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History is one of the fundamental intellectual disciplines in the
public school curriculum. A basic way of thinking and understanding
reality, it is at once facts ˝what happened, when, where, and
with whom ˝and meaning ˝the why of the past. Its tools
are chronology, logic, and the full documentary record of the past.
The goal of history instruction is to explore the subject matter, its
contribution to human understanding, and its relevance to
Because history consists of all of the human past, its content can
seem overwhelming. Yet the most valuable history instruction involves
not a forced chronological march through all events of the past, but
a studied examination and analysis of selected primary sources. The
fortunate student who approaches history in this way considers these
sources from three perspectives at once: first, from the point of
view of the person, culture, and era that produced them, second, from
the perspective of how they have affected the present, and third,
from an understanding that current events and cultures color the way
we see the past. Alaska students have many opportunities to work with
original and facsimile documents at the local, state, and national
levels. The University of Alaska Fairbanks Archives contains a vast
amount of material on Russian America and on the 19th century
American era in Alaska. It also houses an extensive oral history
archive. The archives at the University of Alaska Anchorage and the
Anchorage Museum of History and Art, as well as the Alaska State
Library in Juneau, contain large photographic collections. The
National Archives in Anchorage and the Alaska State Archives in
Juneau house documents relating to government agencies and
activities. Some municipal libraries contain holdings relevant to the
local community. All these repositories are eager to work with
students, teachers and school districts in curriculum development and
Unfortunately, in many parts of the country history courses are
textbook-driven, and few textbooks contain primary resources. As a
result the history curriculum in public schools often revolves around
the reading of secondary narrative history. There is an advantage to
this approach ˝more of the content can be
ýcovered.ţBut the disadvantages outweigh the advantage:
students can become overwhelmed by information, can fail to see its
relevance, and consequently fail to retain it. Furthermore, when
students read textbooks they are not allowed to devise their own
theories about what happened and why, but instead must accept the
pronouncements of unknown scholars or writers. The joy of discovering
patterns and processes ˝the actual doing of history
˝is denied them.
The Alaska History Standards strive to rectify this situation by helping school districts focus curriculum on the content, method, and value of history. The standards are based on the belief that history taught well goes beyond a record of the past to provide students with essential thinking and evaluative skills; that it helps them gain insight into the capabilities and limitations of people and cultures; and that it broadens their perspective on the present. The standards were drawn from discussions based on the work of the Bradley Commission on History in Schools and on history standards developed by the National Council for History Education and the National Council for the Social Studies. These were tailored to AlaskaÝs needs.
A Thumbnail Sketch
of the Alaska Standards for History
Standard A. The Character of History
A student should understand that history is a record of human experiences that links the past to the present and the future.
Standard B. The Content of History
A student should understand historical themes through factual knowledge of time, places, ideas, institutions, cultures, people, and events.
This standard deals with the content of history. The
five Key Elements list the important themes and information contained
in a good history curriculum.
Standard C. The Skills and Processes of Historical Study
A student should develop the skills and processes of historical inquiry.
Standard D. Application of History
A student should be able to integrate historical knowledge with historical skill to effectively participate as a citizen and as a lifelong learner.
RATIONALE: Alaska students are faced with making critical choices in an ever changing, complex world. They must know and use all aspects of history to make effective judgments, weigh decisions, assess economic, environmental and social consequences, and take action. Students need an opportunity to practice the integration and application historical information in meaningful ways in and out of the classroom. By knowing and doing history, Alaskans will become empowered critical-thinking citizens.Previous Page Social Studies Contents Next Page