Social Education 58(3), 1994, pp. 142-144
National Council for the Social Studies

Globalization of United States History: Six Strategies

Helena Benitez
I believe that the teaching of United States history in the United States is too often characterized by a narrow focus on national events and leaders as seen through a monocultural, Northwestern European lens. At the same time, historical trivia is often placed above causal explanations and alternative perspectives on major historical events. For example, one text uses up space explaining why John Paul Jones said, "Don't shoot 'til you see the whites of their eyes" (Conlin 1987). In my opinion, history would be better served by using this space to explain events from the point of view of a woman or a person of color or by placing events like the American Revolution on a broader intellectual plane. Teachers could ask, for example, why did the American Revolution occur when and where it did? What unique social and economic blend has fostered the politics of democracy? Has the United States always lived up to its democratic ideals? What was the role of women and minorities in the Revolution and in other aspects of the nation's history?
Presenting history as an amalgamation of seemingly unrelated facts and &Mac222;gures that recognizes the contributions and viewpoints of only one social group leaves our students unprepared to take on their roles as local, national, and world citizens. This narrow view of the past needs to be replaced by one that recognizes the American condition as the result of both internal struggle and global interaction.

This article will address these issues by offering several strategies for integrating a global perspective into the United States history curriculum. By a global perspective, I mean an approach that integrates social, economic, and political cause and effect firmly ensconced in a recognition of the impact of the United States' actions on the international sphere and vice versa. Social cause and effect should include the contributions of all social groups, including women and minorities.

The examples of strategies given below are suggestions for adding a global dimension to U.S. history classes. I present them to encourage other teachers to expand their knowledge of history and combine it with the strategies presented in order to globalize the United States history curriculum. I hope that by integrating these strategies into their existing curricula, teachers will share with their students a more realistic and compelling view of our country and the world, thus enhancing student involvement and, consequently, learning.

Systems Approach
In this strategy, teachers explain the connection between events in the United States and in the international arena. By viewing the United States and the rest of the world as part of one international "system," the teacher discusses the influence of world events on the development of the United States and vice versa. Possibilities include:

These examples emphasize the influence world events have had on U.S. history and can have on the future. The following examples stress the influence that the United States has had on the international realm. Comparative Approach
To improve understanding of the history of our country compared to other regions, the teacher can use two strategies. First, the time-line strategy compares different social, economic, or political components of the United States and other countries at a certain point in time. For example: Second, the development strategy compares different social, economic, or political components of the United States with that of other countries at different points in time but at the same milestones. For example: Alternative Perspectives Approach
With this approach, the teacher presents historical events from alternative, i.e., non-male, non-Judeo-Christian, or non-Northwestern European, perspectives. This strategy should allow students to see the validity of alternative perspectives and experiences as well as the contributions of minority groups. In order for students to see that all of their contributions are important, they need to see that history is not a list of accomplishments of a dominant culture but a social history of struggle, sacri&Mac222;ce, and achievements of men and women from different cultures.

Students also need to understand how other countries view the United States's problems and actions in order for them to be able to participate in an increasingly interdependent world. Finally, and to this same end, students need some understanding of the needs and problems of other countries.

The following are examples using this approach:

Parallels Between Present and Past
Students often complain that history lacks relevance to their lives. This strategy may help them to see that history has relevance in the lessons it holds for decision-making and problem-solving in the present and the future. Historical phenomena such as war are not isolated incidents but follow certain patterns; students should understand that the misapplication of history's lessons can have disastrous results.

The following are possible exercises using this strategy:

Ordinary Person Approach
Students need to understand that history is not made up solely of the actions of the important people, but that it is a social history as well. This leads to an appreciation of how the global social, economic, and political order affects and is affected by the ordinary person (including the student). Teachers can achieve this objective by asking students to write or act on an issue from the perspective of the ordinary person. Here is one example: The Importance of Multidimensional History
The strategies discussed in this article are designed to help educators in their quest to infuse global education into United States history. The story of our country is not one-dimensional. Educators need to emphasize the relationship between world political, economic, and social phenomena in order to prepare young people to be responsible, international citizens. This means providing them with a balanced understanding of the past that will enable them to construct solutions to future problems.

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Helena Benitez teaches in the social studies department of MASTAcademy senior high school in Key Biscayne, Florida. She is ABD for her Ph.D. in Political Science at Georgetown University and is working on a Master's Degree in Social Science Education at Florida International University.