Skip to comments.What Are We Teaching Our Kids?
Posted on 07/08/2004 5:54:36 AM PDT by yoe
Can America's schools teach history? The question ought to be ridiculous -- of course they can. What do we pay them for? History is as essential as reading and writing to a republic of free citizens. America's schools have always taught America's history.
Unfortunately, there's a lot of evidence that our schools are doing a poor job of it. Results of the 2001 National Assessment of Educational Progress showed that 57 percent of high school seniors scored below the "basic" level of history achievement. And "basic" isn't impressive. The test-makers believe that students should achieve the "proficient" level, but only 11 percent of seniors did.
So the schools can't seem to teach the basics of American history.
But they can teach some things -- when they want to.
For instance, the Washington Post recently surveyed 76 teenagers in Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia. It found that only one-third could name a general from World War II, and only half could name at least one battle. But two-thirds could describe how the Japanese-Americans were sent to internment camps.
Tiffany Charles was typical. She got a B in history at her high school in Montgomery County, Maryland, one of the nation's highest-rated school systems. She wasn't able to name a single general or battle. Nor did she know who was president during World War II, nor what year the war ended. She did, however, remember many details about the camps. "We talked a lot about those concentration camps," she told Post reporter Jay Mathews.
The NAEP showed something similar. In its 1994 survey, it found that only 39 percent of fourth-graders knew who said, "This government cannot endure half slave and half free" (Abraham Lincoln). And only 41 percent knew that the Pilgrims and Puritans came to America for religious freedom. But 69 percent knew that Susan B. Anthony was famous for helping women win the right to vote.
Only 47 percent of high school seniors knew that containing communism was the most important goal of U.S. foreign policy between 1945 and 1990. But nearly 70 percent knew that infectious diseases brought by European settlers were the major cause of death among American Indians in the 1600s. One might suspect that our teachers are more determined to teach feminist history and the sins of America and its founders than the basic facts of American history and American achievements.
The 2001 report avoided anything quite that controversial. It did find, though, that only 36 percent of seniors could identify the Progressive movement (which revolutionized American law and government around 1900), while 68 percent could identify the Harlem Renaissance (an African-American artistic and literary movement during the 1920s).
A republican form of government requires citizens who understand their country's history and values. We can't decide where America is going unless we know where it has come from. American voters need to understand why people came to America and why they launched a revolution. We need to know the values that our Founders proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence and instituted in the Constitution. Individual liberty and limited, constitutional government are the fundamental values that have made our society prosperous and tolerant and welcoming to people from all over the world.
Our government has not always lived up to those values. The United States at its founding was marred by the cruel and tyrannical institution of slavery. Women were not treated as full human beings under the law. The government has fought unnecessary wars, kept blacks in a state of subjugation even after the abolition of slavery, and indeed put Japanese-Americans in internment camps after Pearl Harbor.
Students should learn about those things. But they need to learn them in the context of a free and successful society. Do the students who learn about the camps also study why millions of immigrants continue to flock to our shores? Do the teachers who make sure their students know how European diseases killed many Indians also teach them about the Bill of Rights and the threats that freedom has faced?
Students learn about the robber barons -- ask any high school graduate, and that's likely to be the only thing he or she remembers about the 50 years between the Civil War and World War I. But they should also learn about the dynamic American economy that has brought an unprecedented standard of living to almost 300 million people, and about how those "robber barons" drove down the prices of food, energy, and clothing to make them affordable to more people. The era of the robber barons was the era of the oil well, the railroad, the telephone, the phonograph, the copier, and the skyscraper.
Most Americans want their children to learn about American freedom and representative government. If the teachers in our public schools don't want to teach those lessons, then parents should be free to put their children into schools that reflect their values -- without having to pay twice.
As chance would have it, i just started reading "None Dare Call It Education" by John A. Stormer. The title pops up in several FR threads. If you have children, or are going to have children, in the public school system, I highly recommend it. The social re-enginnering is not pervasive in my children's current school district. I have seen signs of it creeping in, though.
O'Reilly had a rather disturbing poll a few weeks back.....67% of people aged 18-27 could not name the countries we fought in WWII.
"If you can cut people off from their history, they can be easily persuaded."--Karl Marx
"Who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past."-- Eric Blair
History is whatever we want it to be. It's the future we can't distort.
Not only do we do a lousy job in history, geography fares little better, and we stopped teaching economics at the turn of the century -- the nineteenth century.
All they need to teach is their letters, and their numbers... an A will always be an A, and 2+2 will always be 4.....that way no one will be offended, all the rest, they can pick up on their own.
I don't see that it's all the schools' fault but lack of parental responsibility. Time and again, parents fail their children by not becoming more involved with them and their school work. One of countless examples - there's a kid coming over this afternoon who every year, along with the siblings, is on the verge of failing simply because the parents can't be bothered to remind them to do their homework and staying at the bowling alley every Thursday night until the 2 am closing is a priority over studying for Friday tests.
Parents can't even be bothered with a PTA which many schools don't have anymore.
Teachers' hands are tied. You can't so much as frown at a kid who doesn't bring in his homework or he'll cry discrimination or some such. The only time you can get parents' off the stick is when they're claiming their little angel isn't the monster he really is.
It's also the parents who have whined so long about special ed so now those kids are placed into the regular classroom so their widdle feelings won't get hurt. Instead, now we have them disrupting an entire classroom so that no one can learn.
And what about classroom dicipline? Have y'all been in a classroom now days? It's a whole new ballgame than when you were in school. The kids know they can get by with anything now and take full advantage, thanks to the ACLU and lawsuits. If parents would teach their kids they are responsible for their own actions and teach them to behave and be respectful, there would be less chaos and much more learning.
Bottom line, it's the parents who have changed the environment of the schools not the NEA. It's the parents who vote for the school board. It's the parents who have not taught their children to behave. It's the parents who are too selfish to help 15 minutes a night with homework or listen to their kid read. It's the parents fault, period.
Wait a second. There is no doubt that certain unseemly items are empahsized in the classroom that may not have been 25 or 30 years ago. Moreover, teachers, as a whole tend to be quite liberal.
But, is it not also possible that part of the reason for the results of this (fairly unscientific) sample perhaps because humans tend to remember the negative more readily than the positive?
Moreover, it is easier to learns from mistakes than from successes. Otherwise, we would have had way more troops in Iraq.
This is not a defense of the liberal agenda that has been slowly imposed on the American education system. Rather a comment that it is really difficult to draw any conclusions from such a small survey without supporting evidence as to the time spent teaching a given subject.
I remember high school teachers who were so enthralled with the Civil War that the students just loved that time period. Had he been more focused on the revolutionary war then their education would have been slightly different.
Moreover, the ability to recall dry facts is about the least important aspect of learning history. Dry facts have no relevance to current life. It is events, values and what is learned as a results - which has been pointed out by other Freepers already.
The PTA members I've seen remind me of the Stepford wives fund-raising for their slavemasters. They may question something, but are quickly shamed by the teachers, who know more, of course. In the end, everyone agrees and they all vote to raise taxes to fund "necessary" social engineering programs.
If the PTAs were to disappear we would probably be all better off. Then the teachers would have to directly defend their budget requests instead of hiding behind a brainwashed citizens' "association".
"Nor did she know who was president during World War II, nor what year the war ended."
There is an effort to skirt WWII history in the public education system.
My son, and numerous other kids and parents, say meaningful time spent on WWII is a paragraph mention only.
This covers Junior High, High School and College level classes.
Be warned is being armed for those yet to enter 'History' classes.
Which is why we spend our summers having 'unschool'. Ancient history, American history, Texas history, science, English, and home economics (which is where I hide the math) are covered so my daughters are more than prepared for the next school year.
Yes, it's the parents' fault. But having just graduated a college with about 30% ed majors, it's also the teachers' fault. The average - not every! - ed major would flunk out of engineering, or chemistry, or advanced math. They take dozens of flaky psych-type courses. And that qualifies them to teach math, or biology, or whatever.
I know people, forty years old with a BS in math and fifteen years' experience, who couldn't get a job teaching math to high school students because they don't have the idiotic teacher cert classes. That's at least as big a problem as the parents.
These teachers who support these unions are terrorist. Teachers are not supposed to teach a political agenda to 2nd and 3rd graders in hopes that their little voices will spread to their parents. Instead of just ridding the N word out of the book "Tom Sawyer" some teachers voted to ban the book while substituting it with some book on Lesbian Moms. Parents need to speak up and demand these administrators and unionized teachers start teaching our kids educational items and not social ills. My child was in pre-k for a month. He came home and told me he wanted to give all his Bionicles away to a child that had none and it was ok with his teacher. I told him no because he, my child, earned it for cleaning his room. I, the next day, went and asked the teacher what was up with this? She told me that she supports sharing with under privileged children by other kids because it makes everyone feel good. I explained that my child won't feel better after he realizes the bionicles were not coming back and I am not a charity for every sad story.
The point of this is I believe the teachers are trying to teach kids that social problems must be put on everyone else other than where the problem lies.
Every parent that is sick and tired of paying taxes toward terrorist/unionized teachers need to be at the schools everyday demanding they teach not politicize.
The proof is there that there is a concerted effort by a portion if the education business (NEA being a large portion) to reconstruct American values and morals, despite the wishes of parents and taxpayers. We see it on a daily basis as the PC mentality running amok in the public school system.
I have seen the things that are describe in "None Dare Call It Education" when dealing with my children's school district first hand. As I've been reading I can tell that the damage is not beyond repair. It will take an active rollback by concerned parents, educators, and politicians to fix the problems that have been created. One of the first things that needs to be done is shed a light on this dark little corner off the public education system.
You're right. I was an unknowing PTA President about 15 years ago, and what you say was true even then. When I finally caught on, I was finishing out my second term so I didn't quit. I had come up against many battles from the liberal parents and the teachers who forgot what they were supposed to be working for- the education of the children. I never went to another PTA meeting after that.