HM - Dec. 2014 - Perrier

The History File

The NCHE, Globalization, and United States History

by Craig Perrier
Fairfax County Public Schools, VA

Recent trends have called for the “globalizing” of American education through twenty-first century teaching and learning.  These educational demands coincide with efforts in the history profession to internationalize the United States history survey course. Combined, these two paradigm shifts have generated demand to construct and teach histories that are rigorous and relevant to college and career readiness. Writing in Comparative Education,Dominic Sachsenmaier notes, “debates on how to internationalize or globalize historiography have greatly intensified. There is an effort to develop less western-centric narratives and to develop new, globally encompassing understandings of the past.” Globalizing history education, therefore, involves an “opening” of students’ conceptions of the past through expanded content, broader methodology, and units of analysis that go beyond the nation.
In 1637 Rene Descartes, writing in his famous and widely influential work Discourse on Method, made a claim which resonates with our contemporary, globalized educational landscape.  “It is useful to something of the manners of different nations that we may be enabled to form a more correct judgment regarding our own, and be prevented from thinking that everything contrary to our customs is ridiculous and irrational  – a conclusion usually come to by those whose experience has been limited to their own country.” Descartes’ call for a broader, global view need not be limited to students’ experiences on international trips and exchange programs.  In fact, history teachers who embrace a global perspective as part of their pedagogical content knowledge develop their students’ global competencies. For example, the ability to analyze and evaluate historical narratives empowers students to engage with information and contextualize it beyond the limits of national boundaries. 

One way to instill these habits-of-mind is through the efforts of educators to globalize United States history. Preparing students, however, first requires building teachers' capacity to make a global turn.  In short, providing content resources and highlighting instructional and assessment practices are essential in order to bring change in the classroom. The National Council for History Education and the Longview Foundation have partnered to develop professional development opportunities for pre-service teachers, and current teachers of United States history, including Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate courses. The project has produced five free, self-paced, online modules that span the twentieth century and are designed to build the capacity of U.S. history educators.  For each module a teacher completes, NCHE will provide a certificate that can be added to an educator’s portfolio.  Take a look at this screencast recording which summarizes the project’s features:

To summarize, globalizing U.S. history involves an opening of students' conceptions of the past   through expanded content, broader methodology, and units of analysis that go beyond the nation. Martin Luther King Jr. frequently broadened the context of his work by effectively framing the U.S. civil rights movement as an example of global human rights. In 1967, more than three centuries since Descartes’ global education sentiment, King delivered his “Christmas Sermon on Peace” at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia:
If we are to have peace on earth, our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Our loyalties must transcend our race, our tribe, our class, and our nation; and this means we must develop a world perspective. No individual can live alone; no nation can live alone, and as long as we try, the more we are going to have war in this world.

Preparing history teachers to globalize their curriculum will be integral to the success of their students in a world that is marked by interconnectedness. The NCHE project to globalize U.S. history provides tools teachers need to transform their instruction and ultimately prepare their students for success.