100 Ways: Arts & Letters


Published May 10, 2019 3:20 PM

Don't Know Much About History...

Gary Nash

What should America's schoolchildren learn in history class?

That’s what UCLA Education Professor Charlotte Crabtree was thinking about in 1988 when she established the National Center for History in the Schools. Crabtree, an experienced classroom teacher, soon enlisted UCLA historian Gary Nash, the author of Red, White & Black: The Peoples of Early North America (1974).

In 1991, Crabtree and Nash tackled the challenge of developing national standards for the teaching of history. But they didn’t do it alone. For years, groups of professional historians and veteran classroom teachers worked together to develop frameworks for teaching U.S. and world history.

Released in 1994, the standards were attacked by Rush Limbaugh and Lynne Cheney, whose opinion piece was headlined “The End of History.”

Nash and Crabtree replied to the criticisms at length in the book History on Trial: Culture Wars and the Teaching of the Past. “We are living in an era when unusually strident claims are made about how reinterpreters of history dishonor American traditions and demean Western values. The sky is falling, they say, because new faces crowding onto the stage of history ruin the symmetry and security of older versions of the past,” they wrote. “In fact, one of the most important of all American traditions is education and citizenship that requires open inquiry and healthy skepticism about any account of the past, and open-mindedness to the possibility of new historical perspectives.”

The revised version of the standards, released in 1996, continue to influence textbook writers and publishers, school administrators, curriculum specialists and policymakers.

The National Center for History in the Schools is now part of UCLA’s Public History Initiative, with its HistoryCorps internships and a simple but striking motto: “We help students and scholars bring history alive.”

Picture This

UCLA Film and Television Archive

It's a treasure trove of moving-image history. More than 350,000 motion pictures, 160,000 television programs, 10,000 commercials and 27 million feet of newsreel footage. This is the UCLA Film & Television Archive, the world’s second-largest media collection behind the U.S. Library of Congress and a highly regarded film preservation program.

Founded in 1968, the archive is a go-to resource for storytellers, scholars and historians, and a delight for the movie-going public, screening 400 films a year at the Billy Wilder Theater at the Hammer Museum. Cinephiles clamor to attend special events, such as the biennial UCLA Festival of Preservation, which showcases the program’s preservation work. Most of the archive’s films are viewable by the public on request for research, say for a book, article or feature film. “The idea is for the collection to live and breathe and not be locked away in vaults,” explains Mark Quigley M.F.A. ’00, television archivist.

Of the archive’s vast holdings, one of the most popular is the Hearst Metrotone News Collection, the entertaining, in-theater newsreels that brought moviegoers up to date on current events. Spanning 1916 to 1972, the collection is one of the most extensive continuous records of U.S. history anywhere. The archive’s many sought-after titles are used regularly by students, scholars, journalists, authors and filmmakers.

The archive strengthened its emphasis on preservation in 1974 with the arrival of Robert Rosen as director. A historian, Rosen saw films as “historical documents that embody collective narratives.” He said letting films fade away was a “cultural crime.”