Significance of History for the Educated Citizen: THE CASE FOR HISTORY IN GRADES K-4

For young children, history-along with literature and the arts-provides one of the most enriching studies in which they can be engaged. “What children of this age need,” Bruno Bettelheim has written, “is rich food for their imagination, a sense of history, how the present situation came about.” History enlarges children’s experience, providing, in the words of Philip Phenix, “a sense of personal involvement in exemplary lives and significant events, an appreciation of values and a vision of greatness.” History connects each child with his or her roots and develops a sense of personal belonging in the great sweep of human experience.

Fortunately, the nation’s educators are increasingly recognizing the importance of history in these early years of schooling, and of the interests and capabilities history fosters in young children. If students are to enjoy these immediate benefits of historical studies which Bettelheim, Phenix, and others have observed, and to lay the foundations on which their continuing development of the major goals addressed above depend, then schools must broaden the curriculum to include historical studies from the earliest school years onward.