Teaching History in a Time of Crisis

The National Council for History Education provides professional and intellectual leadership to foster an engaged community committed to the teaching, learning, and appreciation of diverse histories. Historians create complex narratives constructed from increasingly available sources and voices, critical conceptual understandings, logical inferences, and evolving interpretations and methodologies. NCHE believes that open and deliberative discussions about changing historical interpretations are central to democratic life. Importantly, teachers, students, historians, and community members must confront and investigate injustices in the past and present. Recent attempts at the federal level silence such deliberations in favor of a familiar singular narrative of our nation’s past. Such statements and orders undermine the fabric of democracy.

NCHE is an organization dedicated to the teaching and learning of history. As a discipline, history offers a window to the human experience, requiring all individuals to contextualize events of the past and present to construct arguments based on evidence. History brings perspective to contemporary social justice issues by weaving a larger context and requiring evidence-based analysis and interpretation. NCHE supports and advocates for teachers, curricula, and professional development that compels students to understand the significance of the past to their own lives; helps them acquire a comprehension of our shared humanity and diverse cultures and perspectives; and enables them to grasp the complexity of historical causation while avoiding abstract generalizations.

Traditional narratives can be comforting, particularly in a time of crisis, but now is the time for much more. This is a time to embrace complexity, to engage in free speech, and to interrogate the past in rigorous and critical ways. The exchange of differing ideas and critical analysis supports the common good and the democratic ideals to which we aspire. The nation is better served by a consideration of our past that includes multiple voices and a diversity of perspectives and interpretations.