ERIC Identifier: ED300336
Publication Date: 1988-11-00
Author: Hunter, Kathleen
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse for
Social Studies/Social Science Education Bloomington IN.
Heritage Education in the Social Studies. ERIC Digest.
Curriculum reformers of the 1980s have called for emphasis on core content in
the curriculum, knowledge that should be learned by all students to equip them
for intelligent and fruitful participation in their society. Ernest Boyer (1983,
302), for example, has said: "A core of common learning is essential. The basic
curriculum should be a study of those consequential ideas, experiences, and
traditions common to all of us...." Knowledge associated with heritage education
belongs in the core curriculum, as part of the common learning of young
This ERIC Digest addresses the following questions about heritage education:
(1) What is it? (2) Why does it belong in the core curriculum? (3) How is it
connected to education in the social studies? (4) What are the qualities of
exemplary heritage education programs?
WHAT IS HERITAGE EDUCATION?
Heritage education is an
approach to teaching and learning about history and culture that uses
information available from the material culture and the human and built
environments as primary instructional resources. The heritage education approach
is intended to strengthen students' understanding of concepts and principles
about history and culture and to enrich their appreciation for the artistic
achievements, technological genius, and social and economic contributions of men
and women from diverse groups. Heritage education nourishes a sense of
continuity and connectedness with our historical and cultural experience;
encourages citizens to consider their historical and cultural experiences in
planning for the future; and fosters stewardship towards the legacies of our
local, regional, and national heritage.
Heritage education occurs whenever we interact with the world around us. It
also occurs in elementary and secondary schools whenever teachers introduce
examples of the material culture and built environment into lessons in the arts,
humanities, sciences, and social studies. By directly experiencing, examining,
and evaluating buildings, monuments, workplaces, landscapes, and other historic
sites and artifacts--objects in our material culture and built
environment--learners gain knowledge, intellectual skills, and attitudes that
enhance their capacities for maintenance and improvement of our society and ways
WHY DOES HERITAGE EDUCATION BELONG IN THE CORE CURRICULUM OF
Heritage education is compatible with proposals for a core
curriculum and common learning advanced by Ernest Boyer, William Bennett, and
many other curriculum reformers of the 1980s, because it includes "consequential
ideas, experiences, and traditions common to all of us"--achievements and values
tangibly represented by our built environment and artifacts. More than forty
percent of the terms listed by Hirsch as essential to cultural literacy in the
United States have a reference point in our built environment (1987, 152-215).
As part of a core curriculum in schools, heritage education supports the
unity of the United States, a force for cohesion in a society marked by
pluralism. Heritage education, properly conceived, also emphasizes the rich
diversity of the American people, which is reflected in the built environment.
Thus, teaching and learning about the built environment enhance learning of a
fundamental paradox of our American nation--unity with diversity.
Knowledge and appreciation of national unity with social diversity are
requirements of cultural literacy and citizenship in the United States. Tension
between preservation of common values and acceptance of new cultural influences
and experiences is an inescapable part of our American heritage. So is a
workable blending of continuity and change, of preservation of a common heritage
and integration of new ideas and experiences into it, thereby recreating a sense
of cultural coherence and commonality from the fresh contributions of newcomers.
HOW IS HERITAGE EDUCATION CONNECTED TO THE SOCIAL STUDIES CURRICULUM?
The content of heritage education fits easily into
established subjects of the social studies curriculum, such as history and
geography. Consider five main themes of education in geography: (1) location,
(2) place, (3) human-environment interactions, (4) movement of people, ideas,
goods, (5) formation and change of regions (Joint Committee on Geographic
Education 1984). Teaching and learning about each of these five themes are
greatly enriched through use of the built environment. The same point can be
made about main themes of historic literacy, such as time and chronology,
continuity and change, common memory, historical empathy, and cause-effect
relationships. These ideas can be included in the curriculum more realistically
and interestingly through use of historic places and artifacts.
During the 1980s, there has been a strong revival of interest in history and
geography as staples of elementary and secondary education in the social
studies. According to John J. Patrick, director of Indiana University's Social
Studies Development Center, the current emphasis on history and geography "bodes
well for the contributions that historic preservation and heritage education
might make to improvements in the curriculum of our schools. The objects of
historic preservation can be connected to a curriculum dominated by history and
geography" (1988, 7).
The best means for including heritage education in the curriculum is
infusion--integration with existing curriculum patterns--rather than creation of
new courses or stand-alone units of study. Established goals and subjects in the
social studies provide numerous points of entry for teaching and learning about
artifacts and the built environment. And the content of heritage education
provides opportunities for connection of the social studies to other subjects in
the curriculum, such as languages, literature, and fine arts.
WHAT ARE THE QUALITIES OF EXEMPLARY HERITAGE EDUCATION
The National Trust for Historic Preservation, chartered by the
U.S. Congress in 1949, is committed to education of the public about the
importance of knowing, valuing, and preserving its heritage. In line with this
commitment, the National Trust's Task Force on Heritage Education has stated
that exemplary programs should reflect
-- an accurate, objective, and balanced interpretation of
sites, landscapes, structures, and objects, establishing
the appropriate context for and conveying the reality of
the place in the American historical and cultural
-- the rich historical and cultural contributions of men
and women from diverse regional, racial, and ethnic
groups, and the legacies of these contributions in the
texture and shape of our built environment;
-- the expressions of America's historical and cultural
experience found in local, state, and regional
-- an interdisciplinary approach to the study of American
history and culture, incorporating information from the
liberal and fine arts and sciences;
-- a vision for a quality of life for Americans as this is
presented in the "preservation ethic" espoused by the
historic preservation community;
-- an instructional design and curriculum content that has
been developed with and for teachers at various grade
levels, in cooperation with well-prepared historians and
preservationists who will remain involved in
implementation of the program;
-- integration with the existing curriculum developed for
each grade level within the elementary and secondary
system, and adaptation to the realities of the local
-- support for the educational mission, goals, and
priorities of the elementary, secondary, and higher
education systems articulated by the major national
professional organizations and by local, state, and
-- support for the values and practices of informed
stewardship towards America's historical and cultural
legacies in landscapes, sites, structures, and objects.
Exemplary programs in heritage education move students beyond the pages of
textbooks and worksheets to interpretation of evidence from various sources:
documents, artifacts, and various objects of the built environment. Video
programs and photographs (slide shows and bulletin board displays) are
especially effective means of bringing examples from the built environment into
the classroom. Students can be required to use these visual materials as sources
of evidence about the past, in the same way that written primary sources are
used in a sound history course. Teachers might also use field trips to historic
landmark sites as sources of data to interpret, analyze, and evaluate.
In conclusion, high-quality programs in heritage education enhance the
teaching and learning of core subjects in the social studies, such as history
and geography. Through this enrichment of the core curriculum, heritage
education contributes to the common learning and cultural literacy of students.
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.
William J. JAMES MADISON HIGH SCHOOL: A CURRICULUM FOR AMERICAN STUDENTS. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, 1987. ED 287 854.
Boyer, Ernest L. HIGH SCHOOL: A REPORT ON
SECONDARY EDUCATION IN AMERICA. New York: Harper & Row, 1983.
Carroll, Rives. "Exploring the
History of a Neighborhood: A Community Project." SOCIAL STUDIES 76 (July/August 1985): 150-154. EJ 322 803.
Carter, John. "Heritage Education." THE HISTORY AND
SOCIAL SCIENCE TEACHER 23 (March 1988): 125-126. EJ 371 160.
Cheney, Lynne V.
AMERICAN MEMORY: A REPORT ON THE HUMANITIES IN THE NATION'S PUBLIC SCHOOLS. Washington, DC: National Endowment for the Humanities, 1987.
ED 283 775. Committee on
Elementary-Secondary Education. A HERITAGE AT RISK: A REPORT ON HERITAGE EDUCATION (K-12). Burlington, VT: Historic Preservation Program for the National Council for Preservation Education, 1987.
Gulliford, Andrew. AMERICA'S COUNTRY SCHOOLS.
Washington, DC: National Trust for Historic Preservation, 1984. ED 251 270.
Hirsch, E.D., Jr.
CULTURAL LITERACY: WHAT EVERY AMERICAN NEEDS TO KNOW. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1987.
Joint Committee on
Geographic Education. GUIDELINES FOR GEOGRAPHIC EDUCATION: ELEMENTARY AND SECONDARY
SCHOOLS. Washington, DC: The Association of American Geographers and the National Council for Geographic Education, 1984. ED 252 453.
Patrick, John J. HISTORIC PRESERVATION AND THE SCHOOL CURRICULUM. Paper presented to the Symposium on Heritage Education of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, May 11, 1988, Washington, DC. ED number will be assigned.