Date of Award

5-2015

Level of Access

Campus-Only Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

History

Advisor

Howard Segal

Second Committee Member

Nathan Godfried

Third Committee Member

Michael Lang

Abstract

This research looks into the public debate surrounding the release of proposed voluntary National History Standards within the context of the 1990s culture wars in the United States. The goal is to offer a glimpse into how history education is tied with notions of culture, and how conceptions of history and national identity were manipulated by individuals, spear headed by former NEH chairwoman Lynne Cheney, with a political motive. The author gives a brief context of the United States’ during the mid-1990s, including tenuous issues of race, gender, sexuality and multiculturalism. The origins and development of the national history standards are laid out, including the internal debates over multiculturalism during their development. The focus shifts to the media attacks a number of conservatives launched against the standards, claiming they were too culturally liberal, and were an attempt at white washing our nations’ history. It is pointed out that these attacks coincided precisely at a pivotal political moment for conservatives in the Capitol, just at the time of the 1994 Republican takeover of the house, and that these attacks on the standards were a way to capitalize on conservatives’ new power. The conclusion focuses on the end of the debate after the Senate Resolution in January, 1995. The New York Times editorial pages became a hot bed for the debate, and reveal a behind-the-scenes connection among the conservatives criticizing the standards, further acting as evidence that the conservative assault was coordinated.

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