U.S. History Classroom Mission Statement

After my first year teaching I found that I lacked a sense of cohesion that connected the first unit to the last unit (beyond the general sense of history connecting one event to another in a chronological fashion). I am retired military (21+ years) and drawing on that background came to realize that I needed a mission statement with approaches and objectives in the hopes that this will strengthen my teaching for next year.

Mission Statement:
The mission of the [School District] Alternative Program’s high school United States history class is to impart to its students a cultural and natural understanding of one’s place in the world[1], which is essential to good citizenship[2]. To this end, we have an environment that is engaging and will provide students a historical perspective[3] for moral contemplation[4] and binding them to those American generations who have come before and to those who are yet to be born[5].

Approach and Objectives:
My approach is based on supporting the [School District] Alternative Program’s interests as articulated by the [County] School Board and the [State] Department of Education. These various entities share mutual interests in promoting student education. In support of these interests this class will adhere to certain curriculum standards. Additionally, these organizations seek to provide a safe, secure, structured, and disciplined environment where this unique population of students can receive an appropriate education.

As an education professional, it is my responsibility to support these standards. To this end, I believe these umbrella objectives will guide my efforts throughout the course of instruction:

  • Identify who exactly is a person
  • Define who is an American
  • Describe the role of faith in the development of America and the United States
  • Explore the limits of individualism
  • Analyze what we know and what we can say about the development of the United States
  • Evaluate who judges the law
  • Analyze the U.S. economy
  • Investigate the balance between state and national authority
  • Determine the limits of presidential power
  • Assess the effect of trade on U.S. history
  • Compare/contrast when we go to war and when we use diplomacy through U.S. history
  • Evaluate the role of the environment upon U.S. history
  • Consider what is a fair, “more perfect” union[6]
  • Evaluate the positive effects of American culture, politics, and history on the world

Specifically, this class will offer a variety of strategies in support of these standards. To this end, it is my responsibility to provide students with the opportunity to explore and examine United States history (specifically from 1870 to the present). I will offer students the opportunity to: read multiple accounts and perspectives, analyze primary sources, understand historical content, examine source information, and use evidence to support claims[7].

In order to fulfill the mission statement, and to achieve the goals and objectives, it is also necessary to ensure students are able to perform basic skills. These include, but are not limited to, the following: the ability to think critically and with a historical perspective; the ability to take notes properly, study material presented in class, research and interpret primary and secondary sources, and finally the ability to write and present an analysis and evaluation of those sources.


[1] Bennett, William J. Foreword to Becoming an Educated Person: Toward a Core Curriculum for College Students, by George C. Leef. (American Council of Trustees and Alumni, 2003) Web. 25 May 2011. <https://www.goacta.org/publications/downloads/BEPFinal.pdf&gt;.
[2] Stearns, Peter J, “Why Study History,” American Historical Association, 11 July 2008. http://www.historians.org/pubs/free/WhyStudyHistory.htm
[3] Bennett, Foreword to Becoming an Educated Person: Toward a Core Curriculum for College Students
[4] Stearns, “Why Study History”
[5] Bennett, Foreword to Becoming an Educated Person: Toward a Core Curriculum for College Students
[6] Fineman, Howard. The thirteen American arguments : enduring debates that define and inspire our country. New York: Random House, 2008.
[7] National History Education Clearinghouse. Accessed May 27, 2011. http://teachinghistory.org/13.

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2 responses

  1. Howdy Eric,
    I am visiting in response to a post you made on Don Surber’s blog. I suggets you email/ask him the ‘rules for growing a blog’ (or equivalent, which he actually cribbed from someone else.
    > one of the ‘rules’ is to cultivate other bloggers by either linking to their material, or recommending them to others. Many return the favor . . .

    I like your mission statement, a LOT! Agree that quibbling over small differences misses the point.

    One recommendation to Mission Statement: add a blurb about why America is special. I don’t much care if this is ‘exceptionalism’ specifically, but our country is extraordinary in being a very large democratic republic, with democratic traditions dating to the original colonizers . . . that has provided a haven for immagrants over time, and a huge driver of economic growth for the entire world. Though we share many of these characteristics with Great Britain and some Commonwealth countries, IMHO we are extraordinary.

    Excellent objectives!!!

    Best Regards,

    Like

    1. Thanks again CAPT Mike! I appreciate, truly do appreciate, the input. In a previous blog I had I did link to quite a bit of other material and I know I should here as well. As you may see, I’ve not really maintained this blog. It’s always something I “plan on doing in the future”!

      I do like your idea about American exceptionalism. I think a lot of that is lost in today’s classrooms as we seek to blame one another for mistakes made in the past. History can not be narrowed down to that kind of nonsense. I’m looking for a great quote I wrote down in the last two months about this very thing but now can’t find it. I hate that. Anyway, To often in history classes it seems like I’m talking about how someone kept someone else “down”. I have to remind the kids that history is more than just that, especially when you speak of American history. I will include that somehow. I certainly think American exceptionalism has taken a huge ding in the last 40 years.

      Like

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