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El Paso County Colorado District 49

The history of teaching history

According to the American Historical Association website, there is no national system of education in the U.S; education is primarily a function of the states.The article, ì50 States, 50 Ways of Teaching Americaís Past,î dated Feb. 19, 2020, at, states, ìWhile most state standards do directly mention the teaching of two defining moments in American history, slavery and the civil rights movement, what states expect their students to learn about these topics can vary drastically.îAly Nicholson, a teacher at Sand Creek High School for eight years, said the Colorado Department of Education lays out the standards, and everything they teach falls within those standards. ìWe are charged with making sure we stay in alignment with those standards,î she said.Nicholson is presently teaching civics, although she has also taught U.S. history. She said in civics class they look at different ideas regarding politics and government. On a local level, they discuss how individuals can participate, engage and function as members in society, Nicholson said.They also cover the basics of government: the bill of rights and the basic rights afforded to citizens; the foundation and limitations of government and how to apply the rule of law, she said. They look at freedom and security and citizensí rights and responsibilities as well.ìThe state standards have us really re-enforce that to be able to engage in civics, you need to be able to hear multiple sides of an argument, so when we look at politics and the two-party system, we talk about what that means,î Nicholson said. ìIt may seem like itís black and white, but itís really not.î They talk about all the different perspectives and how to respectfully take part in those conversations and work with somebody who has different beliefs. ìMy job is not to push my political ideologies or beliefs on my students, but to charge them with the power to figure it out themselves,î she said.Nicholson said recently they tied in how social media plays a role in all of this; particularly how to determine if a news source is correct and factual: is it biased and is it worth repeating?The CDE mandates that to graduate from high school, students have to take a civics class. She said D 49 decided to have freshmen take it to arm them with the necessary content knowledge to go through high school.Sophomores take world history and juniors take U.S. history, which starts at the Reconstruction Era, around 1865, and continues to the present. Nicholson said the class covers six different elements: wars, civil unrest and reforms; the role of women and different minority groups; industrialization and technology; expansion and exploration; and culture. A government class is offered to seniors to prepare them to vote and be responsible citizens, she said.They also teach current events along with the curriculum. Nicholson said they look at what is happening in terms of culture and impact; has this happened before and how? ìA current event is something that is impacting us at present and may one day be history, so we take the time to acknowledge and look at that event,î she said.ìIím really proud of the work we do here in our department; we really try and give the kids a well-rounded education within our social studies department.î

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