August 7, 2006

A depressed AP history teacher?

Over at Revise and Dissent is Kevin Levin's description of an AP history workshop, wherein he learns how prepared the AP history teachers of next year truly are (not). I think Levin may be wrong in his interpretation of why many of his fellow teachers were unprepared—secondary history and social studies teachers in Virginia (PDF—see pp. 44-47) do not have a generic "education" degree but fulfill a major-or-hours requirement, where they either have a degree from an approved program, a major in history, or 18 hours in history. Bluefield College's history and social studies program may be fairly typical in having 10 courses in history, which is more than the 6-course "hours" requirement.

So social studies teachers in Virginia who don't go through alternative certification have some history (and more than a course or two). That means that the experience of such teachers with primary documents (what Kevin Levin wrote about) depends on whether history departments make sure that their survey courses use primary sources and require that their students write essays. It's entirely possible that someone could squeak by with a 'C' in all those courses and still not "get" an historian's perspective, but it would be made easier with no-primary-document survey courses.

No, I have no idea if there's any evidence on that question. I can tell you the answers for my own undergraduate institution (where primary sources were central to almost every course) and for my graduate education where I TA'd (where the U.S. history surveys generally eschewed primary sources in the late 1980s). But this question seems to me important in determining whether social studies teachers "get" history.

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Posted in Education policy on August 7, 2006 5:26 AM |