Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Teaching the 20th-Century History of the United States.

Teaching the 20th-Century History of the United States. This essay reviews ways that teachers can teach about the 20th Century in class.

From the site:

It is important to reaffirm the teaching of recent United States history in secondary schools. Diane Ravitch and Chester E. Finn (1987, 84) state this well: "If we think it important that they [17-year-old students of 1986] understand the three decades between the Second World War and their own sixth birthdays [in 1975], we cannot expect this instructional job to be done for them by the daily newspapers or the nightly news; we have to teach this period as the history that it now is." Unfortunately, there are several obstacles to teaching this period of history, including time constraints, student apathy for the subject, and limited help from textbooks.

This ERIC Digest (1) examines the coverage of 20th-century United States history; (2) discusses the consequences of limited coverage for student learning; (3) provides ideas on improvement of teaching and learning 20th-century United States history; and (4) lists ERIC resources dealing with all these facets of the topic.


Most students study U.S. history in the 8th and 11th grades. The study of U.S. history tends to remain at these grades in the reform reports, including the HISTORY-SOCIAL SCIENCE FRAMEWORK FOR CALIFORNIA PUBLIC SCHOOLS, the recommendations of the Bradley Commission on Teaching History in Schools, and the findings of the National Commission on Social Studies in the Schools, reported in CHARTING A COURSE.

The California Framework clearly divides United States history into two separate, yet linked courses. In the 8th grade, students study the Constitution to World War I, followed in the 11th grade with a continuation, focusing primarily on 20th-century United States history, following a required review of the previous course. One of the Bradley Commission's recommendations is that 8th-grade students study United States history through the Civil War and 11th-grade students continue the study of United States history after 1865. The National Commission on Social Studies in the Schools report, CHARTING A COURSE, suggests 8th-grade students study the United States, with a world view, and in the 11th grade, students concentrate on world and American history and geography since 1900.

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