Report - Commission on the Humanities and Social Sciences

Report - Commission on the Humanities and Social Sciences

organizations, religious and cultural institutions—should work with schools to create

curricular materials that promote the basic literacies and civic skills that sustain a

robust public forum for the exchange of ideas. Public libraries and museums will be

particularly important in this regard as they build free online collections that can be

made available to school districts with limited financial resources. 6

Support Teachers

To engage with these disciplines, to understand and absorb their lessons, we need the

help of creative and dedicated teachers. Teachers serve as guides, inspirers, and points

of first contact with the wider world of ideas. As we readjust k-12 curricula to prepare

students for today and tomorrow, we must find new ways to support our educators and

provide them with the resources they need to do their jobs well.

Currently, the different levels and sectors of American education work for the most

part in isolation, with each group segmented from the next, unaware of their commonalities.

In fact, primary and secondary school teachers belong to a wider intellectual

community that also includes higher education faculty and the leaders of cultural

institutions. All produce and transmit knowledge, and all foster the skills that their

students will need to thrive in the twenty-first century. This ong>Commissionong> recommends

a nationwide effort to reconnect our k-12 schools and teachers to the broader scholarly

community, as well as an integrated approach to education reform and teacher


By working in concert, universities, colleges, and k-12 schools will strengthen one

another and share complementary resources. A true teaching network—from kindergarten

through higher education—will collect and share new methodologies, new

discoveries, and new student needs. College and university faculty should reach out

to their teaching colleagues at k-12 schools, and teachers should be encouraged to

participate in the broader intellectual exchange that has been, for decades, the purview

solely of higher education. Such collaborations will permit the development of a

seamless learning continuum, so that students moving from one level to another will

find an extended and deepened learning experience that builds on the previous level. 7

Cultural and community organizations, such as museums and public historic sites,

can be valuable partners in this network as well.

As we work to lift the professional status of teachers, we must also lift the professional

qualifications of teachers. Teachers of subject areas in k-12 education must be proficient

in their subjects as determined either by degree attainment or standardized

examinations. Currently, progress toward this goal has been uneven: fewer than 30

percent of public high school students are taught by a history teacher with a degree

The Heart of the Matter 25

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