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A History of Education in America
Junto Society ^
| April Shenandoah
Posted on 12/14/2002 11:37:09 AM PST by stoney
Three Part Series:
History of America's Education
#1 Johnny is in trouble
Johnny is in trouble - not because he is playing hooky from school, but because he is attending school. Some of the most negative influences that young people can face today are found in public schools. In the past few decades this has clearly worsened. In 1940 the top offenses in public schools were chewing gum, talking in class, unfinished homework, and running in the halls. Today the top offenses are drugs, drunkenness, assault, murder and rape.
While at school, Johnny not only is confronted with drugs immorality and violence, but he is also receiving a second rate education. From 1963, Scholastic Aptitude Test scores dropped consistently each year.
As a result of decreasing literary skills, college textbooks are being rewritten at a lower grade level so that the students can understand them. Most newspapers and magazines are written at about a sixth grade level which is now the reading level of the average American (of which I'm one). If you aren't buying this - compare the literacy level of today with early America, read the Federalist
(Excerpt) Read more at juntosociety.com ...
TOPICS: Constitution/Conservatism; Culture/Society; Editorial; Government; Philosophy
KEYWORDS: education; educationnews; liberalism
posted on 12/14/2002 11:37:09 AM PST
To: *Education News
I look forward to the rest of the series.
posted on 12/14/2002 11:53:06 AM PST
It has been said that the philosophy of education in one generation will be the philosophy of government in the next.
Good find, stoney.
Has anbody seen what passes for proficiency tests in High Schools? Students should not be allowed out of elementary schools before passing such exams.
Were children educated before 1963 genetically superior to those now? I don't think so. Too much TV, lack of discipline, too little reading, etc. all contribute to the mix and the mess, but academic standards have been declining over the same time period. What the student should know, in fact must know, is so much greater than the public education he receives that the average student is often a dunce even if he has good grades.
Unfortunately, a whole generation of students who learned too little are now the teachers of the current generation.
One pundit blamed the mess on women's liberation. His argument was that during the first 60 years of the 20th century, the only two professions open to educated women were education and nursing. Think about it. The public schools got the best and brightest teachers because that was one of two professions they could pursue. Certainly,that's no reason to turn back the clock, but it does say something about the quality of teachers then and now.
To: DeFault User
Bump for later reading.
Click the link at the bottom of the article and it will take you to part 2 and then 3.
posted on 12/14/2002 1:32:38 PM PST
Will finish the article later, but I am in agreement with the writer. I graduated from HS in '66. My education was far superior to what is happening now. This is a true story. A neighbor girl was getting her halloween costume ready for a party. She was going as a cheerleader, had a sweater all ready and wanted to know where the big red letter A should be placed. I could not let this middle school grade level girl go to a party like that. Went to her parents and suggested another letter. They didn't get it either. I finally had to explain. Yep, education is dumbed down alright.
Check this out: Two girls in Texas (graduates of TX public schools) know an awful lot about George Washington. He had something to do with an apple tree. He cut it down.
Mount Vernon, Alarmed by Fading Knowledge, Seeks to Pep Up Washington's Image
By STEPHEN KINZER The New York Times, July 30, 2002
MOUNT VERNON, Va. Say goodbye to the stern and remote George Washington, the boring one who wore a powdered wig, had wooden teeth and always told the truth. Embrace instead the action hero of the 18th century, a swashbuckling warrior who survived wild adventures, led brilliant military campaigns, directed spy rings and fell in love with his best friend's wife.
That is the new message from the people who run Mount Vernon, the estate where Washington spent much of his life and where more than one million people now go each year to learn about him. Stirred to action by what they say is an appalling decline in what visitors know about Washington, they have embarked on a radical course.
Their goal is to reposition the father of the country for a new era. Among the tools they plan to use are holograms, computer imagery, surround-sound audio programs and a live-action film made by Steven Spielberg's production company. The film may be shown in a theater equipped with seats that rumble and pipes that shoot battlefield smoke into the audience.
"We used to be so discreet that we didn't want to display Washington's dentures," said James C. Rees, executive director of Mount Vernon. "When we finally broke down and showed them, they turned out to be a sensation. That taught us something."
The new plans have stirred some critics to warn that Washington is being transformed into a "G.I. George" and Mount Vernon into "MTV Vernon." But perhaps more tellingly, they have won support from many scholars who are in a state of near panic after watching Washington all but disappear from the national consciousness in the space of a single generation.
"When teachers and curriculum planners and textbook authors look at the founding fathers today, they see too many white males," said David W. Saxe, a professor of education at Pennsylvania State University who studies American history textbooks. "George Washington is dissipating from the textbooks. He's still mentioned, but you don't spend a week in February talking about him, doing plays and reciting the farewell address. In the interest of being inclusive, material about women and minorities is taking the place of material about the founders of our country."
Professor Saxe called Mount Vernon's solution drastic but said he had put aside his concerns.
"What they're doing is sorely needed," he said. "They aren't overdoing it because you can't overdo it."
George Washington's stately, columned mansion sits on a rolling 500-acre tract overlooking the Potomac River.
The estate and its immediate grounds have been owned since 1858 by the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association of the Union, which has earned a reputation much like Washington's own: conservative, staid and remote.
For more than a century, directors of Mount Vernon concentrated on the limited mission of preserving Washington's home and explaining his interest in farming. The rest of his life, they could safely assume, was being fully taught in classrooms.
Over the last few years, however, several studies at Mount Vernon and elsewhere have made clear that this assumption is no longer valid. Fewer people than ever seem to know that Washington was a frontier surveyor who fought Indians and by his mid-20's was already one of the most famous people in North America. Nor do they realize that he shaped a ragtag band of farmers into an army that won American independence, presided over the Constitutional Convention and, as first president of the new United States, whipped 13 reluctant colonies into a union destined to become one of the world's most influential nations.
"He did something about an apple tree," said Jackie Whaley, an 18-year-old high school student from Texas who visited Mount Vernon on a recent morning.
Her friend Jenny DeStefano offered an answer. "He cut it down," she said.
Not so long ago Washington's portrait hung in countless classrooms, his birthday was a separate national holiday, and his exploits and achievements were taught in almost every elementary and secondary school. Today the portraits are gone and the birthday (along with Lincoln's) has morphed into Presidents' Day.
By comparing textbooks used in the 1960's with those of today, researchers at Mount Vernon have concluded that Washington is now accorded just 10 percent of the space he had then.
A recent study by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni found that while 99 percent of students at 55 top universities could identify the cartoon characters Beavis and Butt-Head and 98 percent knew the rapper Snoop Doggy Dogg, just 42 percent could name Washington as the man who was called "first in war, first in peace and first in the hearts of his countrymen." More than three-quarters of those universities do not require a single course in American history.
And although several best-selling books have awakened new interest in the Revolutionary generation, Washington has not been among the beneficiaries.
"Our idea now is to find ways to show that he was the most robust man of action you can imagine," Mr. Rees said. "We're going to use film, sound, lights and every other technique we can think of."
Asked about the criticism that this approach cheapens Washington's memory, Mr. Rees replied: "We tend to hear that from traditionalists, who I don't think grasp the true difficulty of the challenge. If they'd spent 18 years here like I have, trying to reach not just the minds but also the hearts of eighth graders, they would realize that this is an uphill battle."
A new complex planned for Mount Vernon, now in the design stage, will have three buildings, two of them below ground. The third will be behind a grove of trees and not visible from the mansion. Visitors will enter the complex through an orientation center, where they will see Mr. Spielberg's 15-minute film. Mr. Rees said he hoped it would portray Washington as a figure with all the brilliance and bravery of Indiana Jones.
There is also to be an education center with galleries devoted to Washington's military and presidential careers and a museum with a display of artifacts.
Mount Vernon has raised about two-thirds of the $85 million it is seeking for the new $50 million complex and the educational programs associated with it, as well as to supplement Mount Vernon's endowment. The largest single gift has been $15 million from the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation in Las Vegas. There will also be a building named for either Henry Ford or the Ford Motor Company, another large contributor.
Mr. Rees is inviting teachers to Mount Vernon and showing them new ways to deal with Washington. He says he hopes to develop a computer-aided learning package that will ultimately be used by every fifth grader in the United States.
The turn toward show business at Mount Vernon could not be expected to go unchallenged, but protests have been surprisingly muted. Many scholars seem ready to try anything to rescue Washington from creeping obscurity.
"The attempt to put him in a celebrity package is probably the last thing he'd ever approve," said the historian Joseph J. Ellis, who is writing a biography of Washington. "But I recognize that there's an audience out there that needs to know about him and can only be reached by devices that are a little off-putting."
Academic trends have so strongly encouraged the teaching of history from social and cultural perspectives, some scholars say, that little attention is now given to leaders who headed governments, won wars or established nations.
"There's a tendency to downplay the importance of the individual, and it has hurt Washington," said Peter R. Henriques, a history professor at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., and member of a board of scholars advising Mount Vernon administrators on the new project. "I don't think it's hero worship to recognize that he was supreme among the group of founders who helped bring about this country."
"But let's face it," Professor Henriques added, "he was an 18th-century elitist slaveholder, and that doesn't fit in well with the modern age. We're in an age when white male heroes on horseback are not so popular."
posted on 12/14/2002 2:16:12 PM PST
We're in an age when white male heroes on horseback are not so popular."
posted on 12/14/2002 4:26:28 PM PST
Professor Henriques is telling the truth. He's not happy about it obviously.
posted on 12/14/2002 4:42:22 PM PST
posted on 12/14/2002 4:49:00 PM PST
I'm going to go waaay out on a limb and guess They'll find it's all Americas fault whatever IT is.
posted on 12/14/2002 5:14:05 PM PST
To: DeFault User
Your post reminds me of an example of how much change their can be from one generation to the next. I was visiting my brother some years backa nd his oldest son was a senior in High School. He was working on a report on the poem, "The Village Smithey". You know, "Under the spreading Chestnut tree, the village smithey stands, the smith a might man is he, with large and sinewy hands,..." Anyway, it dumbfounded me that a senior in High School was doing a report on a poem that I remembered reporting on in the 4th grade.
posted on 12/15/2002 8:25:40 AM PST
High Schools are doing what used to be considered elementary level work. It is now to the point that I believe a collge degree is equivalent to a high school diploma from the 50's or 60's.
Current high school graduates (many, if not all) can't make change, do basic math or write correct English. Most have only foggy ideas about history and economics.
Since the dawn of civilization, the current older generation seems to bemoan the lost standards of the younger generation, but when you have uneducated masses determining the level of culture and the nature of government, we've got real problems.
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