29 August 2000

A Trans-National Approach to teaching the Industrial Revolution, Civil, and World Wars in the Fifth and Ninth Grades

  This collection of nine themes has only just begun, but it attempts to put together a thematic, trans-national approach to exploring our changing national identities from their reformulations in the nineteenth century and through subsequent changes over two World Wars. Many of the ideas stem from resources compiled from teacher surveys in the U.S.A. and Japan. Read a more detailed introduction to this guide below. Some of the questions addressed in the themes include:

  1. How could the Industrial Revolution create national identity and a social crisis among citizens of industrializing countries?

  2. How did the Civil Wars serve to resolve the social crisis and establish new national identities in the U.S. and Japan?

  3. How did mistaken views of  human evolution contribute toward social injustice within and between nations?

  4. How did government reforms and the labor movement succeed and fail to bring about more justice?

  5. How did mistaken views of human evolution and progress help cause the First World War in the following expressions of conflict: Nationalism, Militarism, and Imperialism?

  6. Why didn't the First World War resolve the conflicts and prevent the Second World War?

  7. How did the Second World War help resolve the original conflicts and create new national identities?

  8. How does "New and Improved" describe the U.S.A. and Japan after the Second World War?

  9. What was the disagreement behind the Cold War and what sort of nationalist movements did it spur around the world?

  10. How have our national identities changed over the course of the twentieth century and how will they probably continue to change in the new century?

Georgia Quality Core Curriculum (QCC)
fifth and ninth (or tenth) grade objectives for comparison with teaching ideas, book and video recommendations and links to resources:

  1. Industrial Revolution, Society, and Responses (5.7/9-12.15,16)

  2. Civil Wars and New Nations (5.6)

  3. National Frontiers and Native Peoples (5.9,10/9-12.18)

  4. Government Responses and Labor (5.11)

  5. First World War: Nationalism, Militarism, and Imperialism (5.12/9-12.17,20,29)

  6. Between the World Wars: New Inventions and Depression (5.13,14)

  7. Second World War: Resurgence and Response (5.15/9-12.22)

  8. New and Improved U.S.A.: the War Impact (5.16,19/9-12.22)

  9. Modern Cold War World (5.16/9-12.25)

  10. Twentieth Century Currents: 'Race,' 'Nations,' Economy, and Environment (5.20,9-12.30,26,27,28)


  World War comes into focus two or three times over the course of our twelve years in public schools in the state of Georgia and Japan. In Georgia, it comes up once in the in the fifth grade for about eight class hours, and again in the ninth grade (or sometimes tenth grade, depending on the school) for about the same amount of hours. In Japan, it comes up in the sixth grade and again in the ninth grade for roughly the same total hours as in Georgia. What kind of impressions do students receive from these brief glimpses of death and destruction? I discussed this question with my wife, a Japanese citizen and sixth grade teacher, and we concluded that for most Japanese students: Hiroshima, Nagasaki, the B29 bomber, Hitler, and Pearl Harbor are the main memories. Judging from my own experience as an American student, I'd have to say that Pearl Harbor, Hitler, the Holocaust, and Hiroshima make the strongest impressions. Aside from these events, important considerations such as the causes of the war, or, that the First and Second World Wars are related phenomena, make few if any lasting impressions. After reviewing the curriculum objectives and teaching materials recommended by teachers in Japan and the U.S.A., it becomes more obvious that our limited impressions of the World Wars show, in part, that we tend to remember events of the World War as external calamities to our own national histories, not as inter-related global events. In the fifth and ninth grades, the World Wars, come up in the second half-a-year's intensive study of national history. World history is not taught in any form until after the fifth grade, and even then it is merely survey of world geography and cultures before national history resumes again in the ninth grade. It is often not until college that students have any chance to study world history thematically. Such a deficit in formal studies in world history makes it unlikely that students will ever consider deeply the themes and challenges common to various nations in the world that made World War inevitable.
  To better understand trends in our respective curriculums and teaching methods in Japan and Georgia, and to explore the prospects for developing a thematic global context for our future studies, I conducted a survey of primary, secondary school, and college teachers in Japan and the U.S.
1 From the responses, and follow-up research into materials and methods, I have begun to merge and organize the teaching objectives and materials from both countries into a guide. Georgia's Quality Core Curriculum (QCC) objectives form a base because they have recently become the most comprehensive and detailed, and allow for comparative approaches to themes related to the First and Second World Wars. The guide draws parallels between the national histories of the U.S. and Japan beginning with their respective Civil War periods during the Second Industrial Revolution; then it traces other common themes like nationalism, militarism, and imperialism, through the First and Second World War to show that some of the causes of wars were intrinsic to these nations and others during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. From the two-dimensional view of the U.S. and Japan across the wars, such relationships will be more apparent than studying from the traditional, one dimensional national history. One would have to conduct an extended study into the lasting impressions on students using this curriculum, but, hopefully, a trans-national approach should make the causes of the World Wars at least as impressive as the events.
  This unfinished guide covers nine themes and corresponding questions in chronological order for use in fifth and ninth grade classes using Georgia's QCC curriculum objective standards. QCC objectives would not be as easy to implement in Japanese classes as in Georgia, but there are enough content correlations to make the guide useful during portions of the school year in the sixth and ninth grades when studies of modern national history occur. Students in both countries should also be familiar with our common pre-national histories. The story, Everyone's Birthday Party, for grades 3 through 5 introduces this history.
  back to the guide index


  1. In the English language, I used three list-serves for posting projects, general postings for teachers K-12, and surveys using a service provided by St. Olaf College in Minnesota. The submission guidelines are at http://www.stolaf.edu/network/iecc/. I also posed on the H-Humanities list-serves for High School History and Social Studies Teachers (H-HIGH-S) at http://www.h-net.msu.edu/~highs/ and College History teachers (H-TEACH) at http://www.h-net.msu.edu/~teach/ . Finally, during March and April, I participated in a forum on teaching the Second World War for teachers at all levels sponsored by historymatters.com the list serve is still functional at WORLDWARIIFORUM@ASHP.LISTSERVE.CUNY.EDU.
    In the Japanese language, I posted requests on a multi-disciplinary social sciences list-serve called SOUGAKU at sougaku@salon.edu.mie-u.ac.jp
    directed by the University of Mie Prefecture; on a Social Studies teachers list-serve called SHAKAI at shakai@iwai-h.ed.jp/iwai.ibaraki.jp. back to text

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