"A wise and frugal government which shall restrain men
from injuring one another, which shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government."
(Thomas Jefferson)

Friday, June 17, 2011

Rich Lowry: A Bad Case of National Amnesia

One reason you always will hear when you talk about lack of history being taught is the fact that the teachers are too busy teaching English and math for standardized testing which means history gets ignored along with history textbooks that contain errors and revisionist history being used.  There are some elements of truth to that as standardized testing has overwhelmed the schools especially with 'No Child Left Behind' which frankly is not doing the job it started out to do.  It has put unnecessary burdens on the school teachers along with a lot of pressure from their Administrators for their students to do well.

Not a proponent of any mandated education program from the Federal Government no matter who is the President.  You fix the problem with going back to basics and the teaching of history should be a basic subject to be taught.  

You need good teachers and a start would be looking at the poor quality of education  some of the Education majors are receiving from some universities.  Instead of getting a degree in History and becoming a history teacher, many get their degrees through the College of Education which for years has been known as an easy way to a degree.  Since they are teaching our students, shouldn't we have the right to expect that degree be one of the hardest?

The second problem with history is the text book companies and their failure to fact check facts of history.  When we lived in Texas, one of the text book companies put out a text book for review and over 3,000 mistakes were found including dates of events.  The company said they fix all but about 300 because it would be too expensive to fix those.  Excuse me but putting a textbook in print knowing that there are mistakes doesn't say much for the ethics of the company.  Texas actually has local text book committees that involve the members of the local school, parents and members of the community in reviewing new textbooks before they are ordered.  Time more states and school districts pay attention to textbooks and exactly what they have in them for all subjects.

The third problem is the revisionists historians who do everyone a disservice by putting in textbooks their ideas of what happened in history in order to fit their agenda.  To some historians being patriotic is akin to be a sin in their book as they love to trash America.  Makes you wonder why they still live here.

Not only members of academia at all levels, but parents and community members need to have a vested interest in seeing our schools are teaching a balanced curriculum which includes history.  Parents bare responsibility to see their children are receiving a first class education instead of turning a blind eye to what their children are being taught.  Too many times you hear of schools where parents don't show up for parent conferences which is a sad commentary on what they think of their children's education.

Education is the key to successful future and we owe it to America's children to see that get a quality education.                                            
A Bad Case of National Amnesia
The teaching of history in this country is woeful.
The Declaration of Independence is a poor excuse for an obscure historical document. It’s not Magna Carta or the Peace of Augsburg. Its name is so straightforwardly functional, it almost makes you wonder why the founders weren’t more imaginative. 
Yet only 35 percent of American fourth-graders know the purpose of the Declaration of Independence, according to the 2010 results of the National Assessment of Educational Progress. The findings of the test — administered to representative samples of fourth-, eighth-, and twelfth-graders — are another dreary recitation of the historical ignorance of America’s students.
Only 20 percent of fourth-graders, 17 percent of eighth-graders, and 12 percent of twelfth-graders were proficient in history. More than half of twelfth-graders were categorized as “below basic.” Only 22 percent of twelfth-graders knew that North Korea was allied with China during the Korean War. Education expert Diane Ravitch notes with dismay that 40 percent of these students were already eligible to vote when they took the test, and all of them will be eligible within a year.

They are the symptoms of a country engaged in a long process of erasing its memory. For decades, we have been congratulating ourselves for a broadmindedness that is really a self-destructive national amnesia. 
It’s no accident that the teaching of American history became ascendant during the surge of national self-confidence in the wake of the Civil War. The late sociologist Samuel Huntington reported in his book Who Are We? that just six states required the teaching of history prior to the Civil War. By the turn of the century, 23 did.
Back then, we infused the endeavor with an unabashed love for America. The historian Merle Curti writes that the schools “emphasized the importance of presenting vividly and attractively to children the glorious deeds of American heroes, the sacrifices and bravery of our soldiers and sailors in wartime, the personalities of the presidents, who might properly be regarded as symbols of the nation in the manner in which royal personages of Europe were regarded.” 
How appropriate. How passé. Today, we’re lucky if students can pick their forebears out of a lineup. 
The content of education began to change in the middle of the 20th century, and eventually tipped into embarrassment and self-abasement. Huntington cites a study of 22 grade-school readers published in the 1970s and 1980s. Out of 670 stories and articles in the books, only five were patriotic. All of the stories dated from prior to 1780. Four of them focused on a girl. Three of them involved the same girl, Sybil Ludington, the female Paul Revere. 
As this transpired down below in the elementary schools, the professional historians worked to kill American history from above. They suffocated it first in data-driven “social history” and then in multiculturalism, until it seemed fit only for obsessives about race or gender. 
Excerpt:  Read More at the National Review

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