July 21, 2003
historians on the civic ed. billThis is from the National Coalition for History (NCH) Washington update:
We now have some additional information and some troubling news ... The Senate appropriations committee recommends a program increase of $15 million specifically for the President Bush's "We the People" initiative [to promote the teaching of history and civics in schools]. While at first the increase might appear to be a cause for celebration, the committee failed to embrace the administration's recommendation of $25 million and it made it clear that it wants the final design of the NEH's "We the People" initiative to reflect "congressional priorities" -- meaning pending legislation (S. 504) sponsored by Senator Lamar Alexander -- the "American History and Civics Education Act of 2003" -- that recently passed the Senate 90-0 and is currently pending in the House.
For what little it's worth, I have endorsed the Alexander bill, which would mainly create summer academies for teachers and students. However, it would be troubling if the necessary money came straight out of the NEH budget.
According to the NCH, some in the "history community ...
point out that the Alexander bill is heavily loaded with what is characterized
as 'value-laden concepts,' thus raising concerns about 'the politicization of
the teaching of history.'" The ideal of value-free history is dubious, for
both epistemological and moral reasons. However, I can see the historians' point
that it is dangerous for Congress to mandate particular values in the teaching
of history. At least, this should be done carefully and with public debate. I
also think that there is a difference between "civics" (which ought
to be heavily value-laden) and history (which needs to be more "objective").
This difference makes it problematic to lump history and civics together in the
same federal program with the same authorizing language.
Posted by peterlevine at July 21, 2003 03:53 PM
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