ERIC Identifier: ED307222
Publication Date: 1989-06-00
Author: Harf, James E.
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse for
Social Studies/Social Science Education Bloomington IN.
National Security in the Curriculum. ERIC Digest.
Education about national security has always been part of the social studies
curriculum in America's high schools. But its focus has been simply
chronological and episodic with major attention given to war, particularly the
decision to enter it and the conduct of U.S. military forces. Little attention
has been given to the evolution and structural arrangements of this nation's
security, the underlying global and national premises for maintaining security,
and the basic context in which security has been achieved. This ERIC Digest
treats (1) the meaning of national security, (2) the rationale for including it
in the curriculum, (3) the place for its inclusion, (4) the challenges to such
education, and (5) the criteria for education about national security.
WHAT IS NATIONAL SECURITY?
For scholars and policy-makers
national security has at least two levels of commonly accepted meaning. First,
in its most basic sense national security means protection of a nation's borders
and territories against invasion or control by foreign powers. In a world where
the nation-state remains the basic unit having principal control of physical
force, such protection is so important that no other goals can be realized
Second, this broader view of national security involves the promotion of
national values, interests, and institutions and the protection of them from
various threats. Today, political events in seemingly remote parts of the world
and various kinds of problems (monetary instability, world-wide inflation and
unemployment, ecology disturbances, etc.) can directly affect a nation's
The appearance of nuclear weapons has greatly complicated the meaning and the
pursuit of national security. With the advent of the nuclear age in 1945, the
question of national security became closely linked with nuclear weapons. These
new weapons were able to threaten not only other nations but the survival of the
planet itself, forevermore linking national well-being to international
WHY TEACH ABOUT NATIONAL SECURITY?
Several points justify
education about national security. First, education about national security has
an important and distinct contribution to make to education for competent
citizenship, the prime mission of social studies education. There can be no more
vital requirement for good citizenship in the nuclear age than an ability to
understand and participate competently in public policy processes related to
national security, for many of the most crucial public policy issues involve the
Social studies educators have always recognized their special obligation for
citizen preparation, and increasingly many are aware of the need for
strengthening education relevant to national security and related issues. A
recent national survey of state social studies supervisors found nearly
unanimous agreement that "teachers should confront nuclear issues and help
students examine possible consequences of alternatives" (Hahn 1985, 249).
A second reason for systematic attention to national security is the
widespread support for bringing global perspectives to the education of American
youth. Literature on global education indicates a number of essential elements
of global education, including questions of peace and security. National
security specialists are especially concerned about the peace and security
aspects of global education. Where Can National Security Be Included in the
Curriculum? The topic of national security should be included throughout the
curriculum, because subject matter pertains to every major section of core
social studies courses. Throughout each of the existing major social studies
courses--American government, American history, economics, world geography,
world history--there are multiple entry points where the content, skills, and
values associated with security are especially relevant and therefore may be
introduced. Teachers of American history, for example, can use the debates of
the Constitutional Convention and the discourses of THE FEDERALIST papers to
focus on the initial structural arrangements for and the problems of seeking
national security. Students can be taught that George Washington's Farewell
Address set the foundation for American security policy well into the 20th
century. Many topics, such as post-World War II arms control efforts, can be
related to national security.
WHAT ARE CHALLENGES TO NATIONAL SECURITY EDUCATION?
educators are receptive to efforts to strengthen instruction about national
security, they face significant challenges in doing so.
A Crowded Curriculum. Today's secondary schools have too much to teach in too
little time and there is limited room to accommodate an additional focus on
national security topics.
Educators' Limited Background. Social studies educators have little or no
formal training regarding national security and related studies and no ready
access to such information for instructional purposes, curriculum planning, and
Inadequate Instructional Materials. Major social studies textbooks give
little systematic attention to security and are flawed by superficiality, poor
pedagogy, and a bias toward particular political causes or special interests.
Scholars' Training and Experience. Despite the best of intentions, the
contributions of university scholars who become involved in curriculum
development, teacher training, or related tasks may be limited by a lack of
skill and experience with pre-collegiate education as well as a lack of interest
in such collaboration.
WHAT ARE GUIDELINES FOR IMPLEMENTATION OF NATIONAL SECURITY EDUCATION?
While it is important that explicit criteria exist to guide
every educational experience, it is especially useful for a subject matter about
which there is public controversy. Controversial issues must be presented in a
manner relevant to the subject matter of the course being taught, appropriate to
the age and maturity level of the student, and regarded as important and not
disruptive. Moreover, multiple perspectives must be provided without
politicizing the situation, exploiting emotional trauma, or promoting feelings
of alienation or despair.
The following additional criteria are based on experiences in national
security education at the Mershon Center of The Ohio State University.
-- The school board should officially recognize the
legitimacy of education about national security and
provide general guidelines and support for implementing
plans designed by the district's professional educators.
-- School administrators should understand the dimensions
of education about national security topics and be
involved in the implementation of plans for their
inclusion in the curriculum.
-- The goals for education about national security must be
consistent with and reinforce the goals of the existing
social studies curriculum.
-- The content must be grounded in a conceptual foundation
extracted from the body of theory and research in the
scholarly field of national security studies.
-- Teaching strategies and materials must present
information about national security in a balanced manner
that does not advocate any particular point of view.
-- The addressing of student fears should represent an
instrumental goal in the pursuit of understanding of the
subject matter and the ability to analyze the issues.
REFERENCES AND ERIC RESOURCES
The following list of
resources includes references used to prepare this Digest. The items followed by
an ED number are in the ERIC (Educational Resources Information Center) system
and are available in microfiche and/or paper copies from the ERIC Document
Reproduction Service (EDRS). For information about prices, write EDRS, 3900
Wheeler Avenue, Alexandria, VA 22304 or call 800-227-3742. Entries followed by
an EJ number are annotated monthly in CIJE (CURRENT INDEX TO JOURNALS IN
EDUCATION), which is available in most libraries. EJ documents are not available
through EDRS; however, they can be located in the journal section of most
libraries by using the bibliographic information provided below.
Coles, Robert. "Children and the Bomb." NEW YORK TIMES MAGAZINE (8 December 1985): 48-50, 54, 61.
Hahn, Carole L. "The Status of Nuclear
Education in Social Studies: Report of a Survey." SOCIAL STUDIES 76 (November-December 1985): 247-253. EJ 330 594.
Jungerman, Nancy K. and John
A. Jungerman. "The Dark Side of Nuclear Arms Education." JOURNAL OF COLLEGE SCIENCE TEACHING 14 (February 1985): 244-247. EJ 314 362.
Meier, Paulette and Beth
McPherson. NUCLEAR DANGERS: A RESOURCE GUIDE FOR SECONDARY SCHOOL TEACHERS. Washington, D.C.: Nuclear Information and Resource Service, 1983. ED 225 877.
Miller, Steven L.
and others. ECONOMICS AND NATIONAL SECURITY: SUPPLEMENTAL LESSONS FOR HIGH SCHOOL COURSES. Columbus, OH: The Mershon Center, 1987. ED 291 640.
Patrick, John J. and others. AMERICAN
HISTORY AND NATIONAL SECURITY: SUPPLEMENTARY LESSONS FOR HIGH SCHOOL
STUDENTS. Columbus, OH: The Mershon Center, 1987. ED 286 809.
Commission on Foreign Language and International Studies. STRENGTH THROUGH WISDOM: A CRITIQUE OF U.S. CAPABILITY. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1979. ED 176 599.
Remy, Richard C., James E. Harf, and B. Thomas
Trout. TEACHING ABOUT NATIONAL SECURITY. Bloomington, IN: ERIC/ChESS, 1987. ED 289 815.
Riddle, Robin. BIBLIOGRAPHY OF NUCLEAR AGE EDUCATIONAL RESOURCES. Stanford, CA: Stanford Program on International and Cross-cultural Education, 1987.
Stanley Foundation. NUCLEAR ARMS
EDUCATION IN SECONDARY SCHOOLS. Muscatine, IA: Stanley Foundation, 1985. ED 273 543.
Study Commission on
Global Education. THE UNITED STATES PREPARES FOR ITS FUTURE: GLOBAL PERSPECTIVES IN
EDUCATION. New York: Global Perspectives in Education, Inc., 1986. ED 283
Task Force on International Education. AMERICA IN TRANSITION: THE INTERNATIONAL FRONTIER. Washington, DC: National Governors' Association, 1989. ED number will be assigned.
Trout, B. Thomas,
James E. Harf, and William H. Kincade, eds. ESSENTIALS OF NATIONAL SECURITY: A CONCEPTUAL GUIDE FOR TEACHERS. Menlo Park, CA: Addison-Wesley, 1989.
Wronski, Stanley P. and
others. "Global Education: In Bounds or Out?" SOCIAL EDUCATION 51 (April-May 1987): 242-249. EJ 351 558.