Definition of Standards

Standards in history make explicit the goals that all students should have opportunity to acquire, if the purposes just considered are to be achieved. In history, standards are of two types:

  1. Historical thinking skills that enable students to evaluate evidence, develop comparative and causal analyses, interpret the historical record, and construct sound historical arguments and perspectives on which informed decisions in contemporary life can be based.
  2. Historical understandings that define what students should know about the history of their nation and of the world. These understandings are drawn from the record of human aspirations, strivings, accomplishments, and failures in at least five spheres of human activity: the social, political, scientific/technological, economic, and cultural (philosophical/religious/aesthetic). They also provide students the historical perspectives required to analyze contemporary issues and problems confronting citizens today.

Historical thinking and understanding do not, of course, develop independently of one another. Higher levels of historical thinking depend upon and are linked to the attainment of higher levels of historical understanding. For these reasons, the standards presented in Chapters 3 and 4 of this volume provide an integration of historical thinking and understanding.