Eighteen ninety-two was a presidential election year, and the exchanges between Grover Cleveland and Benjamin Harrison, which were notably superficial and sometime unsavory, avoided most of the toughest questions facing Americans at the time. Perhaps it was no accident, then, that at year's end the illustrious Committee of Ten's subcommittee on history (including Woodrow Wilson) proclaimed the need for all high school students, whether or not they were college-bound, to take four years of history courses about America and the outside world. Why? The study of history, they said, best prepared the student to exert 'a salutary influence upon the affairs of this country,' because it best promoted 'the invaluable mental power which we call judgement.'
With the new focus on data collection, measuring student progress, and surveying students, it seems as though our roles as teachers have greatly diminished. Our careers are being redefined as if we were polling an electorate to see what issues will win votes or trying to justify our jobs on a daily basis to make sure our positions in front of a classroom will still be there tomorrow. With the pressure placed on educators where every lesson has been deemed a matter of life or death by having to tie it to some standard or standardized test or incorporating something to make sure a box is checked, it is no wonder why new teachers are failing to see the forest through the trees and why so many new educators leave the profession within a few short years. Teachers need to think of themselves as professionals – in every sense of the word.
The National Council for History Education seeks to enhance the teaching and learning of history by ensuring that teachers and students have enough time to explore the discipline. In practical terms, this means that education policy makers must place a greater emphasis on historical thinking at early grade levels, continue this emphasis through middle and high school, draw upon history as an integrating discipline, and recognize historical thinking as a fundamental element of engaged citizenship.
The National Council for History Education recognizes that teachers are professionals who appreciate opportunities to hone their craft throughout the duration of their career. As committed advocates for the teaching and learning of history, NCHE readily connects all teachers with diverse resources that will improve their students' understanding of the study of history and strengthen students' historical literacy.