The History of History

The History of History

THE SOURCE: “History’s Struggle to Survive in the Schools” by Diane Ravitch, in OAH Magazine of History, April 2007.

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It’s easy to imagine that American children in some golden period of the last century got a thorough grounding in history. They didn’t. The subject came to the U.S. high school curriculum in the late 19th century, bloomed swiftly, then declined precipitously. Only now is it making a slow recovery from the dark days of the 1930s to the 1980s, writes historian Diane Ravitch of New York University.

History entered high school alongside science as a “modern” subject in the 1880s. For more than four decades schools tended to offer a Eurocentric course that started with ancient times, focusing on the Greeks and Romans, and moved through medieval and some modern history. But as the curriculum grew, leading educators became alarmed about the helter-skelter increase in courses. In 1893 came the first in a series of prestigious commissions to guide the nation’s schools toward a goal that remains elusive today: a core curriculum.

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