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Teaching with Integrity in Challenging Times

Published on Sat, 04/15/2023

Katharina Matro, a high school social studies teacher who grew up in Germany, explains how consistent and open education about the Holocaust has shaped her own commitment to democracy and her love of country.  American Historical Association..
Katharina Matro, a high school social studies teacher speaks about growing up in Germany. American Historical Association.

High quality social studies education is an essential tool to maintain and advance American democracy. American history teachers follow rigorous professional standards because they understand this enormous responsibility. The organizations and principles below aim to support teacher in the challenging environment that many of them face across the United States today. 

A powerful and rigorous social studies curriculum provides strategies and activities that engage students with significant ideas, and encourages them to connect what they are learning to their prior knowledge and to current issues, to think critically and creatively about what they are learning, and to apply that learning to authentic situations.

- National Council for the Social Studies - A Vision of Powerful Teaching and Learning in the Social Studies - 2022


Link to the video of teacher Katharina Matro from the American Historical Association


    Key strategies for teaching history with integrity today.

    Over the past year and a half, I have heard personal testimony in person and in virtual meetings from many teachers and leaders in professional associations of teachers and historians as they seek a path for teaching with integrity in the face of political and legal attacks. I compiled the following list of strategies from this testimony and from statements by the National Council for the Social Studies, the American Historical Association, and the National Council of Teachers of English. 

    • Read statements by national professional associations of social studies, English teachers, and others. (See below.) 
    • Build your community. Teachers, family, and other educators. Ask for support. 
    • DO something. Sit in on a school committee meeting. Write to your legislators. Explain what you do and do not teach. (e.g. We do not indoctrinate students. To do so would violate our professional standards.) Write a thank you the NCSS or NCTE for their work to support teachers. Reach to a colleague who you know is struggling. But do what you CAN do. 
    • Read the restrictive education laws. What do they actually say? 
    • Sign up to help when your state reviews disciplinary standards. (Many states do so on a scheduled cycle.) 
    • Join your professional association at the state and national levels. Participate. 


    Professional Responses to Classroom Censorship 

    The National Council for the Social Studies released a statement: A Vision of Powerful Teaching and Learning in the Social Studies to clearly state the professional standards that guide us. This is where we stand. Read this statement and others by allied professional organizations. 


    Teaching Media Literacy

    Students need to learn the rules of journalism and how to distinguish between responsible news and opinion or even deliberate misinformation. 


    EdWeek Map of Classroom Censorship Laws

    Even though no one actually seems to be teaching Critical Race Theory in American K-12 schools, extremists are using the term to mask a coordinated national censorship campaign. Journalists at EdWeek keep current this list of classroom censorship laws by state. Read the legislation for yourself. 



    Rich Cairn

    Civics and Social Studies Curriculum and Instruction Specialist, Collaborative for Educational Services
    Rich Cairn founded Emerging America in 2006, which features the Library of Congress Teaching with Primary Sources program at the Collaborative for Educational Services, and the National Endowment for the Humanities Landmarks of American History program, "Forge of Innovation: The Springfield Armory and the Genesis of American Industry." The Accessing Inquiry clearinghouse, supported by the Library of Congress TPS program promotes full inclusion of students with disabilities and English Learners in civics and social studies education.