The National Council for History Education is a non-profit corporation whose Board of Trustees is dedicated to promoting the importance of history in schools and in society. The Council is supported by the contributions of individuals and organizations. NCHE links history in the schools with many activities sponsored by state and local organizations. We provide a communications network for all advocates of history education, whether in schools, colleges, museums, historical councils, or community groups.
For more information read our mission statement below.
All who teach history, anywhere along the line from Grade One to graduate seminars, have a friend: the National Council for History Education, founded in 1990 as the successor organization to the Bradley Commission on History in Schools. Until then, we had no equivalent to the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, the National Council for Geographic Education, or the other discipline-based advocacy groups that bring school and university people together to tackle all the issues that concern them--from curricular design, K to Ph.D., through state, local, and university standards and requirements, teacher education, certification, and professional development, to the implications of the assessment movement, of new technologies, and of school re-structuring.
Each of these issues was directly addressed in 1988 by the 32-page Bradley Commission report, Building a History Curriculum: Guidelines for Teaching History in Schools (revised 2nd Edition © 2000). Each has become more urgent, carrying all kinds of chances for good or bad outcomes, with the emergence of GOALS 2000, the governors' National Educational Goals Panel, the National Council on Standards and Testing, and the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. Add to these the recurrent American love affair with math, science, technology, and "job-training" as quick fixes for the country's problems. And add on top the needless quarrels among ourselves over diversity vs. commonality, social vs. political, chronology vs. post-holing, "active" vs. "passive" learning, and we historians have, as they say, a full plate before us.
The special prescience of the Bradley Commission on all of these questions was largely due to its diverse membership: historians and classroom teachers of so many different backgrounds, persuasions, and professional experiences. Its special, overriding message, repeated by the National Commission on the Social Studies in its 1989 report, Charting a Course, was the need for much more time in the social studies curriculum, to liberate teachers to offer a better kind of history.
More time, of course, cures nothing by itself, though our opponents love to pretend we think so and that all we want is to force helpless students to "memorize more facts". What, in fact, we do think is what every teacher already knows: that more time is plainly indispensable to learning better history. So what exactly is the "new" and better history that justifies fundamental changes in the conventional social studies curriculum, and probably even bigger changes in the graduate and undergraduate education of those who teach history at any level?
The National Council for History Education, carrying the message from the Bradley Commission and the National Commission on the Social Studies, is pressing for all teachers to be given the chance to offer the sort of history that only a minority have been lucky enough to offer up to now, in courses that:
1. combine an analytical, chronological narrative with frequent pauses for studies in depth, neither of which can do without the insights of the other.
2. deal constantly with the relation between fact and concept, neither of which educates without the other.
3. carry significant, compelling themes and questions from the start of United States and world history down to the present day, frequently responding to the students' challenge: "So what?"
4. demonstrate the interdependence of history and the social sciences, by teaching the concepts of the latter in dramatic historical context.
5. demonstrate the interdependence of history and the humanities, by concurrent studies of literature, philosophy, and the arts.
6. are pluralist, multicultural, inclusive of people of all kinds and conditions in whatever society is under study.
7. provide a sophisticated understanding of the origins, the advances and defeats, the worldwide adventures of the democratic ideas that bind us together as one people.
8. offer many chances for active learning, inquiry and the development of critical, historical habits of the mind.
9. are taught by a wide diversity of pedagogical methods, of the teacher's own choice and design.
On this broad ground, all but a few of those who debate the history/social studies curriculum can come together. Who can still pretend that single-year United States or world history courses, madly rushing from the Ice Age to the Spring prom, allow teachers to do these things? Only more time will let us sweep aside the false conflicts between multicultural and a common civic education, between "memorized" and "issue-oriented" history, between "elite" political history and "egalitarian" social history. And on current issues, only more time can let teachers make clear, for example, that most of the nation's ills are rooted in historical choices and priorities, not to be waved away by a little more math and "work-related" schooling. The National Council for History Education, then, bases its campaign for history on the recommendations of the Bradley and National Commissions. The Council is eager to collaborate with anyone promoting the cause of history. But it is the only comprehensive national organization forthrightly arguing for history as the continuing core of the social studies throughout the grades, integrated with geography and civic instruction, as is the case in other modern democratic nations. We intend to campaign for this in every state and school district in the country.
We believe that the social sciences and current issues, both domestic and global, are best studied in historical context and perspective. We believe that historical study is the precondition for intelligent political and personal judgment and that, in turn, such judgment is the absolute precondition for the political power of the citizen, and the private self-fulfillment of the person. Familiar notions, no doubt, but their implications call for a fundamental reordering of the American curriculum from grade school to graduate school.
It is the mission of the National Council for History Education to see that this happens--not as a top-down imposition, but out of the collaboration of scholars and teachers across all levels of schooling, working together as equals who educate each other at every step of the way.
In Support of History
- NCHE supports history as the core of the social studies in the schools and links it to many pro-history forces and organizations in the profession and the community. American children cannot afford to enter the 21st century ignorant of everything that preceded their own time and ignorant of the history and culture of other nations. An education in history prepares youngsters to understand not only their own society but other societies and civilizations around the world. - NCHE speaks vigorously to policy-makers about the importance of providing enough time in the curriculum for both world and U.S. history and adequate support for good teaching and materials. NCHE encourages regular communication between those who teach history in the schools and those who promote history in the community. - NCHE links history in the schools with many activities sponsored by state and local organizations. It provides a communications network for all advocates of history education, whether in schools, colleges, museums, historical societies, humanities councils, or community organizations. - NCHE membership consists of individuals, not organizations. Members include historians and history teachers, school administrators, authors, publishers, historical association and historical museum personnel, history buffs, in short, anyone who loves history.