William Fitzhugh: History Vacations (Re: Teachers who get TAH grants)

Roundup: Talking About History

[Mr. Fitzhugh is founder of the Concord Review.]

I have been involved in only three Teaching American History grant programs in three states so far, as a presenter or an evaluator, but I am wondering how many of the hundreds of other funded programs, at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars, resemble the history vacations for teachers that I have seen.

History teachers are paid to attend summer programs where they hear lectures by college professors of history, and go on interesting field trips. All their expenses for class, travel, food, and books are paid by the grant, and they receive a stipend.

They are not required to write any papers, it seems, nor are they tested either before or after these three-year programs to discover if their knowledge and understanding of traditional United States History are greater or not.

While the goal of these programs is to increase the historical knowledge of teachers, the assumption is made that this will translate to increased historical knowledge on the part of their students, but this is part of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” avoidance of accountability that I have seen as well. There are no “high-stakes” tests for anyone. No tests at all for most, I suspect.

Of course, programs differ, and I believe some do put money into testing to see if the lectures, readings and field trips have made any difference or not. I have not seen such programs in my brief experience, but I would like to hear about any.

However, I believe that these TAH programs follow the National Endowment of Humanities model of bringing Lower Education teachers to hear lectures by Higher Education teachers, and there is a fond wish-hope that this will improve the knowledge of teachers and students, but, again, the teachers are not tested and neither are their students. ...
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