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Don't know much about history
TownHall.com ^ | 7/15/2003 | Mona Charen

Posted on 07/15/2003 10:17:37 AM PDT by DeFault User

"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, it expects what never was and never will be." -- Thomas Jefferson

Bruce Cole, chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, enjoys a nice view of the Capitol dome from his office window. He is less satisfied with what he sees of America's common culture.

Cole, who taught Renaissance art for many years before undertaking a stint in government, thinks the United States is in danger of losing its national identity through a loss of historical memory. If the words Yorktown, bleeding Kansas, reconstruction, Ellis Island, Marbury vs. Madison, "Remember the Maine," the Spirit of St. Louis, Midway, "I shall return," the Battle of the Bulge, the Hiss/Chambers case and "Ich bin ein Berliner" mean no more to most Americans than to the average Malaysian, what is it that makes us Americans?

Part of what makes America unique is that nationality arises from this shared history and from shared values and beliefs. It is not possible to become a Frenchman, a Swiss or a Russian by moving to those countries and adopting their beliefs. Nationality there is too bound up in blood, ethnicity and land. But every immigrant who arrives in the United States can become an American by adopting our beliefs.

There was a time when we had so much confidence in the superiority of our way of life that we aggressively taught our values to new immigrants and insisted that they master the basics of American history, the English language and civics before being eligible for citizenship. Today, we're not even teaching history to our own schoolchildren. And we are in the grip of a truly frightening collective ignorance. As Cole warns, when you don't know your history, you're more inclined to believe the kooky versions of it served up by everyone from Oliver Stone to Michael Moore. That is why the National Endowment for the Humanities is sponsoring a "We the People" initiative to improve the teaching of American history.

If you doubt the scope of the problem, consider a poll commissioned by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni. David McCullough, author of John Adams and other wonderful works of history, said, "Anyone who doubts that we are raising a generation of young Americans who are historically illiterate needs only to read this truly alarming report."

Testing only seniors at the top 55 liberal arts colleges, the poll consisted of questions from a high-school-level exam (or what used to be high-school-level work). Eight-one percent received a grade of D or F. Only one student got every question right.

Thirty five percent thought that "From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs" (the Marxist nostrum) was in the Constitution. Thirty-four percent didn't know. More than half thought Germany, Italy or Japan was a U.S. ally during World War II. Only 29 percent knew that Reconstruction referred to post-Civil War political arrangements. Thirty percent believe that the president may suspend the Bill of Rights in wartime. (They didn't ask how many knew what the Bill of Rights was.)

Only 29 percent could correctly place the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution in the context of the War in Vietnam. Forty percent could not place the Civil War in the correct half-century. (Ken Burns, call your office.) Only 42 percent knew to whom the words "first in war, first in peace, first in the hearts of his countrymen" referred (George Washington). Fewer than one quarter could identify James Madison as the "father of the Constitution," and only 22 percent recognized the words "Government of the people, by the people and for the people" as belonging to the Gettysburg Address. (Here's a question for buffs: Who was the keynote speaker at Gettysburg that day? Answer: Edward Everett.)

Cole hopes the NEH grant to improve the teaching of American history will spur colleges to reinstate history requirements. Among the 55 leading schools in the survey, none requires a course in American history. In grades K-12, history has been replaced by "social studies," which is like replacing beef stew with Gatorade.

Standards in many areas of education have declined. But as Cole stresses, this is unlike the slide in math or science (important as those are). If we lose our history, we could lose our nation.


TOPICS: Constitution/Conservatism; Culture/Society; Miscellaneous
KEYWORDS: charen; constitution; education; ignorance

1 posted on 07/15/2003 10:17:37 AM PDT by DeFault User
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To: DeFault User
to improve the teaching of American history

With all of the revisionism abroad today, which history are they going to teach? Hopefully, it will be His-story!

2 posted on 07/15/2003 10:20:51 AM PDT by LiteKeeper
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To: DeFault User
Thirty five percent thought that "From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs" (the Marxist nostrum) was in the Constitution.

The NEA has proven very effective.

3 posted on 07/15/2003 10:21:11 AM PDT by wideawake (God bless our brave soldiers and their Commander in Chief)
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To: All


SHOW JIM THE MONEY!!!!


4 posted on 07/15/2003 10:21:59 AM PDT by Support Free Republic (Your support keeps Free Republic going strong!)
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To: DeFault User
I graduated HS in 1995 and I can quite honestly tell you we studied the Vietnam war for LESS THAN A WEEK. I can't imagine things have gotten better since I graduated...
5 posted on 07/15/2003 10:23:48 AM PDT by Severa (Wife of Freeper Hostel, USN Active Duty Submariner)
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To: wideawake; LiteKeeper
Perhaps The saddest part is that they were testing only seniors at the top 55 liberal arts colleges..

I could believe it if it were high school freshmen, but college seniors at the top 55 liberal arts colleges--that's too sickening.

6 posted on 07/15/2003 10:26:18 AM PDT by DeFault User
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To: DeFault User
Cole hopes the NEH grant to improve the teaching of American history will spur colleges to reinstate history requirements.

Sure. Let's give the colleges more money to teach American history --you know, how the counders were all dead white slave owning males who spread slavery and oppression across the continent and throughout the world, how America has raped the planet and caused all wars. And how FDR saved us from capitalism. Look what's happened to the Smithsonian.

Maybe we would do better to just abolish the NEH (along with National ENdowment for the Arts), and start letting Americans keep more of their own money -- the way the founders intended.

7 posted on 07/15/2003 10:27:19 AM PDT by Maceman
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To: Severa
I graduated HS in 1978. Had a class called "Twentieth Century Europe". We started in 1492 (gotta have the background) and by the end of the semester, we had gotten to 1912. Nothing much happened after 1912, right?
8 posted on 07/15/2003 10:30:03 AM PDT by ClearCase_guy
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To: Severa
Back in the Stone Age, we were required to study state history/government (Texas), US history/government, World History and even a special course on Communism (know your enemy sort of thing).
9 posted on 07/15/2003 10:31:52 AM PDT by DeFault User
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To: DeFault User
Remember that the top 55 liberal arts colleges are disproportionately attended by America-hating limousine liberals and their children.

I'll bet that if a different cross section of liberal arts colleges were used the results would be much more heartening.

10 posted on 07/15/2003 10:33:18 AM PDT by wideawake (God bless our brave soldiers and their Commander in Chief)
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To: ClearCase_guy
All you have to do is understand the treaty of Vienna and Mitterneck (sp) and you can put the current history of Europe and Israel into prospective.
11 posted on 07/15/2003 10:34:31 AM PDT by dts32041 ("The avalanche has started. It is too late for the pebbles to vote.")
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To: DeFault User
"Don't know much about history"
Harrison Ford in the barn with the Amish widow.

(Funny how the mind works)

12 posted on 07/15/2003 10:34:48 AM PDT by YaYa123 (@ Memorable Movie Tunes.com)
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To: wideawake
I hope you're right about the "lesser" colleges. I tried to make certain my children learned and experienced history, not only from texts but from visits to historical sites. Hopefully, they got some feel for it from visits to Williamsburg, Washington, Philadelphia, Boston, Lexington and numerous Civil War battlefields. (Vacations can be made educational.)
13 posted on 07/15/2003 10:40:10 AM PDT by DeFault User
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To: dts32041
Actually that is the congress of vienna, which occured in 1848 if I am not mistaken.
14 posted on 07/15/2003 10:47:07 AM PDT by dts32041 ("The avalanche has started. It is too late for the pebbles to vote.")
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To: DeFault User
The League of the South holds seminars ("hedge schools") for young people in an effort to teach them that history isn't last year's sports' scores, which is how most Americans define the term.
15 posted on 07/15/2003 11:02:53 AM PDT by warchild9
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To: warchild9
It's sort of sad, isn't it, that special arrangement have to be made to teach students what should be part of the everyday curriculum from elementary school on?

But at least an effort is being made.
16 posted on 07/15/2003 11:10:55 AM PDT by DeFault User
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To: DeFault User
It's sort of sad, isn't it, that special arrangement have to be made to teach students what should be part of the everyday curriculum from elementary school on?

Most parents don't care. Our local school ranks in the bottom 25% on math and science skills everytime they're tested, nobody seems to give a damn. Let the football team have two losing seasons in a row and somebodies head is going to roll tho.
17 posted on 07/15/2003 11:19:55 AM PDT by steve50 (I don't know about being with "us", but I'm with the Constitution)
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To: YaYa123
"Don't know much about history" Harrison Ford in the barn with the Amish widow.

My head pulls up Sam Cooke singing "Don't know much about history...".

18 posted on 07/15/2003 11:21:06 AM PDT by DeFault User
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To: steve50
Our local school ranks in the bottom 25% on math and science skills everytime they're tested, nobody seems to give a damn.

If you have children, I hope you can make arrangements for a better school/education than one that is satisfied with the bottom 25%.

19 posted on 07/15/2003 11:37:12 AM PDT by DeFault User
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To: LiteKeeper
With all of the revisionism abroad today, which history are they going to teach? Hopefully, it will be His-story!

Wasn't "His-story" a Michael Jackson album title - talk about your revisionism. Actually, I'm appalled at the history texts in schools and point out the "mistakes" to my classes. That's also why even though we public school I make sure to do some homeschooling just to set things straight. It's a requirement to learn Texas history in 4th grade but a niece says she didn't and they didn't have any history last year. It's not just the schools as I've been known to holler at the Discovery Channel.

20 posted on 07/15/2003 11:39:32 AM PDT by mtbopfuyn
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To: mtbopfuyn
Please see

The Language Police: How Pressure Groups Restrict What Students Learn by Diane Ravitch

Amazon.com The impulse in the 1960s and ‘70s to achieve fairness and a balanced perspective in our nation’s textbooks and standardized exams was undeniably necessary and commendable. Then how could it have gone so terribly wrong? Acclaimed education historian Diane Ravitch answers this question in her informative and alarming book, The Language Police: How Pressure Groups Restrict What Students Learn. Author of 7 books, Ravitch served as the U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education from 1991 to 1993. Her expertise and her 30-year commitment to education lend authority and urgency to this important book, which describes in copious detail how pressure groups from the political right and left have wrested control of the language and content of textbooks and standardized exams, often at the expense of the truth (in the case of history), of literary quality (in the case of literature), and of education in general. Like most people involved in education, Ravitch did not realize "that educational materials are now governed by an intricate set of rules to screen out language and topics that might be considered controversial or offensive." In this clear-eyed critique, she is an unapologetic challenger of the ridiculous and damaging extremes to which bias guidelines and sensitivity training have been taken by the federal government, the states, and textbook publishers.

In a multi-page sampling of rejected test passages, we discover that "in the new meaning of bias, it its considered biased to acknowledge that lack of sight is a disability," that children who live in urban areas cannot understand passages about the country, that the Aesop fable about a vain (female) fox and a flattering (male) crow promotes gender bias. As outrageous as many of the examples are, they do not appear particularly dangerous. However, as the illustrations of abridgment, expurgation, and bowdlerization mount, the reader begins to understand that our educational system is indeed facing a monumental crisis of distortion and censorship. Ravtich ends her book with three suggestions of how to counter this disturbing tendency. Sadly, however, in the face of the overwhelming tide of misinformation that has already been entrenched in the system, her suggestions provide cold comfort. --Silvana Tropea

21 posted on 07/15/2003 12:10:37 PM PDT by LiteKeeper
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To: mtbopfuyn
Censorship and politial correctness are everywhere, May 4, 2003
Reviewer: Richard K. Munro from Bakersfield, CA 93309
THE LANGUAGE POLICE is a good read and a fascinating read recommended to anyone who is interested in the "censorship" of style and content of the politically correct be they of special interest groups of the left or right. With the LANGUAGE POLICE, Diane Ravitch may have struck a powerful blow for education, common sense and freedom of expression in America a cherished first amendment right which could be eroded and undone word by word by unelected "committees" of political correctness.

The range of research and quotations is impressive covering a wide swath of famous authors present and past whose works have been banned or quietly bowdlerized or edited by testing companies and publishers without comment. Ravitch quotes an indignant Ray Bradbury who became aware of bowdlerized versions of his book Fahrenheit 451.I like the lists of censored books and the CENSORSHIP on the LEFT chapter particularly the quote on Mark Twain. Ravitch never wrote anything truer: "...Teachers and students alike must learn to grapple with this novel WHICH THEY CANNOT DO UNLESS THEY READ IT." Ravitch quotes Orwell " Don't you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought?" Has it every occurred to anyone that insipid dumbed down texts play a role in school house boredom and low achievement? Ravitch's well-researched APPENDIX of BANNED WORDS and PHRASES was great (but chilling). "Sportsmanship" and "lumberjack" are out -VERBOTEN- in favor of the gender neutral and extremely weak and uncommunicative "SPORTING CONDUCT" and "WOOD-CUTTER". As a language teacher I am concerned when words that are to found in HUNDREDS of classic literary tales and thousands if not millions of English-language books are not taught thus handicapping a generation of readers who will simply lack the vocabulary to read independently. If you think about on it, it just makes no sense and hurts the education of kids.
At the end of the book the sampler of classic literature compiled with Rodney Atkinson a well-respected teacher specialist in children's literature- was very well done not just another bloomin' list but commentaries to help remind us of the book or poem we may have forgotten or encourage us to read it or suggest others read these classics of cultural literacy a la E.D. Hirsch.

The bottom line is the LANGUAGE POLICE by DIANE RAVITCH is a good read, entertaining, informative, and worthy as a reference and a guide for the citizen, the reformer, parents and educators alike. Censored books mean bad books that suppress the truth. Untruthful, garbled text books make for bad scholars and bad teachers. Why should anyone care? Bored and low-achieving students could affect the survival and success of American democracy as well as our political and economic stability.
22 posted on 07/15/2003 12:24:50 PM PDT by LiteKeeper
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To: LiteKeeper
"Woodcutter" has actually been in use for a long time. I wouldn't be surprised if it actually predates the word "lumberjack".

Aren't we just as guilty when we insist that the "scientific-method"-based language of the creation be changed so as to allow "wiggle room" for 6,000 years, the Flood, and dinosaurs in the Garden of Eden? If there is a "censorship on the left" chapter, I would be interested to hear about "censorship on the right".
23 posted on 07/15/2003 1:04:17 PM PDT by Wade McClusky
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To: Wade McClusky
"I'm a lumberjack and I'm ok, I sleep all night and work all day..."
24 posted on 07/15/2003 1:44:12 PM PDT by TenthAmendmentChampion (Free! Read my historical romance novels online at http://Writing.Com/authors/vdavisson)
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To: Wade McClusky
Aren't we just as guilty when we insist that the "scientific-method"-based language of the creation be changed so as to allow "wiggle room" for 6,000 years, the Flood, and dinosaurs in the Garden of Eden? If there is a "censorship on the left" chapter, I would be interested to hear about "censorship on the right".

Could you elaborate a bit? I am a young-earth creationist - and am interested in a reasoned dialogue on the subject (as opposed to the constant ad hominem diatribe that often passes as "debate").

25 posted on 07/15/2003 1:44:55 PM PDT by LiteKeeper
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To: DeFault User
If we lose our history, we could lose our nation.

I hate to be a cynic, but I would say that, in most of the ways that really matter, we have already lost it. When large portions of the population have totally abdicated their own personal responsibility in favor of victim status and the leech-like goals of trial lawyers, the underlying character that enables a republic is moribund, if not smelly dead already.

26 posted on 07/15/2003 1:48:27 PM PDT by spodefly (This is my tagline. There are many like it, but this one is mine.)
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To: nickcarraway
ping
27 posted on 07/15/2003 1:49:48 PM PDT by Desdemona
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To: spodefly
You are supported by experts:

"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, it expects what never was and never will be." -- Thomas Jefferson

28 posted on 07/15/2003 1:58:31 PM PDT by DeFault User
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To: Severa
I graduated HS in 1995 and I can quite honestly tell you we studied the Vietnam war for LESS THAN A WEEK

Considering the sweep of history and covering 200+ years of material in one course, a full week on Vietnam is probably too much for a HS American History class. I'd be more concerned if you had spent less than a week on the Revolution or the Civil War and the series of events that lead to both. IMHO, they are each far more complex and difficult to quickly grasp and each far more important in determining what this nation is about than Vietnam in the overall story of our country.

29 posted on 07/15/2003 2:18:21 PM PDT by Ditto ( No trees were killed in sending this message, but billions of electrons were inconvenienced.)
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To: LiteKeeper
LiteKeeper, I'm not big on debating this subject in it's particulars.

Suffice to say, I'm a Christian but I don't buy the creationist narrative over the unfolding picture of what happened that the scientific method has given us. I don't see God and science as incompatible, nor do I see God as being threatened by scientific inquiry.

Science for the glory of God? Why not? Conservatism as a rational outgrowth of scientific views, tempered by loving faith? Sure, I like it.

Anyway, the creation is not that big a part of my personal faith when compared to the life and death of Jesus.
30 posted on 07/15/2003 2:36:42 PM PDT by Wade McClusky
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To: Ditto
That's not really the problem. What IS the problem, in my view, is that when I went through middle and HS, there was a lot of emphasis on the early American history like the Revolution and the Civil War. I understand and applaud the emphasis on the early stages of government, but once I got to HS, it's like nothing major happened in the world after, say, World War II. So many major events following the World Wars are not being studied thoroughly enough. (Hell it would surely explain the leftists that keep claiming that Iraq was going to turn into another Vietnam)
31 posted on 07/15/2003 3:12:14 PM PDT by Severa (Wife of Freeper Hostel, USN Active Duty Submariner)
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To: DeFault User
I remember American History in school. For years it started with the early explorers and the Pilgrims. By the end of the year, we would get into the Civil War. The next year we'd be back to the explorers and the pilgrims. I had to take an elective my senior year to cover Modern American History in the 20th century.

I have decided to spend the next two or three years covering American History with my children. I figure they should learn about where they are first, then they can learn about the rest of the world in more detail.
32 posted on 07/15/2003 3:23:07 PM PDT by HungarianGypsy (Are we really arrogant? Or are they just jealous of us?)
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To: Wade McClusky
That's fine.

It is a major part of my faith because I have discovered that all of the doctrines of the New Testament are grounded in the first 11 chapters of Genesis, worship in the Book of the Revelation centers on God's creative act (Rev 4:11), God's counsel to Job, in the midst of his misery, was a question and answer session with 77 questions about creation (Job 38-42), and failure to hold to Biblical creation position was instrumental in the transformation of Marx, Lenin, Stalin, Templeton, and Welhausen, all of whom were raised in homes with one degree or another of Christian influence, but all of whom rejected Christ after reading Darwin's Origin of the Species. And, additionally, Jesus references the early chapters of Genesis repeatedly.

Please read Why the Church must emphasize Creation."

But, then again, that is just me. And, BTW, I am not casting any stones. I am just relating some of what I have discovered after much study. It is certainly up to each one of us to make up our own minds about what is important, and what is incidental.

33 posted on 07/15/2003 3:55:39 PM PDT by LiteKeeper
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To: Severa
I can't disagree with you on your points. I suppose some high schools could offer AP courses for kids deeply interested in the history of a given period, perhaps through independent study or classes at a local college. I just can't see the average HS being able to offer a serious course on a topic as specialized as say the Cold War and the conflicts it generated. Imagine trying to find a qualified instructor among the typical Union members whose education most often consists of an "Education" degree. (Far too many are lucky if they can place the Civil War in the correct half of a the 19th century or even be sure if it was the 19th.) If it is the standard "American History" course, it can only be a survey to assure that all of the important points are covered and hopefully inspire those with an interest in any particular period to study further on their own.

High School isn't really intended to 'educate' you. It exists to make you educable – to assure you know the functional basics of writing, science, mathematics, literature, history, language, music and art.

Today we see an incredibly high percentage of HS graduates forced to take “remedial” courses their first year in college just to get the basics that they should already have. They graduate from HS, with good grades, and are simply not prepared. That is a clear indication that the public education system is failing miserably.

34 posted on 07/15/2003 4:25:22 PM PDT by Ditto ( No trees were killed in sending this message, but billions of electrons were inconvenienced.)
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To: HungarianGypsy
I have decided to spend the next two or three years covering American History with my children. I figure they should learn about where they are first, then they can learn about the rest of the world in more detail.

That's a worthy endeavor. There is so much to explore in history and any other cultural activity to give kids as broad (dare I say "liberal") education as possible. I believe that it not only gives them a better foundation as citizens but a much richer experience in life.

35 posted on 07/15/2003 4:32:23 PM PDT by DeFault User
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To: DeFault User
Article from Thomas Sowell regarding adult education.

http://www.townhall.com/columnists/thomassowell/ts20030713.shtml
36 posted on 07/15/2003 4:51:41 PM PDT by ladylib
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To: ladylib
One of the books recommended by Sowell caught my attention. Here's the description:

Ed School Follies by Rita Kramer is an eye-witness account of what goes on in schools of education across the country. Once you understand the silly fads with which future educators are indoctrinated, it becomes easier to understand why the education provided in our schools leaves our children so far behind those in other countries.

I took one education class in college and came to the same conclusion now voiced by Walter Williams. Education Departments are the ghettos of universities.

37 posted on 07/15/2003 5:00:11 PM PDT by DeFault User
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To: DeFault User
Ed schools are going to make it very hard to reform public education, since these people and their strange ideas are entrenched. Just go to the appalling NEA website to see what activities their members are wreaking on the public schools.

Public schools are doomed and NCLB won't be able to save them until the teachers unions and ed schools are relegated to diminished roles.
38 posted on 07/15/2003 5:11:08 PM PDT by ladylib
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To: DeFault User
Only 29 percent could correctly place the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution in the context of the War in Vietnam. Forty percent could not place the Civil War in the correct half-century. (Ken Burns, call your office.) Only 42 percent knew to whom the words "first in war, first in peace, first in the hearts of his countrymen" referred (George Washington). Fewer than one quarter could identify James Madison as the "father of the Constitution," and only 22 percent recognized the words "Government of the people, by the people and for the people" as belonging to the Gettysburg Address.

Oh come on. It can't be all that bad.

(Here's a question for buffs: Who was the keynote speaker at Gettysburg that day? Answer: Edward Everett.)

THE Edward Everett Horton? I LOVED him in all his movies! Particularly as Fred Astiare's sidekick on all those Ginger Rogers/Fred Astaire films! :-)

And who could forget him as Medicine Man "Roaring Chicken" in the tv series F-Troop?

Seee? Some of us DO know something about history!

39 posted on 07/15/2003 5:47:25 PM PDT by lowbridge (Rob: "I see a five letter word. F-R-E-E-P. Freep." Jerry: "Freep? What's that?" - Dick Van Dyke Show)
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To: lowbridge
LOL

I especially liked his narrations for Rocky & Bullwinkle.
40 posted on 07/15/2003 6:01:25 PM PDT by DeFault User
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