Lack of History Education Could Plague Future Generations


The Thomas B. Fordham Institute recently posted a very worthwhile editorial from Barbara Davidson,  president of StandardsWork, Inc.

In the editorial, Davidson takes the collective American educational system to task for what she feels is an alarming disregard for history:

Every week, it seems, another study highlights how little knowledge our young people possess about history, civics and geography. Earlier this year, Common Core found that half of the 17 year olds polled didn’t know whom Senator McCarthy investigated or what the Renaissance was, while the Bradley Foundation told us that most eighth graders couldn’t explain the purpose of the Declaration of Independence. The list goes on. In 2006, National Geographic revealed that nearly two-thirds of 18-24 year olds could not identify Iraq on a map of Asia, and fully 88 percent could not find Afghanistan — apparently refuting Ambrose Bierce’s suggestion that "War is God’s way of teaching Americans geography." 

As someone approaching 30, I can honestly say that, despite the fact that I had some incredible teachers at my high school and occasionally in college (both public schools), my knowledge of history was painfully lacking. And I think it was more an indictment of the curriculum, rather than the actual educators. What’s more, after college, I soon realized what I thought I had learned in my political science classes in college had been presented with more than a little bias. Most of what I know of history has been read from books in the last eight years or so, and I’m still wanting for information — if my answers to "Jeopardy" questions are any indication. (Apparently, Noam Chomsky was NOT Cliff Clavin’s best friend on "Cheers.")

Anyway, it’s nice to see David McCullough was also referenced in this editorial:

During Congressional testimony in 2006, historian David McCullough described how human beings have a natural interest in history and find it to be a source of pleasure. He went on to say that "to deny our children that pleasure is to deny them a means of extending and enlarging the experience of being alive."

McCullough’s book, "John Adams," was recently made into a highly-acclaimed miniseries by HBO (which I thoroughly enjoyed).

So kudos to Davidson for her eye-opening piece on the lack of social studies in American schools.

And let us not forget the past, remembering the words of George Santayana: "A country without a memory is a country of madmen."

Brilliant words from the man who once graced us with such efforts as "Oye Como Va" and "Black Magic Woman."

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