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ERIC Number: EJ868375
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2009-Nov
Pages: 6
Abstractor: ERIC
ISSN: ISSN-0018-2745
Using Philosophical Liberalism and Philosophical Conservatism as an Organizing Theme in the First Half of the American History Survey
Morris, Richard J.
History Teacher, v43 n1 p97-102 Nov 2009
Since approximately 1970, many historians have been seeking a unifying theme for the American History Survey. Early in the twentieth century, Progressive historians identified class conflict as the main theme in American History, but during the 1950s and 1960s, this view was challenged by the Consensus Schools' assertion that Americans have always agreed on certain fundamental principles such as popular government and the sanctity of private property. Yet the Consensus approach was stillborn when the new Social History's emphasis on minorities, and a changing social environment, revealed the limitations of the Consensus interpretation. Ultimately, many texts embodied elements of all three schools, which highlighted as a central theme a long-term movement to make American society more equal and inclusive. Interestingly, discussions on teaching American history indicate that, while historians assign texts that develop this new approach, few make this the focal point of their courses. Instead, instructors often emphasize other central themes in the classroom. Yet many believe that the attempt to impose any single pattern of development oversimplifies the past and others find the multicultural approach too value laden. Still, a unifying theme has its advantages. it provides direction and unity to a course, and it often helps make the past more understandable. History, after all is a process and not a series of random events. The author of this article suggests and describes an alternate theme---the philosophical liberalism and conservatism theme---that seems particularly useful today during an era of intense culture wars. He argues that not only does this theme create a unified course, it also broadens a curriculum that has become too narrow, and it provides perspective on the culture wars of the twenty-first century, helping students better understand the relationship between some of the major developments in the American past. This approach does not allow an instructor to address every issue that ought to be addressed in the first half of the survey, but it does illuminate many. No central theme will address all topics, and no sane person would wish to highlight the same theme on a daily basis. (Contains 3 notes.)
Society for History Education. California State University, Long Beach, 1250 Bellflower Boulevard, Long Beach, CA 90840-1601. Tel: 562-985-2573; Fax: 562-985-5431; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Opinion Papers; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A