Review, February 1985, p. 12.  back 

69. For final membership of the Commission and its activities, address Fay D. Metcalf, executive director, National Commission on Social Studies, 3501 Newark Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20016.  back 

70. Announcement in Education Week, October 7, 1987; and The New York Times, March 23, 1988.  back 

71. Announcement in Education Week, October 21, 1987.  back 

72. Wort v. Vierling, 778 F2nd 1233.  back 

73. Carl Degler, "In Pursuit of an American History," American Historical Review, February 1987, p. 12.  back 

74. Ibid., p. 2.  back 

75. See, e.g., Social Studies 11: United States History and Government; Tentative Syllabus (Albany, N.Y.: New York State Education Department, 1987), p.l.  back 

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