Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Political Science


Paisley Currah

Subject Categories

Curriculum and Instruction | Education Policy | Political Theory | Public History


History, education, social studies, Common Core, pedagogy, United States


This paper shows that the explicit aims of the American educational standards for public schools, the Common Core State Standards to teach history to create “college and career ready” students, marks a shift from preparing students for political participation to preparing them for market participation. I trace the intellectual and pedagogical origins of the Common Core’s pretense of technocratic apolitical values back through the previous two major American curricular reform efforts. In the first section I discuss the origins and development of the National History Standards and show how Cold War anxiety prompted a shift in evaluating students as potential workers. Section two, which examines alternative approaches to content-based standards from skills-based pedagogues shows how efforts to make high school history look more like the academic discipline were co-opted to discourage student considerations of the politics of history. The third section is a close reading of the Common Core State Standards for history to show how market orientation and an aversion to politics were translated into pedagogy. This thesis shows that the history classroom in public schools is inherently political, and the Common Core State Standards, like previous national curriculum legislation, cannot be apolitical. Furthermore, I show that the politics of the Common Core history standards reflects the technocratic interests at play in public policy today.