Teachers not Preachers: Teaching U.S. History amid Civic Divisions



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This study analyzes 20 long-form interviews with public high school history teachers to explore how they teach about anti-Black racism, slavery, and racial inequality amid public contention. Previous research on how teachers respond to curricular challenges shows that educators bend little to the concerns of outsiders. This is borne out in the current research which finds that U.S. history teachers have a shared identity that informs a focus on learning goals for students and the logistical constraints of teaching in public schools. There is evidence of regional divisions between history teachers in northern and southern states, but there are also crosscutting complexities that complicate these divisions. In fact, across a range of differences such as urban rural location and the racial and ethnic composition of schools, teachers bend as little as possible to conservative critics. When we include teachers’ voices in current debates about U.S. history, we discover a vast divide between the practical, on-the-ground concerns of teachers and the ideological concerns which non-educators espouse. The interviewed teachers try to operate above the political fray. This is important because U.S. history teachers collectively have agency and can shape historical discourse and national knowledge.



sociology, education, curricular challenge, U.S. history, 1619 Project