Democracy Denied: Learning to Teach History in Elementary School

By Slekar, Timothy D. | Teacher Education Quarterly, Winter 2009 | Go to article overview

Democracy Denied: Learning to Teach History in Elementary School


Slekar, Timothy D., Teacher Education Quarterly


Introduction

Although No Child Left Behind (NCLB) appears to disregard the teaching of social studies, it should not be assumed that teaching and learning in these content areas is of little importance. Prior to NCLB, discussions over social studies and history standards dominated the political and cultural landscapes. The eventual conclusion from the federal government was that the social studies devalued American history (Gibson, 1998; Vinson, 1999).

However, the sharp distinctions between those who advocate citizenship education as patriotism indoctrination (Leming, Ellington, & Porter-Magee, 2003; Hirsch, 1987; Ravitch, 1987; Saxe, 2003) and others who see the possibilities a critical approach to teaching history and social studies has for genuine democratic education (Hursh & Seneway, 1998; Ross, 1998; Segall, 1999; Wade, 1999) still exist.

This article documents how one elementary preservice teacher (Amy) learned to teach history from a patriotic indoctrination approach and how powerful and appealing this approach was, considering Amy's limited knowledge of American history. Also, this article demonstrates how this approach essentially denied Amy any opportunity to learn about the richness of social studies content and the possibilities it provides for genuine democratic discourse. The outcome is a narrative portrait of one preservice teacher and a cautious analysis of what the outcomes might mean for teacher education researchers concerned with the future of social studies and its commitment to citizenship education. The findings also suggest that we need a deeper understanding of what really goes on in undergraduate social studies methods courses (Slekar, 2006).

Social Studies Methods Courses and History Teaching

The social studies methods course is typically a standard requirement for preservice teachers in elementary certification programs. Pedagogical understanding of the social studies is a foundational goal of this course (Adler, 1991). However, it is not unusual for social studies methods professors to encounter preservice teachers with a rather negative view of the social studies, history in particular (Slekar, 1998). This early apprehension on the preservice teacher's part presents a rather challenging situation. How can a methods course intellectually influence a preservice teacher to consider teaching history as a form of citizenship education to elementary children?

Todd Dinkelman (1999) found that it was possible to encourage critical reflection (central to democratic ideals) in a social studies methods course, but was a bit cautious because of the effort required by the methods professor to guide quality reflection. In addition, Segall (1999) recommends, that, "history/social studies educators must create a pedagogical environment in which the very foundations of history ... are called into question ..." (p.371). However, how often does critical reflection and the dismantling of status quo history actually occur in social studies methods courses? Not very often according to Marciano (2001), "Influential educators faithfully support a dominant-elite view [of history] that has fostered an uncritical patriotism ... undermining thoughtful and active citizenship in a democracy" (p.537).

Therefore, in what follows, I provide of vivid picture of what happens when the "ignorant activist" (Leming, Ellington, & Porter-Magee, 2003) is absent and how traditional patriotic history is seen as powerful (usually seen as boring) from a naive preservice teacher's point of view.

Research Methodology

The following research is drawn from a study that was conducted over the course of an entire year. I use a case study methodology (Stake, 1998) in an attempt to generate a narrative account of a preservice teacher learning to teach traditional American history. The use of more naturalistic inquiry is sometimes more conducive to narrative renderings as pointed out by Lincoln and Guba (1985) and supported by Cornett (1990) and Knowles (1992). …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Democracy Denied: Learning to Teach History in Elementary School
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.