Date of Award

Spring 2020

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Transformative Education and Social Change

Committee Chairperson

John Elmore, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Paul Morgan, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Jacqueline S. Hodes, Ed.D.


Democratic virtue and spirit are severely lacking in the traditional school setting. With so many threats to the planet, the nation, and democracy as a whole, direct action, and active civic engagement are more important than ever. The traditional social studies and history curriculums of schools, both sanitized and passive, often claim to prepare students for citizenry, but are actually ill preparing students for the challenge and the necessity of genuine civic engagement. In particular, one of the most egregious offenders within the domain of the social studies is the traditional American history curriculum. In most cases, as this study intends to prove, this curriculum contradicts democratic values, maintains racial hegemonies, and encourages apathy, or even hopelessness, toward civic action. These types of offenses, that the American history curriculum commits, are not new, but rather have been developing since the inception of public education in the 19th-century. With these problems, and these challenges, the implementation of a new history course, the History of American Social Movements, a course which both models successful social movements throughout the history of the United States and tasks students with creating their own action plans regarding issues they see in their communities, is nothing short of essential for the arduous journeys ahead. This paper provides a detailed examination and history of the faults and damages of the American history curriculum, before then pressing forward to propose the necessity, curriculum, theory, and evaluation of the course, the History of American Social Movements.