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From the AHA Activities column in the April 2001 Perspectives

Teaching Division's VP Calls for Participation in New History Education Program

William A. Weber, April 2001

Dear History Educator:

I write as vice president of the AHA's Teaching Division to tell you about a program announced by the U.S. Department of Education that will interest you greatly.

Last July, as the Senate version of the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education appropriation bill (H.R. 4577) was being finished, Senator Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) wrote in an amendment that $50 million be given to develop, implement, and strengthen programs that teach American history (not social studies) as a separate subject within school curricula. The conferees from the two houses of Congress accepted the amendment, adding that this would be a new demonstration program by which the secretary of education will make awards to teach American history as a separate subject within school curricula (and not as a part of a social studies course). The full text of the amendment may be found in the fiscal 2001 Department of Education appropriation (see NCC Washington Update, 6:45, December 21, 2000, on NCC's H-Net web site at the address given below).

On January 26, 2001, representatives of the historical and humanities community met with Senator Byrd's staff and Department of Education officials to discuss implementation of the $50 million appropriation. Attending the meetings—(facilitated by the National Coordinating Committee for the Promotion of History (NCC)—were Bruce Craig, director of the NCC; Cathy Gorn, executive director of National History Day; John Hammer, executive director of the National Humanities Alliance; Kenneth T. Jackson, president of the Organization of American Historians; Arnita A. Jones, executive director of the AHA; and Gail Leftwich, president of the Federation of State Humanities Councils.

What was gleaned from the two meetings was that grant funds would be channeled from the Department of Education to "local educational agencies" (LEAs) through a competitive grant program. A "Request for Proposals" from LEAs and/or their partners will likely be announced in April or early May. Project-supported requests would be required to benefit history education at the elementary and secondary school levels. To this end, we hope LEAs will be encouraged to "partner" with university departments of history, national historical organizations, museums, historical societies, and other educational institutions and organizations in an effort to advance a wide variety of history enhancement programs, including teacher education and professional development. Such institutions can initiate the grant proposals in partnership with LEAs. Grant applications will be assessed through a peer-review process. While the maximum size of an individual grant has not yet been decided, projects in all likelihood will be permitted to be implemented over a three-year period. Additional information will become available as soon as the Department of Education has a web page up and running regarding the grant program.

As you can see, this program has great potential to benefit the field of history teaching. It can help bring content and pedagogy closer together, enabling teachers to expand their knowledge while finding better ways to teach it. A whole host of history education programs have been tilling these fields for some time, and the legislation will provide new resources with which to do it.

It is vital that school districts and history organizations immediately begin thinking about how they might make proposals. The AHA is eager to help educators at all levels to take full advantage of this unique opportunity. Under the vice presidency of my predecessor, Leon Fink, the Teaching Division developed a web site on collaborative programs in history education across the country, between schools, universities, museums, and historical organizations. It will now work to help further such partnerships within the new legislation.

Updates on the administration of the fund will be made by Bruce Craig on the H-Net distribution list for NCC reports, at h-ncc@h-net.msu.edu. The web pages on history collaboratives developed by the AHA are to be found at http://www.historians.org/teaching/collaboratives/index.cfm. A web page on the new federal program will be developed soon and its address will be posted on the AHA web site. In the mean time, information on the program can be obtained by sending an e-mail message to teachingamericanhistory@ed.gov, indicating your name, address, and institutional affiliation in the message body.

—William A. Weber (California State Univ. at Long Beach) is the vice president of the AHA's Teaching Division.