The Relationship Between American Exceptionalism in History and Meritology in American Schools (part III)

If exceptionalism in the American history curriculum exists then could it be addressed by training teachers to remove it? Unfortunately, teacher learning is not that simple. Teachers learn how to teach through a combination of process-product, cognitive, situated, and sociocultural perspectives. This means teachers learn from their interactions with students, their experiences over time, and through social, physical, cultural, and historical contexts (Russ, 393-403). An example of a macrolevel perspective is the “vicious cycle.”

In short, the cycle describes why negative experiences of teachers in their own education lead them to teach in a way that does not support inquiry (Cochran-Smith et al., 469). In the current education system, teachers are transitioning from an industrial economy style of learning to a global-knowledge based economy (Cochran-Smith et al., 442). 

During the industrial economy style, teachers merely needed to teach the students a one-size fits all lesson. If students did not understand the lesson, or series of lessons, they were filtered out of the system. This was not problematic because students were able to find work, or their suffering was not cause for concern.

Today, a global-knowledge based economy is taking over the industrial one, and its philosophy argues for more inclusion and development of students from lower socioeconomic statuses. It is no longer acceptable for students to be simply filtered out of the education system if they do not perform well.

Teacher learning is complicated, therefore American exceptionalism and meritology cannot be simply “taught out” when teachers receive their formal training or on the job preparation.

For social studies teachers, communities worth getting involved in are National Council for the Social Studies and National History Day.

Policy makers and educators will not find an easy answer in redirecting teachers from meritology and exceptionalism philosophies, but the best action that can be taken is promoting education communities and giving teachers time to pursue these groups. There are thousands of teacher communities across the United States, which are comprised of groups inside and outside of schools (Russ, 405). Education communities can be beneficial because they instill a spirit of discourse among teachers. While attending these communities, teachers can participate in open forums, panels, and keynote speakers. There are also book clubs and opportunities to gain more education through scholarly programs.

Despite the vast number of organizations and learning communities, and the benefits of them, teachers do not get enough paid leave to explore these organizations. Also, professional development in school districts is often done only once with no follow through. These teacher learning communities are essential because they allow all participants to share their experiences and give teachers a chance to listen to the latest research and how it can be practically applied (Russ, 408). If districts do not give opportunities and time to learn from best practices and modern research, there is little hope that new objectives will be met. If teachers are going to be at the forefront of removing meritology and American exceptionalism, then they must be given time to understand the issue and figure out how their own practice can be changed.

For my own practice, I would like to create more professional development opportunities and checking systems for teachers working in Lincoln Public Schools. Since I am in the higher education department at UNL, I can be used as a source of authority to help teachers make positive change to their classrooms. Also, since my schedule is more flexible, I can more easily check-in on the practices of teachers. One idea that could lead to positive results is asking all educators that supervise preservice teacher to admit themselves into a review process. This critical review would be a part of the mentoring program for student teachers and could be taken for continuing education credits, graduate credits, and monetary gain.

Conclusion and Source References

For the other parts of this article, see Part I and Part II

Nasir, Na’ilah Suad, Janelle Scott, Tina Trujillo, and Laura Hernandez (2016). The Sociopolitical Context of Teaching. In D. Gitomer and C. Bell Handbook of Research on Teaching, Fifth Edition. Washington, DC: American Educational Research Association.

Russ, Rosemary S., Bruce L. Sherin, and Miriam Gamoran Sherin (2016). What Constitutes Teacher Learning? In D. Gitomer and C. Bell Handbook of Research on Teaching, Fifth Edition. Washington, DC: American Educational Research Association.

Cochran-Smith, Marilyn, Ana Maria Villegas, and et al. (2016). Research on Teacher Preperation: Charting the Landscape of a Sprawling Field. In D. Gitomer and C. Bell Handbook of Research on Teaching, Fifth Edition. Washington, DC: American Educational Research Association.