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Social Studies Teacher Education in the Early Twentieth Century: A Historical Inquiry Into the Relationship Between Teacher Preparation and Curriculum Reform

by Benjamin M. Jacobs - 2013

Background/Context: The field of social studies education is hardly lacking in historical investigation. The historiography includes sweeping chronicles of longtime struggles over the curriculum as well as case studies of momentous eras, events, policies, trends, and people, with emphases on aims, subject matter, method, and much more. Curiously, scant attention has been paid to the history of social studies teacher education. This study fills a gap in the literature by considering what effect, if any, teacher education in the social studies has had on the development of the field over time. Specifically, the study focuses on history/social studies teacher education in the decades immediately preceding and following the National Education Associationís landmark report, The Social Studies in Secondary Education (1916), which commonly is credited with establishing social studies as a school subject.

Purpose: A basic premise underlying this study is that stability and change in social studies curriculum and instruction may be someway related to stability and change in social studies teacher education. Because the enterprise of social studies teacher education exists in large part for the sake of supporting the enterprise of social studies in the schools, changes in social studies in the schools may well affect the preparation of teachers to teach the subject, and changes in social studies teacher preparation may well affect the teaching of the subject in schools. This study interrogates how teacher education programs contributed and/or responded (or not) to the emergence of social studies as a school subject in the early part of the twentieth century.

Research Design: This document-based historical study looks back nearly a century to the origins of the social studies field and considers the interrelationship between social studies as it was envisioned in the schools and social studies as it was configured in teacher education programs. The study is based on published monographs, reports, and articles on the status of history (pre-1916) and social studies (post-1916) teacher preparation programs that largely have been overlooked by social studies historians to date.

Findings/Conclusions: The story that emerges reinforces some longstanding assumptions about the development of the field: For example, there was little agreement among subject matter and education specialists regarding what constituted the social studies curriculum, so there was little agreement on what social studies teachers and students needed to know. But, it also suggests that disarray in the social studies field may have been as much a function of disorder in the realm of teacher education as it was of conflict among curriculum-makers about the nature of social studies in the schools.

At the turn of the twentieth century, students at the University of Minnesota interested in pursuing state certification in the teaching of history in secondary schools were required to take a two-year baccalaureate-level Teachers Course of study comprised of 24 credits, at least 15 of which needed to be in pedagogy and the major subject, i.e., history. In addition, prospective teachers participated in a program called visitation in schools, consisting of systematic observation in schoolrooms in St. Paul and Minneapolis . . . reported and discussed in class [a special seminar for teachers].1 Taken together, preservice teacher education in history essentially consisted of three major components: courses in subject matter (a sweep of ancient, European, and American history was preferred); courses in pedagogy, including instructional methods, history and philosophy of education, psychology, and school administration; and a school-based practicum.

By the turn of the twenty-first century, University of Minnesota students pursuing state certification in the teaching of social studies in secondary schools were required to enroll in a one-year post-baccalaureate program comprised of approximately 22 credits, all of which needed to be in education courses, including 10 credits of specialization in the teaching of social studies and the remainder in various fundamentals of education, such as psychology, literacy, technology, English as a second language, and human relations.2 Like their counterparts a century earlier, preservice social studies teacher education candidates were required to have three essential experiences in their preparation: courses in subject matter (by now, a mix of history, geography, political science, economics, and sociology, which students were required to complete as a prerequisite to the program); courses in education, geared especially toward twenty-first century concerns such as diversity and differentiated instruction; and a school-based practicum, now including student teaching in addition to observation.

To be sure, teacher preparation in the social studies at the University of Minnesota developed considerably over the course of the century since the field of social studies education originated. For example, there was a transition in the program from teaching of history to teaching of social studies in the 1920s when social studies was gaining traction as a school subject. We see, as well, the expansion of the preparation program from two years at the baccalaureate level to five years at the baccalaureate and post-baccalaureate level, mainly for the sake of increasing the credits necessary to demonstrate competence in the social studies subject areas and to broaden pedagogical knowledge (not to mention that the standards for most professions came to include a baccalaureate degree, at a minimum). Last, while the program in the early 1900s was weighted more heavily toward subject matter preparation, the program in the 2000s placed emphasis on matters of utmost concern to teaching and learning in the so-called information age, such as literacy and technology, in addition to subject-specific pedagogy.

Changes in history/social studies teacher education at the University of Minnesotaone of the nations first colleges of education to offer a formal program of subject-specific teacher preparationmirrored developments at most U.S. schools/colleges/departments of education over the same period. Teacher preparation programs in each era aimed to be responsive to emergent demands of the social studies profession, including changing expectations regarding the form and function of teachers content knowledge and instructional methods; they also strove to remain on the cutting edge by providing student-teachers with the most current research and practice in both history and education more generally. As the social studies field, the subject matter disciplines, the science and art of education, the public school system, the teaching profession, higher education, and, no less important, the world at large, evolved over time, becoming in most cases increasingly complex, sophisticated, and demanding, so too did social studies teacher education progress in an effort to meet the contemporary needs of students, schools, and society alike.

Nonetheless, even a casual comparison between social studies teacher education in the early twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, as with the University of Minnesotas programs above, points up striking similarities between the two enterprises. Foremost, the basic structure of teacher preparation in the social studiesnamely, some combination of subject matter, pedagogy, and practicum experienceremained remarkably stable over time.3 The same has been said of teaching methods in the social studies and the organization of the social studies curriculum more generally: That is, traditional methods (e.g., teacher-centered instruction) and content (e.g., predominance of history) have been quite resilient in the face of abundant efforts toward curricular and instructional reform.4 Culprits for inertia in the social studies field commonly include accountability-driven policymakers who promulgate overly circumscribed sets of curriculum standards, conservative-minded advocates of cultural transmission who resist alternatives to the traditional American curriculum, and even reform-minded social studies educationists who fail to agree on a coherent definition of the field or to articulate clearly what its purposes and practices ought to be. Less consideration has been given to what effect teacher education in the social studies has had on the development of the field over time. Yet, if we assume, like many teachers, scholars, and policymakers do, that teachers are among the most decisive determinants of what actually goes on in classrooms, it follows that the ways social studies teachers are prepared in schools/colleges/departments of education could have an impact on the ways social studies is carried out in schools. The linkage between teacher education and curriculum reform is thus worthy of investigation.5

Accordingly, this document-based historical study looks back nearly a century to the origins of the social studies field and considers the interrelationship between social studies as it was envisioned in the schools and social studies as it was configured in teacher education programs. A basic premise underlying this study is that stability and change in social studies curriculum and instruction may be someway related to stability and change in social studies teacher education. Because the enterprise of social studies teacher education exists in large part for the sake of supporting the enterprise of social studies in the schools, changes in social studies in the schools may well affect the preparation of teachers to teach the subject, and changes in social studies teacher preparation may well affect the teaching of the subject in schools. The main purpose of this article is to interrogate how teacher education programs contributed and/or responded (or not) to the emergence of social studies as a school subject in the early part of the twentieth century.

Interestingly, while the history of social studies has been written in a variety of forms, from sweeping chronicles of the development of the field, to case studies of particularly momentous eras, events, policies, and trends, as well as from a variety of angles, including emphases on purposes, subject matter, and/or instructional method, the role of Old Masters (the legendary founders of the field) in the generation of theory and practice, and much more, scant attention has been paid to the history of teacher education in the social studies.6 In fact, a perusal of five noteworthy reviews of social studies historiography published over the past three decades points up not a single study dedicated in the main to the aims, content, methods, and outcomes of social studies teacher preparation programs.7 Similarly, the scholarship on social studies teacher education is mostly lacking in historical emphasis, and general histories of teacher education scarcely mention social studies teacher preparation specifically.8

This study attempts to fill a gap in the literature by exploring the history of teacher education in history and social studies in the years immediately preceding and following the National Education Associations (NEA) landmark report, The Social Studies in Secondary Education (1916), which commonly is credited with establishing social studies as a school subject.9 The history of the social studies in the early years has been chronicled already by numerous scholars and need not be recounted in detail here. What many previous studies point out, in the midst of discussing the ideas of Old Masters and the policies promulgated by major commissions on the history and social studies curriculumespecially the NEA Committee of Ten (1893), which formalized the various subject areas of the secondary school curriculum; the American Historical Associations (AHA) Committee of Seven (1899), which set guidelines for teaching history in schools; and the NEA Committee on Social Studies (1916), which expanded the scope and reach of social studies educationis that most historical studies concentrate foremost on Old Masters and major commissions and fail to appreciate the extent to which their ideas and policies actually made their way into the schools. The historian Thomas Fallaces revisionist study of the NEAs 1916 Report, on the other hand, counters this trend by centering on the interaction between the professional discourse and actual classroom practice at the ground level, so as to test the common hypothesis that history diminished in the schools while social studies was ascendant in the aftermath of the reports release (Fallace claims that social studies was not in fact ascendant, as we will see later).10 In a similar vein, the present study focuses on what types of programs for the preparation of history and social studies teachers were actually in place at the ground level in the early twentieth century, what their emphases and practices were, and how they were regarded by their stakeholders at the time.

This study is based on published monographs, reports, and articles on the status of history (pre-1916) and social studies (post-1916) teacher preparation programs that largely have been overlooked by social studies historians to date. The story that emerges from these documents reinforces some longstanding assumptions about the development of the social studies field: for example, there was little agreement among subject matter and education specialists regarding what constituted the social studies curriculum, so there was little agreement on what social studies teachers and students needed to know. But, it also suggests that disarray in the social studies field may have been as much a function of disorder in the realm of teacher education as it was of conflict among national committees, Old Masters, and other stewards of the social studies enterprise about the purposes and practices of social studies in the schools.


By most accounts, the professional preparation of history teachers around the turn of the twentieth century was shoddy at best. This is hardly surprising, given that history only emerged as a formal, distinct, discipline-based school subject in the early 1890s, when the still nascent science and method of historical inquiry being developed by university-based professional historians began making its impression on the still nascent secondary school curriculum. Prior to that time, the teaching of history in schoolsand here we mean elementary schools, as very few students progressed to high school prior to the twentieth centurymainly consisted of conveying proverbial stories of the past, including classical myths, ancient legends, heroic narratives, and patriotic folklore, for the sake of inspiring wonder on one hand and ensuring cultural conformity on the other. After all, common schools were intended foremost to impart common values such as moral strength, republican virtue, a democratic ethos, and patriotism. Instruction centered almost exclusively on textbooks, from which students would perform incessant recitations and then be obliged to commit the factual content to memory. As the historian David Tyack aptly put it, By ear and eye, and if need be, by hickory stick, all children were to learn the sacred documents of the nation.11 Teachers in this scheme were expected to be effective storytellers and moralizers foremost. Little wonder that the old style textbook became a rock of salvation and a vade mecum to the average history teacher, wrote one early twentieth century observer, or that it was a common saying that anyone who can read can teach history.12

But with the recommendations of the NEA Committee of Ten (1893) and the AHA Committees of Seven (1899), Eight (1909), and Five (1911) relegating mythology, biography, and storytelling to the elementary years while staking a claim for the rigorous study of ancient, medieval, modern European, and American history on the newly emerging high school level, scientific historywhich entailed using primary sources, conducting systematic inquiry, and developing critical thinkingbecame the desideratum.13 The prime motivation for this curriculum reform was the notion that, logically speaking, the academic field of history was evolving so the school subject of history needed to follow suit. At the same time, the professional historians represented on the AHA and NEA committees were keenly aware that the expanding public high school system would serve not only as a training ground for active, intelligent, and productive U.S. citizens (perhaps most importantly for schools and society), but also as a growing feeder for university history classes (perhaps most valuably for the historians). Indeed, with increasing interest among the general population in attending high school came increased efforts to tie high school curricula to college programs and admissions standards, so as to expand the capacity of fledgling colleges and universities as well. Thus, motivated in part by self-interest, professional historians were intent on introducing secondary students to some of the most current historical scholarship and methods being advanced in the universities so they ostensibly could have a cadre of disciples ready for the next level of study.14

Expectations regarding the disciplinary and instructional competence of history teachers rose accordingly. The NEA Committee of Ten, for example, resolved that in all schools it is desirable that history should be taught by teachers who have not only a fondness for historical study, but who also have paid special attention to effective methods of imparting instruction.15 The AHA Committee of Seven similarly called for teachers to be expert in content knowledge, research skills, historical empathy, and pedagogical methods at once, in order to be thoroughly equipped in bringing out [historys] educational value.16 The most important factor in the schoolroom is not the curriculum, the text, or even the method but the teacher, asserted the AHA Committee of Fives report on history in the high schools. The schools have a right to demand teachers that are prepared to teach history and have the ability and spirit to teach it right.17 In the end, raised expectations for high school history programs resulted in raised expectations for postsecondary teacher education programs, which, perhaps not coincidentally, would also help fill college and university history classes that were tied to the teacher education enterprise (as at the University of Minnesota, in our first example) and would keep professional historians gainfully employed.

However, several constraints on the professional preparation of history teachers prevented the field from progressing in the ways the national curriculum committees envisioned. In response to a 1911 article in The Nation asserting that history is the most carelessly and indifferently taught, and . . . of the least intellectual value in the secondary school curriculum, the editors of the AHAs practitioner journal, The History Teachers Magazine, acknowledged that the field was indeed plagued by the fact that the subject matter was immense and complicated and therefore difficult for novice teachers to master; school administrators, under the impression that anyone possessing a good memory and a glib tongue may read his text-book a week ahead of the class, and call himself a teacher of history, tended to assign history classes to teachers without regard for their expertise in the subject area, thereby diluting the prestige of history teaching and skewing its effectiveness in the classroom; and, some history teachers simply proved themselves to be uninterested in the subject matter and/or ineffective at teaching it.18 Compounding these problems were general confusion about the purposes, content, and methods of history instruction, owing to the endless stream of reports issued by national curriculum committees on the scope and sequence of the history curriculum, as well as inconsistency between the intended curriculum promulgated by the committees and the curriculum-in-use found in most history classrooms.19 What is more, the committees recommendations regarding teacher preparation were brief, vague, and mostly platitudinous; they lacked any concrete blueprints for how to prepare history teachers effectively. Finally, the aims, structure, substance, and procedures for formally training and certifying history teachers were, at that time, in a state of virtual chaos.

From the earliest days of common schooling, when the expanding public education system obviated the necessity for trained teachers, the baseline assumption underlying the teacher education enterprise was that teachers would best be prepared by attaining subject matter expertise in a liberal arts program and then gaining practical experience in a classroom apprenticeship. Prospective secondary school teachers commonly attended postsecondary liberal arts colleges and universities, which emphasized the development of teachers as disciplinary scholars, while elementary teachers typically attended secondary-level normal schools and postsecondary teachers colleges, which focused on so-called professionalized subject matter, that is, the subject matter teachers were actually going to teach.20 Some efforts were made in most teacher education programs to offer specialized courses in the principles and methods of teaching as well as practical work in a laboratory or training school. On the whole, teacher preparation ostensibly followed a conventional formula: content + methods + practicum = qualified teacher.

In reality, however, as the historian James Fraser argues, for most of the history of the United States . . . teacher preparation was a haphazard affair.21 The education of teachers actually took place in myriad distinct settings, including public and private academies, seminaries, high schools, training schools, normal schools, teachers institutes, liberal arts colleges, and comprehensive research universities, as well as outside of institutional structures altogether. Furthermore, according to Fraser, There were a bewildering array of routes into teaching, forms of teacher licensure, and requirements for different teacher certificates.22 The hodge-podge of requirements for any kind of high school teachers in this country is notorious, wrote William Fairley, chair of the Committee on Preparation of High School Teachers of History for the Association of History Teachers of the Middle States and Maryland, one of a host of similar committees assembled by local history teachers associations around the turn of the century.23 In a 1913 review of certification and licensure requirements in several states and major cities nationwide, Fairley found that standards ranged from having an accredited college diploma or equivalent (e.g., passing a content exam) with no teaching experience or graduate work necessary (Philadelphia and Baltimore), to having a college or university diploma along with a minimum of approximately one-half year of experience teaching in schools and one-half year of graduate-level work in methods of teaching the subject (New York City and California), and many variations in between. The question now comes: What might we safely regard as a practicable standard to set before ourselves and the educational world as desirable? The very minimum limit would appear to be that a history teacher should have done in college some specialized history work and should also have had some instruction in methods of teaching history, concluded Fairley.24

However, this seemingly obvious solutionthat history teachers ought to be prepared in the content and methods of history instructionwas in fact not self-evident in Fairleys time. For starters, opposition in some circles to professional training in pedagogy was quite vigorous. Speaking on behalf of many of his historian colleagues in liberal arts colleges and universities, William MacDonald of Brown University argued in a 1912 article in The History Teachers Magazine that the average college professor has never had any training in pedagogy; he often has some distrust of the subject, and even a good-natured, but rather deep-seated, contempt for it.25 Teacher preparation at Brown, therefore, consisted exclusively of a full year of coursework in European history, American history, and English history, with an average grade of C. To my mind, the main thing is that the teacher of history should know history, MacDonald asserted. We never assume to guarantee that the student will make a good teacher; we wash our hands of responsibility for competence in that direction. . . . That is as far as the department touches the pedagogical problem.26 By contrast, at the University of Wisconsin around the same time, minimum requirements for candidates preparing to teach high school history consisted of approximately two years of coursework in the subject matter (including one semester of advanced courses and a thesis), as well as at least one course in subject-specific history teaching methods, one course in psychology, and two additional courses in general education.27 Assessing these competing trends in 1912, Edgar Dawson, a professor of history and political science at the Normal College of the City of New York (later known as Hunter College) and the leading expert on the education of history teachers in his day, identified four main camps in the growing battle over the scope and sequence of the teacher education curriculum: (1) Those who are satisfied with no history, (2) and those who wish too great specializing in it; (3) those who wish no pedagogical training, and (4) those who would over emphasize it.28 Seeking a middle road, Dawson proposed that students pursue, over the course of a four-year bachelors degree, a liberal arts education, including languages, literature, modern science, mathematics, and logic; specialization in history and social sciences, including courses in economics, political, and social history, government, and economics; and practical training in pedagogy, including educational foundations, psychology, methods for teaching history, and observation and practice in secondary school classrooms.

Debates over the preparation of history teachers both reflected and presaged several longstanding conflicts in the field of teacher education writ large regarding how much content knowledge and professional knowledge a well-qualified teacher ought to have; how many credits in content, methods, and practicum experiences prospective teachers ought to take, at what level, and in what proportion; how academically rigorous the course of study ought to be; by what means a teacher education program can develop a teachers erudition and character more generally; and under whose aegis teacher preparation ought to occur in the first place.29 Battle lines in these debates traditionally were drawn between scholars and school people, the former group encompassing liberal arts academics and other subject matter and/or disciplinary apologists, and the latter group consisting of education scholars and scientists, school administrators, and teachers.30 From the scholars point of view, the intellectual and humanistic virtues of a liberal arts education were far superior to the professional training one received in vocational or technical teacher education. Moreover, in their estimation, the study of education was a soft pseudoscience as compared to the hard disciplinary sciencesa perspective undoubtedly skewed by the fact that the teaching profession was increasingly feminized while the professorate remained patriarchal. Finally, they argued, the diluted professional knowledge subject matter courses offered at normal schools were but a shadow of the rigorous studies found in colleges and universities. From the school peoples perspective, the major purpose of teacher education was to prepare teachers in the art, craft, and science of teaching, which meant placing emphasis on psychology, educational theories, and instructional methods foremost, while also ensuring that teachers had a command of the elementary and secondary subject matter they were going to teach. In addition, they claimed, the development and dissemination of educational research among prospective teachers could serve to ground teacher practices in the actual needs and capacities of the child as well as highlight proven instructional strategies that yielded successful learner outcomes. Last, school people had faith in the capacity of formalized, scientifically-based, high standard teacher education to bring about the professionalization of the teaching field.

Historians of the social studies often have pointed to the animosity between scholars and school people as a major source of gridlock regarding what subject matter should be taught in the schools, by what means, and to what ends.31 Reviewing the work of Old Masters and the national curriculum committees on which they served, these accounts portray social studies reform as a succession of struggles between scholars who advocated for increased content standards and intellectual rigor in the schools, and school people who advocated for increased student interest, active participation, and application of learning to contemporary society. Innovation in the field occurred only to the extent that scholars or school peoples ideas gained a foothold in the k-12 curriculum at any given time, and only lasted until the pendulum swung again the other way. What these accounts fail to appreciate, however, is the extent to which problems in the arena of teacher preparation adversely affected social studies reform in the schools.

Assessing a perceived lack of progress in the professional preparation of social studies teachers in the first decades of the twentieth century, William C. Bagley, professor of normal school administration at Teachers College, Columbia University, argued that the dualism between the academic and the professional, between subject-matter and method, in the preparation of teachers has seriously handicapped the development of American education on the elementary and secondary levels.32 Note that for Bagley, regarded by his contemporaries as the nations foremost authority on teacher education, the greatest drawback of the battle between scholars and school people was not that they disagreed on why, what, and how to teach children, but rather that they failed to devise the one best system for preparing teachers, for this, in turn, is what actually precipitated curriculum ferment on the elementary and secondary school level. To what extent did Bagleys theory hold up with respect to the NEAs momentous 1916 Report on social studies in the schools? It is to this question that we now turn our attention.


Few artifacts from the history of the social studies have been studied and debated more extensively than the NEAs 1916 report of the Committee on Social Studies.33 The 1916 Report is credited with, among other things, officially sanctioning for the first time the teaching of an interdisciplinary subject known as the social studies in the schools, comprised of history, civics, geography, economics, and sociology; defining the purpose of social studies, above all, in terms creating thoroughly efficient members of society and cultivating good citizenship; establishing the cycle model of teaching European history, American history, and civics twice (first in grades 79 and then in grades 1012), with increasing sophistication over the course of the secondary school program; and inventing the capstone Problems of Democracy course in which students would address contemporary political, social, and economic issues in an effort to devise solutions to societys problems.34 Of the 21 members of the committee, 13 were school superintendents, administrators, or teachers, 6 were from colleges and universities, and 2 were U.S. Bureau of Education officials, giving rise to the popular perception that the report was dominated by school people intent on implementing an educationist agenda that included the diminishing of disciplinary history in the schools in favor of the generally insipid social studies curriculum (in contrast to the earlier AHA Committee of Seven report that was dominated by scholars advocating for straight history). The historian Thomas Fallaces revisionist study of the 1916 Report claims that this is but one of four common misperceptions of the reports impact: first, that prior to the report being issued, professional historians dominated the history curriculum; second, that the scholars control was usurped by the school people on the 1916 committee; third, that the report recommended a watery fusion of the social sciences for the sake of addressing contemporary problems at the expense of honoring the disciplined study of the past and its implications; and fourth, that in the decades following the issuing of the report, social studies replaced history in American schools. In fact, Fallace argues, numerous factors previously overlooked by most historians, including the content of textbooks, the impact of the First World War, and, most important for our purposes, teacher qualifications, all served to hinder the rapid expansion of social studies along the lines of the 1916 Report.35

Fallaces brief coverage of the problem with social studies teacher credentials focuses mainly on the paltry quality of teachers in general in the first decades of the twentieth century. He asserts that most teachers around the time of the 1916 Report were deficient in subject matter and pedagogical training, inexperienced in the field, lacking in effort and imagination with regard to instructional methods, and mostly biding time until they could leave the classroom behind and settle into domestic life instead, given that the majority were young women. The notion that these teachers would have to integrate the social science disciplines without having sufficient background in any one of them, or without an inkling of how to adapt them for pedagogical purposes, was especially foreboding, as was the Problems of Democracy course, which required teachers to keep up with current events in order to regularly reinvent the syllabus. In the end, claims Fallace, a feeble social studies teaching force would have been rather incapable of carrying out the relatively sophisticated and labor-intensive curriculum the 1916 Report recommended. Hence, social studies was sure to flounder.

It is, in fact, axiomatic to the field of curriculum history that intended curriculum reforms rarely are enacted successfully in schools without accounting for the central role of teachers in the design, implementation, and assessment process. However, whereas Fallace finds fault with classroom social studies teachers for their incompetence and lack of dedication to the profession, the problem also rightly lies with the substandard system of social studies teacher education that sent underqualified teachers into the schools to begin with. Indeed, the inability of teacher educators to respond effectively to the 1916 Report and alter social studies teacher preparation programs accordingly may have contributed as much as any other factor to the struggle of the social studies to make its impression on American schools in the first decades of the twentieth century.

Like other national curriculum reports, the 1916 Report included a concise, rather perfunctory set of recommendations for improving teacher training. Beginning with the assertion that the greatest obstacle to the vitalization of the social studies is the lack of preparation on the part of the teachers, the committee suggested that social studies should be taught well in high schools, teacher training schools, colleges and universities, and teachers institutes, so as to model effective curriculum and instructional practices for prospective teachers.36 The logic here is of course circular, and the committee even acknowledged as much: One of the necessary steps for the adequate preparation of teachers of the social studies is the development of effective high-school courses of social study, which it is the purpose of this report to stimulate.37 Even so, the committee very much wanted teacher training institutions to take the lead in experimenting with the new curriculum and developing innovative methods of instruction in the hope that this might raise interest in the social studies in public schools. The fear was that, instead, teacher training programs would resist introducing new courses until there was sufficient demand for them from teachers and schools. It appeared to be a no-win situation: If social studies did not take hold in the schools, then teacher preparation would be inadequate; if social studies did not take hold in teacher preparation programs, then social studies in the schools would be inadequate. It will not do, however, to wait until teachers are trained especially for this work before making a beginning in the reorganization of secondary instruction in the social studies, asserted the committee.38 And so, in the end, the 1916 Reportwhose main purpose, after all, was to address social studies in secondary educationnot surprisingly fell on the side of promoting social studies in the schools, trusting that teacher preparation would catch up soon enough.

Various reports on advances in teacher education published in The Historical Outlook (formerly The History Teachers Magazine) through the late 1910s and into the 1920s claimed that, over the previous decade, history teaching emerged from the dark ages owing to, in one observers view, the development of teacher training in history along two fundamental lines of advance, namely, (1) the understanding of the real value and meaning of the subject matter of history, and (2) methods of organizing and presenting subject matter before classes so as to evoke interest and to develop discussion, thus realizing educational value.39 Both of these advances were attributable, in part, to the growing popularity of the New History being propagated by progressive historians such as Columbias James Harvey Robinson (a member of the NEA Committee of Ten, the AHA Committee of Five, and the NEA Committee on Social Studies), for the new approach to historical study helped teachers think of history in other than merely a dry, dusty, factual way, and broadened their understanding of what studying history entailed. Robinson believed that historical inquiry must expand beyond the scope of political and military history to include social, economic, and intellectual history, as well as the conditions of everyday life: Man is more than a warrior, a subject, a princely ruler. . . . He has, through the ages, made voyages, extended commerce, founded cities, established great universities, written books, built glorious cathedrals, painted pictures, and sought out great inventions. The propriety of including these human interests in our historical manuals [should be] more and more widely recognized.40 In order to study human history in its broadest scope, argued Robinson in The New History (1912), historians must use the methods of the sister social scientific disciplinespolitical science, sociology, anthropology, geography, psychology, and economicsbecause man is far more than the sum of his scientifically classifiable operations.41 In fact, because the social sciences can bring to light new information and suggest new points of view, it is only through an alliance with the social sciences that the range of historical understanding can be strengthened and deepened, and the field of history can progress.

More and more it has become possible to train teachers to regard history as a social science, and to get away from the old purely political and factual viewpoints towards a system of problem organization which will connect past and present society, wrote Norman Trenholme, professor of history and the teaching of history (an increasingly common dual role for teacher education faculty) at the University of Missouri, clearly cognizant of the 1916 Reports thrust.42 Equally as important, argued Trenholme, nearly every institution attempting to train teachers now [1919, three years after the 1916 Reports release] has special classes for intending teachers in the form of teacher-training courses, or courses on the teaching of history, which develop an interpretive and problem viewpoint in the student teachers.43 As a result of these subject-specific history teacher courses, prospective teachers could develop an interpretive and problem viewpoint regarding the subject matter that would help them develop an interpretive and problem viewpoint toward teaching the subject matter, and vice versa, thereby making the all-important connection between historical content and instructional methods more palpable. Further aiding teachers in their subject-specific preparation were improved methods in textbooks, most notably Henry Johnsons authoritative Teaching of History in Elementary and Secondary Schools (1915), as well as practitioner-oriented articles on lesson planning and teaching methods in The History Teachers Magazine/The Historical Outlook; observation work in laboratory and practice schools maintained by many normal schools and universities in connection with their teacher preparation programs; and increases and improvements in practice teaching experiences, supervision, and mentoring for prospective teachers. As compared to the paltry history teaching and teacher preparation practices of only a decade or two earlier, Trenholme reported, the increased professionalism and competence in the field was marked.

Bessie L. Pierces 1921 survey of subject-specific history methods courses at 26 major colleges and universities nationwide was similarly upbeat. A few years ago courses in the teaching of history were the exceptions; now they have become the rule, claimed Pierce, professor of history and teaching at the University of Iowa.44 The survey pointed up a relatively uniform approach to the methods course that included covering aims in teaching history, current events, historical inquiry, lesson planning, textbook analysis, teacher equipment and teaching aids, library resources, and the problems of teaching. In addition, at least half the courses devoted time to special methods of instruction typically found in history classrooms, such as question and answer, socialized recitation, individual instruction, textbook study, exams, and the problem approach. In almost all cases, student-teachers were expected to have completed their content preparation as a prerequisite to entering the methods course, thereby showing that the professional course is supposed to develop the how and not the what of history teaching.45 There was considerably more variation across the teacher preparation programs in terms of the length of the methods course (ranging from half of a semester to a full year); the number of programs that offered separate courses for teaching history in junior high and elementary schools (eleven); the number of courses that included a practice teaching component (six, though at six others the practicum was part of a separate course); where the practice teaching took place (five in city schools and seven in training schools); the number of schools that counted the course toward the history major (fourteen); the number of departments that required it for recommendation for a teaching position (seven); and the number of states that credited it toward certification (sixteen). Perhaps most encouraging for Pierce, though, was the fact that most methods courses were being taught by instructors who had advanced degrees in history and/or education and who had experience teaching in secondary schools, which, in itself, indicates an attempt to make the course practical by having it presented by one thoroughly familiar with the field.46

Had Trenholmes and Pierces reports been representative of the total landscape of teacher preparation at the time, then we might conclude that teacher education in history/social studies was improving considerably and the 1916 Report was making headway into the enterprise. However, two larger scale studies of the state of the field in the 1920s painted a far dimmer picture.

The first report, commissioned by the U.S. Bureau of Education in 1920, was predicated on the assumption that the proper development of the social studies in the secondary schools has . . . been greatly impeded by the lack of trained teachers.47 The task assigned to Edgar Dawson who, we might recall, was the foremost expert on social studies teacher education in his day, was to determine whether the preparation of high school social studies teachers was keeping up with recent curriculum developments in the field, especially the 1916 Report which the Bureau of Education co-sponsored with the NEA. Dawson sent questionnaires to several hundred colleges and universities that purported to provide teacher training programs and then whittled down the responses to one hundred selected institutions for the sake of statistical analysis (Many of those which were discarded came from institutions which are frankly doing nothing for the prospective teacher, Dawson wrote).48

In response to the first question regarding what courses in the various subject areas of the social studies the institutions offered, more than one-fourth of respondents left it blank and the others provided such a wide variety of course titles and credit loads that no prevailing practice can be discovered.49 It was notable that, in most cases, the institutions recommended that prospective teachers take courses in various branches of the social sciences (economics, government, sociology, and geography) in addition to history. Nonetheless, history remained the sole content requirement in at least one-third of the teacher preparation programs that had subject matter requirements to begin with (one Midwestern state university reported that in practice we have to throw many requirements to the wind), suggesting to Dawson that there is a tendency to consider the study of history as sufficient preparation for the social studies as a group, a position he felt was wholly untenable in light of the 1916 Reports recommendations.50 With regard to what methods courses for teaching social studies or any individual social science discipline the institutions offered, approximately one-third offered no training in methods whatsoever, one-quarter offered a course in the teaching of history, and the remainder sporadically offered tips on methods within history or general education courses. In terms of practice teaching and supervision, Dawson found that only about one-third of the programs required classroom experience, which consisted of four or five hours of teaching per week over the course of half a year, generally under the supervision of the department of education, and often in the universitys own laboratory high school.

We have no standardized preparation on which the schoolmen may depend, Dawson concluded.51 On the other hand, he reported, school administrators were at fault for granting blanket certificates for teaching in secondary schools without regard for specialization in particular subject areas, and for assigning classes to teachers out of their field (these findings were from a supplemental component of the study addressed to school superintendants, principals, teachers, and professors regarding teacher credentials). In the end, Dawson argued, social studies teacher education and credentialing needed to proceed in three important directions in order for it to keep up with the changing tides of the school curriculum.

First, school administrators needed to cease granting blanket certifications and should instead group the secondary school subjects in departments (e.g., science, math, social studies, etc.), each with its own certified preparation. At the same time, the universities should train teachers with this departmental organization in view, so that it will be unnecessary for teachers to be prepared in areas other than those in which they are specializing. In other words, teachers preparing to teach social studies should be educated and certified in specialized teacher preparation programs in social studies and should then be employed in school departments of social studies exclusively.

Second, degree requirements for teacher preparation in social studies needed to be increased, firmed up, and, if possible, standardized, so that teachers and school administrators alike could be confident in a social studies teachers competence in subject matter, methods, and the practice of teaching (the reports appendix is an outline of the University of Californias teacher training program, which Dawson provided as a hopeful example of such coordination). The universitys scholars and school people ought to work in concert toward this end, and make prospective teachers truly capable of being high school teachers rather than imitations of university professorsresearch workers.52

Last, and most critically in Dawsons view, social studies teachers needed to be prepared to teach the social studies, not history or any other single constituent of the subject area.

If it be true that the social studies consist of the elements of economics, government, history, and sociology [Dawson conspicuously left geography out of almost the entire report, even though it is explicitly part of the 1916 Reports recommendations], then the practice of training teachers for the secondary schools in history alone, or economics alone, or government alone is . . . wrong.53

Dawson readily acknowledged that history occupies approximately two-thirds of the curriculum recommended in the 1916 Report, while economics, government, and sociology occupy only about one-third, so a school could theoretically hire history experts for the lower grades and civics, sociology, and/or economics experts for the upper grades, or teachers could be prepared primarily in history (the majority subject) and then wing it the rest of the way. However, he argued, this would not only be inefficient, impractical, irresponsible, and unprofessional, it would also defeat the purposes of the program, which were really to appreciate the social studies in an integrated, holistic way. The fact should be emphasized, therefore, that there is being organized for the schools a course of study which is not exclusively history or government or economics, but all of them together, and further that this course is our reliance if we would train for citizenship in a democracy, and finally, that it will be a failure and a disgrace to our educational system unless a serious effort is made to prepare teacher[s] for it.54

While Pierces survey of methods courses concentrated on 26 elite public and private colleges and universities, and Dawsons study focused on more than a hundred major colleges and universities, Earle Rugg and Ned Dearborns 1928 review of the state of social studies teacher preparation in the 1920s examined more than 300 state- or locally-funded teachers colleges and normal schools and included site visits at 26 of them, making their report not only the largest in scale and the most methodologically rigorous, but also the most grassroots of them all.55

The distinction between the nationally recognized colleges and universities and the comparatively Podunk teachers colleges and normal schools was no small matter. For starters, as if university-based schools/colleges/departments of education were not low status enough, given the historically low regard for educational research and pedagogical practice among liberal arts scholars and the public at large, teachers colleges and normal schools, whose sole purpose was to train teachers in elementary and secondary school subjects and instructional methods, were considered second-rate institutions at best.56 Thus, the prospect that teachers colleges and normal schools were going to be deemed adequate at preparing social studies teachers at a standard expected of them by national curriculum committees, the U.S. Bureau of Education, and the like, was bleak. Furthermore, given their small size, localized reach, provincial worldview, limited resources, and incapacity for and/or indifference to research, most teachers colleges and normal schools were largely disconnected from the places where most educational innovation and improvement were occurring: namely, large, well-funded, elite colleges and universities.57 Rugg, head of the department of education at Colorado State Teachers College and the author of the report, formerly taught at the Horace Mann School at Teachers College, Columbia University alongside his brother, the social studies pioneer Harold Rugg, and was keenly aware of the divide between Teachers College and teachers colleges.

With the widespread movement to experiment with or at least to try new materials and methods, teacher-training institutions such as those surveyed herein might assume their place in this important phase of the work of improving the teaching of the social studies. Yet the data on materials used by these instructors in their course give but slight indication that they are acquainted with the work of so-called experimental and laboratory schools; for example, the work in the social studies going on in the Lincoln School and the Horace Mann Schools of Teachers College, Columbia University, and in the University Elementary and High Schools at the University of Chicago, and the State University of Iowa.58

Indeed, perhaps not surprisingly, one of the key findings of the report was that the curriculum reforms being generated in the ivory towers were not necessarily being felt among the masses.

To be fair, Rugg-Dearborn found that the academic standards at many teachers colleges and normal schools were rising. Almost all the institutions required completion of a four-year high school program as a prerequisite to admission, which was a marked improvement over the former requirement of an eighth grade education. Many normal schools were converting from one- or two-year teacher certification mills for elementary teachers to four-year liberal arts college programs for elementary and secondary teachers; in fact, the report commonly uses the term teachers colleges as a blanket reference to both institutions in light of this change. Correspondingly, the curriculum was increasingly rigorous and closer to college-level, rather than the advanced secondary-level work the institutions once provided. Finally, although pedagogy and psychology were still given the greatest emphasis in the average teacher preparation program, comprising approximately one-quarter to one-third of the curriculum, more teachers colleges were expanding their content offerings significantly and encouraging a wider breadth of knowledge than just pedagogy and subject matter, so as to make the prospective teacher more well-rounded. All the same, Rugg-Dearborn felt that the teachers colleges, dependent as they were on public support, perpetually would be hampered by the publics lack of esteem and support for the teaching profession and the meager standards they expected for teacher certification. Rugg-Dearborns hope was that the rise in standards for teacher preparation would help raise the standards of the profession more generally.

Turning their attention to the status of social studies in teachers colleges, Rugg-Dearborn found that only about half used the term social studies in reference to the disciplines that comprised the school subject, and fewer than 5% of the institutions offered courses that include social studies or social sciences in the title. History and geography were still the dominant subject areas being emphasized, despite the 1916 Reports call for advances in the other social sciences (of more than 1,500 social studies-related courses analyzed, 775 were in history and 336 in geography, while 165 were in government, 118 were in sociology, and 108 were in economics). The integration of social studies was almost unheard of (27 courses).

There is apparently decidedly insufficient evidence that teachers colleges and normal schools are organizing at present the work in their departments of social studies . . . in ways which will tend to recognize in their preparation of teachers the tendency in public schools to coordinate even in name these materials. . . . While without doubt such distinctions are in part matters of terminology, yet the fact remains that instructors in these social subjects are seemingly reluctant to accept any new organization.59

The main reason why coordination of the social studies seemed to be lacking, according to the report, was that teacher educators were trained in disciplinary areas and were reluctant to depart from their narrowly focused, highly specialized disciplinary identifications, partly because this was how they were trained and they had little knowledge of the other social sciences, partly because they perceived a certain prestige attached with their disciplinary identity, and partly because, unlike most other high school subjects, social studies did not have an analogous departmental structure on the college level (interdisciplinary studies would steadily emerge in higher education soon thereafter, in fact). In any event, the net effect was mainly resistance by the teacher education faculty to new ways of thinking about the school material, which, by extension, adversely affected the way it was being taught in teachers colleges.

One wonders if these teachers colleges have not gone to extreme limits in specialization, Rugg surmised, particularly in the face of a distinct trend and social need to give broader and more general courses to pupils in the schools [e.g., the movement toward teaching world history rather than specialized courses in ancient or modern history, as recommended in the AHAs 1920 report of the Committee on History and Education for Citizenship], designed to aid pupils in a synthetic understanding of a complex contemporary life in which they live.60 In fact, Rugg-Dearborn found that few institutions were even equipped with copies of public school syllabi, so the teacher education faculty did not know what their student-teachers were supposed to know and teach. As a result of the inconsistency between academic teacher preparation and real-world conditions in the schools, Rugg-Dearborn concluded, it was inevitable that the teachers would be inadequately prepared for the classroom.

The most scathing indictment Rugg-Dearborn had of the social studies teacher education programs was that they were seemingly incapable of teaching professional courses appropriately. Pedagogy in the subject area courses included heavy reliance on textbooks, reading, lectures, discussions, written work, and tests. Methods courses that ostensibly were meant to professionalize the subject matterthat is, make it functional for teaching in the schoolsended up being largely theoretical and abstract instead, not to mention dominated by a combination of recitation, discussion, and lecture. Rugg and Dearborn were left to wonder whether modern student-centered instructional techniques were being modeled for the students anywhere in the program. Ironically, they suggested that a study of progressive practice in the teaching of the social studies in public schools . . . might contribute much to a better organization of pre-service training and also to a needed coordination of training and practice in the field.61 In other words, the tail needed to wag the old dog in order to teach it new tricks.

Unfortunately, the teachers colleges did not appear to be moving in the direction of reform with any deliberate speed: There is evidence that there is a nationwide movement to reorganize the social studies. But there is no great guarantee that instructors of the social studies in teachers colleges are acquainting themselves with these movements or attempting to assume any responsibility for the direction the movement may take.62 Consequently, social studies reform was sure to falter.


So often in the minds of scholars and school people alike, the problem of curriculum reform boils down to the problem of enactment in the classrooms, and the problem of enactment in the schools boils down to the problem of teacher preparation and competence. As teacher education expert Marilyn Cochran-Smith has argued, whether by design or by default . . . teacher educatorsthose who teach the teachersare . . . the linchpins in educational reforms of all kinds.63 Indeed, if we take seriously the notions of curricular-instructional gatekeeping and curriculum consonance, then we would expect the ways in which teachers are prepared to have significant implications for curriculum and instruction in schools.64 In a similar vein, we might expect curriculum reforms enacted in schools to make their impression on the teacher education enterprise, if only to ensure that formal programs for teacher preparation remain vital to the goings on in classrooms.

However, as we have seen in this study of history/social studies teacher education in the early years of the field, these propositions about the relationship between teacher education and curriculum reform do not always play out according to expectations. For example, despite the upbeat reports from Trenholme and Pierce about improvements in the preparation of history teachers in the late 1910s and early 1920s, observers in the schools continued to decry the general incompetence of history instruction, suggesting that Trenholme and Pierce may have been overly optimistic, their studies may have been overly circumscribed, or, perhaps most likely, the potentially positive effects of teacher education were washed out by other constraining factors (e.g., lack of resources, insufficient administrative support, minimal student interest, etc.) when the intended curriculum became operational.65 In this case, teacher education evidently was not a driver of school-based curriculum reform. We also learned from the Dawson and Rugg-Dearborn surveys that the social studies reforms recommended in the NEAs 1916 Report had trouble making their way into teacher preparation programs, so even if they were beginning to be implemented in schools, teacher educators were not necessarily following suit.66 In this instance, teacher education appears to have been out of step with school-based curriculum reform.

In a 1927 letter to A. C. Krey, professor of history at the University of Minnesota and head of the AHAs Committee on History and the Other Social Studies (soon to become the renowned Commission on the Social Studies), S. Gale Lowrie, chair of the political science department at the University of Cincinnati, summarized the problem of social studies in the Cincinnati schools as follows:

Of course, the curricula are crowded and there is a difference of opinion of the relative value of the subject proposed, but I am convinced that the real reason that Social Sciences are not studied more generally is that they are so badly taught and so badly organized that it is an actual waste of time to teach them. The Principals know this, the teachers know this and the pupils know this, consequently instead of giving them more time, the tendency is to take away the time already allotted to them.

The Teachers are not prepared to do this work. . . . The teachers feel their ignorance and their incompetency to handle these subjects, and this reflects itself in a desire to avoid this work, and in poor teaching, so the whole course is of questionable value. I often think, we would do better in the University if the students never heard of the Social Sciences in the grade or in the high school. The worse part of it ismost of their students go into life with no understanding of these social matters at all.67

Lowrie was especially interested in the work of the committee on the preparation of teachers, asserting that I do not believe we will get out of the rut we are now in until this work has major consideration.

As Lowries letter demonstrates, if there was anything the early critics of social studies teacher education were certain about it was the fact that both the teacher education and the social studies fields were in a state of disarray, and they mostly had themselves to blame. On the one hand, most teacher education programs appear to have been resistant at best, and ill-equipped at worst, to adequately prepare teachers in social studies subject matter or instructional methods. On the other hand, social studies reformers failed to define the social studies curriculum clearly enough or to lay out their expectations of teachers explicitly enough for teacher educators to have much to work with in the first place. Take, for instance, the matter of how the social studies curriculum ought to be organized vis-à-vis disciplinary knowledge and skills. After the NEA Committee of Ten (1893) legitimized history and its allied subjects as a distinct subject area within the high school program, the AHA committees (1890s1920s) dutifully advocated for history instruction foremost, while the NEAs 1916 Report called for a more multidisciplinary or fusionist approach to teaching the various branches of the social sciences. Had there been agreement among these curriculum policymakers regarding what approach to curriculum organization was best, the chances may have been greater that social studies reform would have made a stronger impression on the schools. However, the conflict between social studies and history advocates instead became intractable (indeed, it lasts to this day), making the prospect of unified and widespread curriculum reform rather bleak. All hope need not have been lost, though. Had there been agreement among teacher educators regarding how the social studies curriculum ought to be organized and taught, then there may have been a chance for social studies curriculum reform to be implemented in schools via the teachers. However, teacher educators likewise could not agree on what the integrated social studies should look like or how it should be taught, or most importantly, whether it ought to be taught at all at the expense of teaching just history. Thus, with the winds blowing in so many directions at once, social studies curriculum reform was destined to be dead in the water or adrift at best.

These shortcomings point up the importance of (1) reformers articulating a vision for curriculum, instruction, and learning that accounts for the central role of teachers and teaching in the educational enterprise (in addition to subject matter, curriculum organization, resources and materials, assessment, and student outcomes), and explicates what kinds of knowledge, skills, and dispositions teachers need in order to enact the curriculum reform;68 (2) reformers accounting for the politics and practices of schools/colleges/departments of education when attempting to implement curriculum change, so as to secure buy-in from teacher educators and put systems in place that can accommodate and help effectuate new curricular schemes;69 (3) teacher education programs becoming more nimble so as to be able to adapt rapidly, creatively, and competently to new curricular initiatives rather than steadfastly resisting efforts by reformers to transform schooling, as is often the case;70 and, (4) coalescence between teacher educators and curriculum reformers around a clearly defined set of common purposes. After all, while it may not be the case that teacher education propels curriculum reform or that curriculum reform sets the agenda for teacher education, it is nonetheless evident from our review of the history of social studies teacher education and curriculum reform that the field may have progressed more efficiently and effectively had there been better articulation among its various stakeholders. Of course, the idea that scholars and school people ought to coordinate their efforts is hardly new. In fact, the NEA and AHA social studies commissions of a century ago were predicated on the assumption that these groups needed to work together in order to effect change, and not a few teacher educators were reformers themselves. Oddly enough, however, historians of the social studies looking back on the era of the 1916 Report (as well as other reform movements over time) have mostly disregarded the matter of teacher education and its relationship to the effectuation and effectiveness of social studies reforms recommended by the Old Masters.

The absence of teacher education from the history of social studies is curious for a few reasons. First, although there are in fact two major educational settings in which the subject area known as social studies has special relevancek-12 schools and schools/colleges/departments of educationthe history of social studies has been focused almost exclusively on the k-12 curriculum, as though the teacher education setting, let alone articulation between the two settings, has had little to no consequence for the field. As noted earlier, contemporary scholars and critics of teacher education would say quite the opposite, which makes the absence of historical interest in teacher education and its relationship with k-12 teaching and learning all the more glaring. Second, the social studies field is hardly bereft of historical investigation. This owes in part to the fact that history is a dominant constituent of the social studies disciplines, so many social studies scholars and educators have backgrounds, interests, and skills in historical research. Why social studies historians have all but ignored the history of teacher preparation in the social studies is perplexing, given that most social studies academics also teach teachers in teacher preparation programs and, one might imagine, would have an interest in how the teacher education enterprise developed. The problem may be attributable to the curriculum scholar O. L. Davis observation regarding social studies and educational ahistoricism more generally that the social studies is a practical field; its followers, engaged daily with the predicaments of the moment, lack both time and disposition for reflection and analysis.71 But again, with so many social studies academics engaged in other historical studies of the field, the lack of attention to teacher education is confounding.

Might it be the case that some of the very same biases at play in the history of the social studiessuch as the privileging of academic knowledge over technical knowledge, social scientific inquiry over educational research, leading men over grassroots women, elite universities over local teachers colleges, policymakers over practitioners, and so onhave played themselves out in the historiography of the field as well? If so, then the time has come for more histories at the ground level that can give us a sense of the background, preparation, and day-to-day work of social studies teachers, so that we can come to understand from their perspective and practice the extent to which teacher educators and curriculum reformers directly influenced their work.72

Alternatively, the problem might lie with the conspicuous reticence of teacher educators to rigorously examine their own qualifications and predilections, perhaps for fear of what the findings might reveal or, more importantly, how they might be construed by policymakers, pundits, and the public at large. In fact, only recently have teacher educators begun to focus the research lens on themselves; much work has yet to be done in this area.73 What expertise and experiences do teacher educators bring to their work? How are the educators of educators themselves educated? How do teacher educators perceive their efficacy, particularly as it relates to k-12 classroom practices? To what extent do teacher education programs purposefully attempt to drive and/or be responsive to curriculum reform, and to what extent does this happen by default or even despite their efforts? These matters deserve further investigation in both historical and contemporary contexts.74

Readers already familiar with the teacher education literature may recognize in this case study of history/social studies teacher education many parallels with larger debates that have played out more generally in the teacher education field over the past century. Limitations of scope prevent me from addressing these parallels in great depth beyond the several that have been mentioned already, such as the longstanding conflict between scholars and school people, the enduring question of how much content and method should be included in teacher preparation programs, and the abiding concern about the status and professionalization of teaching. I encourage readers to draw further comparisons and surmise what their implications may be for various subject-specific areas of teacher preparation or for the field of teacher education writ large.75

It also should be noted that the present study provides only a snapshot from the highly variegated vista of teacher education and social studies education that existed in the early years of the social studies field. More could be said about the status of social studies teaching and learning in the schools, the work of social science professional organizations and teachers associations in bringing about curriculum reform, the stakeholders in the social studies enterprise, and other matters that have been covered quite extensively elsewhere in the social studies literature. More could also be said about teacher preparation programs in settings aside from universities and teachers colleges; the often significant distinctions between the preparation of elementary and secondary school teachers; the character of teacher education materials, such as methods textbooks, and experiences, such as practice teaching; the problems of credentialing, status, and professionalization in the teaching field; how teacher education in other school subjects and disciplines compare; and other matters that also have been covered quite thoroughly in the teacher education literature. Last, more could be said about the historical context in which these developments occurred, including the growth of universities and public schools; the expansion of education research; the impact of immigration, industrialization, war, and other factors on the evolution of American schooling; and other matters that have been addressed rather expansively in the historical literature. All these issues constitute an agenda for further research.

For now, this study represents first efforts in a pursuit of understanding the historical connection of teacher education and curriculum reform: a matter that, judging by the surfeit of headlines regarding the failings of teachers and schools over the past century, vexes scholars and school people to this day.


The author is grateful to James W. Fraser, Patricia G. Avery, and the anonymous reviewers for their comments and suggestions. This study was supported in part by a faculty research award from the University of Minnesota.


1. University of Minnesota, Bulletin, vol. 3 (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 1900), 6566.

2. University of Minnesota, "Handbook for Social Studies Education Students," (2006), 25.

3. To be sure, much the same can be said about the basic structure of teacher education in any of the school subjects, as they all entail some combination of subject matter, pedagogy, and field experience. A comparison of the history of teacher education in the various disciplines would be worthwhile but is beyond the scope of the present study.

4. See, e.g., Stephen J. Thornton, "Legitimacy in the Social Studies Curriculum," in A Century of Study in Education: The Centennial Volume, ed. Lyn Corno (Chicago: NSSE, 2001); Larry Cuban, "History of Teaching in Social Studies," in Handbook of Research on Social Studies Teaching and Learning, ed. James P. Shaver (New York: Macmillan, 1991).

5. The landmark study on this linkage is John I. Goodlad, Teachers for Our Nation's Schools (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers, 1990).

6. Sweeping chronicles include David Jenness, Making Sense of the Social Studies (New York: Macmillan, 1990); Hazel W. Hertzberg, Social Studies Reform, 18801980 (Boulder, CO: Social Science Education Consortium, 1981); Ronald W. Evans, The Social Studies Wars: What Should We Teach the Children? (New York: Teachers College Press, 2004). For case studies, see, e.g., David Warren Saxe, Social Studies in Schools: A History of the Early Years (Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 1991); Christine Woyshner, Joseph Watras, and Margaret Smith Crocco, eds., Social Education in the Twentieth Century: Curriculum and Context for Citizenship (New York: Peter Lang, 2004); Barbara Slater-Stern and Karen L. Riley, eds., The New Social Studies: People, Projects and Perspectives (Greenwich, CT: Information Age Publishing, 2009); Linda Symcox, Whose History?: The Struggle for National Standards in American Classrooms (New York: Teachers College Press, 2002). For studies of curriculum and instruction, see, e.g., Hertzberg, "Are Method and Content Enemies?"; Stephen J. Thornton, "The Social Studies Near Century's End: Reconsidering Patterns of Curriculum and Instruction," in Review of Research in Education, ed. Linda Darling-Hammond (Washington, DC: AERA, 1994). For discussions of Old Masters, see, e.g., Margaret Smith Crocco and O. L. Davis, Jr., eds., Building a Legacy: Women in Social Education, 17841984 (Silver Spring, MD: NCSS, 2002); Ronald W. Evans, This Happened in America: Harold Rugg and the Censure of Social Studies (Greenwich, CT: Information Age Publishing, 2007); Paul Robinson, "The Conventional Historians of the Social Studies," Theory and Research in Social Education 8 (1980); Michael Whelan, "James Harvey Robinson, the New History, and the 1916 Social Studies Report," The History Teacher 24 (1991). One notable study that does, in fact, give some consideration to teacher preparation is David Warren Saxe, "Establishing a Voice for History in Schools: The First Methods Textbooks for History Instruction, 18961902," Theory and Research in Social Education 22 (1994).

7. Thomas Fallace, "John Deweys Influence on the Origins of the Social Studies: An Analysis of the Historiography and New Interpretation," Review of Educational Research 79, no. 2 (2009); Stephen J. Thornton, "Continuity and Change in Social Studies Curriculum," in Handbook of Research in Social Studies Education, ed. Linda S. Levstik and Cynthia A. Tyson (New York: Routledge, 2008); Christine Woyshner, "Notes toward a Historiography of the Social Studies: Recent Scholarship and Future Directions," in Research Methods in Social Studies Education: Contemporary Issues and Perspectives, ed. Keith C. Barton (Greenwich, CT: Information Age Publishing, 2006); O. L. Davis, Jr., "Understanding the History of the Social Studies," in Eightieth Yearbook of the National Society for the Study of Education: Part II. The Social Studies, ed. Howard D. Mehlinger and O. L. Davis, Jr. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981); Michael B. Lybarger, "The Historiography of Social Studies: Retrospect, Circumspect, and Prospect," in Shaver, Handbook of Research on Social Studies.

8. Scholarship on social studies teacher education includes Susan A. Adler, ed. Critical Issues in Social Studies Teacher Education (Greenwich, CT: Information Age Publishing, 2004); Susan A. Adler, "The Education of Social Studies Teachers," in Levstik and Tyson, Handbook of Research in Social Studies. General histories of teacher education include James W. Fraser, Preparing America's Teachers: A History (New York: Teachers College Press, 2007); Christine A. Ogren, The American State Normal School: "An Instrument of Great Good" (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005); David Labaree, The Trouble with Ed Schools (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2004); Jurgen Herbst, And Sadly Teach: Teacher Education and Professionalization in American Culture (Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 1989); Lawrence Cremin, "The Heritage of American Teacher Education," Journal of Teacher Education 4, no. 2 (1953).

9. National Education Association, The Social Studies in Secondary Education (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1916). Subsequent references in text will be to the 1916 Report.

10. Thomas Fallace, "Did the Social Studies Really Replace History in American Secondary Schools?," Teachers College Record 110, no. 10 (2008): 2248 (emphasis in the original).

11. David Tyack, Seeking Common Ground: Public Schools in a Diverse Society (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2003), 45.

12. Norman M. Trenholme, "Training the History TeacherA Decade of Progress," The Historical Outlook 10 (1919): 502.

13. The AHA Committees were charged with addressing and revising the scope, sequence, methods, and content of high school history courses. See Edith M. Clark, "The History Curriculum since 1850," The Historical Outlook 11 (1920). See also Murry R. Nelson, "First Efforts toward a National Curriculum: The Committee of Ten's Report on History, Civil Government, and Political Economy," Theory and Research in Social Education 20, no. 3 (1992).

14. Hertzberg, "Are Method and Content Enemies?"

15. National Education Association, Report of the Committee of Ten on Secondary School Studies (New York: American Book Company, 1893), 187.

16. American Historical Association, "The Study of History in Schools: Report of the Committee of Seven," in Annual Report of the American Historical Association for the Year 1898 (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1899), 486.

17. American Historical Association, The Study of History in Secondary Schools: The Report of the Committee of Five (Norwood, MA: Norwood Press, 1911), 1415.

18. "An Accusation," The History Teacher's Magazine 3 (1911): 14.

19. See Edgar Dawson, The History Inquiry (Philadelphia: McKinley Publishing Co., 1924).

20. It is important to note that entrance into the teaching profession up till that time hardly required more than an eighth grade education, given that few public school students advanced beyond the elementary years. A central component of the expanding high school curriculum was a normal (i.e., teacher preparation) program for the development of common school teachers. But, high school level teacher preparation remained geared primarily for teaching in elementary school settings. With the growth of high schools and colleges came the expectation that secondary level teachers would gain some postsecondary training.

21. Fraser, Preparing America's Teachers, 3.

22. Ibid., 71.

23. Dana C. Munro and William Fairley, "The Training of High School History Teachers: Two Committee Reports," The History Teacher's Magazine 4 (1913): 23.

24. Ibid., 24.

25. William MacDonald, "From the Point of View of the College," The History Teacher's Magazine 3 (1912): 105.

26. Ibid., 106.

27. Munro and Fairley, "The Training of Teachers."

28. Edgar Dawson, "Certification of High School Teachers of History," The History Teacher's Magazine 3 (1912).

29. See Marilyn Cochran-Smith et al., eds., Handbook of Research on Teacher Education: Enduring Questions in Changing Contexts, 3rd ed. (New York: Routledge; Co-published by the Association of Teacher Educators, 2008); Linda Darling-Hammond and John Bransford, eds., Preparing Teachers for a Changing World: What Teachers Should Learn and Be Able to Do (San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2005); Marilyn Cochran-Smith and Kenneth M. Zeichner, eds., Studying Teacher Education: The Report of the AERA Panel on Research and Teacher Education (Mahwah, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2005).

30. Merle Borrowman, The Liberal and Technical in Teacher Education: A Historical Survey of American Thought (New York: Teachers College Press, 1956); Cremin, "Heritage of Teacher Education"; Ellen Condliffe Lagemann, An Elusive Science: The Troubling History of Education Research (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000).

31. See, e.g., Joseph Watras, "Historians and Social Studies Educators, 18931998," in Woyshner et al., Social Education; Hertzberg, "Are Method and Content Enemies?"; Evans, Social Studies Wars; Oliver M. Keels, Jr., "The Collegiate Influence on the Early Social Studies Curriculum: A Reassessment of the Role of Historians " Theory and Research in Social Education 8, no. 3 (1980).

32. William C. Bagley and Thomas Alexander, The Teacher of Social Studies, vol. 14, Report of the Commission on the Social Studies (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1937), 42.

33. For a good summary of this scholarship, see C. Gregg Jorgensen, John Dewey and the Dawn of Social Studies: Unraveling Conflicting Interpretations of the 1916 Report (Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing, 2012).

34. NEA, Social Studies in Secondary Education.

35. Fallace, "Did the Social Studies Replace History?"

36. NEA, Social Studies in Secondary Education, 58.

37. Ibid., 59.

38. Ibid.

39. Trenholme, "Training the History Teacher," 502.

40. James Harvey Robinson, The New History (New York: MacMillan, 1912), 1.

41. Ibid., 66.

42. Trenholme, "Training the History Teacher," 503.

43. Ibid.

44. Bessie Pierce, "A Survey of Methods Courses in History," The Historical Outlook 12 (1921): 315.

45. Ibid., 316.

46. Ibid., 315.

47. Edgar Dawson, Preparation of Teachers of the Social Studies for Secondary Schools (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1922), 3.

48. Ibid., 11.

49. Ibid.

50. Ibid., 1214.

51. Ibid., 11.

52. Ibid., 21.

53. Ibid., 7.

54. Ibid., 10.

55. Pierces study investigated Brown, California, Chicago, Columbia, Cornell, Grinnell, Harvard, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Nebraska, CCNY, NYU, Northwestern, Ohio State, Pittsburgh, Princeton, USC, Smith, Stanford, Washington, Syracuse, Wisconsin, and Yale. Rugg-Dearborns study of normal schools (NS) and teachers colleges (TC) was conducted at New Jersey State NS, Maryland State NS, Virginia State TC, East Carolina TC, Georgia State TC, Alabama State NS, Mississippi State TC, Louisiana State TC, North Texas State TC, California State TC, Oregon State TC, Washington State NS, Washington State TC, Idaho State NS, Colorado State TC, Kansas State TC, Southwest Missouri State TC, Nebraska State TC, Iowa State TC, Northern South Dakota State NS, Minnesota State TC, Wisconsin State NS, Illinois State NS, Indiana State NS, Michigan State NS, and Cleveland School of Education.

56. Herbst, And Sadly Teach.

57. Fraser, Preparing America's Teachers.

58. Earle U. Rugg and Ned H. Dearborn, The Social Studies in Teachers Colleges and Normal Schools (Greeley, CO: Colorado State Teachers College, 1928), 78. Dearborn dropped out of the study early on to become the chief of teacher training and certification in the New York State Department of Education, so the report was drafted by Rugg in consultation with Dearborn. All subsequent references to the study will be as Rugg-Dearborn.

59. Ibid., 1617.

60. Ibid., 2021.

61. Ibid., 61.

62. Ibid., 126.

63. Marilyn Cochran-Smith, "Learning and Unlearning: The Education of Teacher Educators," Teaching and Teacher Education 19 (2003): 5. For an interesting contrary view, see James Hiebert and Anne K. Morris, "Teaching, Rather Than Teachers, as a Path toward Improving Classroom Instruction," Journal of Teacher Education 63, no. 2 (2012).

64. Stephen J. Thornton, Teaching Social Studies That Matters: Curriculum for Active Learning (New York: Teachers College Press, 2005); Stephen J. Thornton, "Curriculum Consonance in United States History Classrooms," Journal of Curriculum and Supervision 3 (1988).

65. Larry Cuban, "Curriculum Stability and Change," in Handbook of Research on Curriculum, ed. Philip W. Jackson (New York: Macmillan, 1992).

66. As noted previously, Fallace, among other social studies historians, challenges the assumption that the 1916 report had much of an impact on schools in the first few decades following its release. Even so, the perception among some contemporary observers like Dawson was that it was beginning to make its way into classrooms and that it should spread even more extensively.

67. S. Gale Lowrie to A. C. Krey, 12 March 1927, August Charles Krey Papers, Collection 973, University of Minnesota Archives.

68. See Stephen J. Thornton, "Educating the Educators: Rethinking Subject Matter and Method," Theory into Practice 40, no. 1 (2001).

69. This argument has been made in reference to the New Social Studies reforms of the 1960s, as well. See Richard H. Brown, "Learning How to Learn: The Amherst Project and History Education in the Schools," The Social Studies 87, no. 6 (1996).

70. See Labaree, Trouble with Ed Schools.

71. Davis, "Understanding the History," 19. See also Kenneth M. Zeichner and Daniel P. Liston, "Traditions of Reform in U.S. Teacher Education," Journal of Teacher Education 41, no. 3 (1990), regarding teacher education more generally.

72. Fallace, "Did the Social Studies Replace History, 2248. One good example of this type of work is Lynn R. Nelson and Fredrick D. Drake, "Secondary Teachers' Reactions to the New Social Studies," Theory and Research in Social Education 22, no. 1 (1994).

73. Fred Korthagen, John Loughran, and Mieke Lunenberg, "Teaching TeachersStudies into the Expertise of Teacher Educators: An Introduction," Teaching and Teacher Education 21 (2005).

74. Pam Grossman and Morva McDonald, "Back to the Future: Directions for Research in Teaching and Teacher Education," American Educational Research Journal 45, no. 1 (2008).

75. I acknowledge with appreciation the critical comments of one anonymous reviewer who felt that the connections between the historical and contemporary teacher education debates ought to be addressed more directly in the narrative. As a historian, I typically balk at suggesting direct implications for contemporary practice, not because I want my work to come across as aloof, antiquarian, or irrelevant, but rather because I like to think that contemporary observers of historical phenomena might be able to draw a host of different interpretations and lessons for their present-day lives that might not be the same as those narrowly defined by me, the historian. On the other hand, I can fully appreciate why readers would be keenly interested in concrete conclusions and recommendations for todays practice. I therefore invite readers to make further connections beyond those I already make explicitly in this study.

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 115 Number 12, 2013, p. -
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 17249, Date Accessed: 10/26/2021 1:52:01 AM

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About the Author
  • Benjamin Jacobs
    New York University
    E-mail Author
    BENJAMIN M. JACOBS is assistant professor of social studies, education and Jewish studies at New York University. His publications, which have appeared in journals such as Theory and Research in Social Education and Diaspora, Indigenous, and Minority Education, and in reference works such as the International Handbook of Jewish Education and the Encyclopedia of Curriculum Studies, include several studies of the history and theory of social education and Jewish education on the American scene. His research interests also include teacher education, teaching history, curriculum studies, cosmopolitan education, and the education of ethnic groups.
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