historians on the civic ed. bill

This 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.