reb•e•lu•tion (reb’el lu shen) n. a teenage rebellion against the low expectations of an ungodly culture.

8/11/2005

TWIF (Part 4): America IS History (Leaving Behind Our Heritage)

Most of you would be surprised to hear that American History is no longer taught in government schools. No, I don’t mean that our 4th graders no longer attend history class, rather, if “teach” means “to cause someone to learn or understand something,” I would argue that learning and understanding of American history is not taking place in America’s public schools today.

For those persuaded only by numbers allow these numbers to convince you: A survey conducted by the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation in the summer of 2001 found that almost a quarter of the teenagers had no idea that American states fought each other in the Civil War; more than a fifth of the teenagers questioned did not know that the original thirteen colonies declared their independence from England; 17% were unaware that the United States was formed from thirteen original colonies; 15% did not know what significant event in American history happened on July 4, 1776; and, 10% could not identify the first President of the United States.

The CWF’s study doesn’t stand alone on this issue. The same breath-taking lack of grasp of basic historical facts was demonstrated by 17-year-olds when the NAEP was administered in the 1990’s. The study showed that one-third didn’t know whom the U.S. fought in World War II; one-third didn’t know who Abraham Lincoln was; one-third thought Columbus sailed to the Americas after 1750; and nearly two-thirds didn’t know when the Civil War occurred.

Results from the 2001 NAEP examination on American history failed to communicate the full breadth of the problem. Based on a national sample of 23,000 students in 1,100 government and private schools, only 17% of government school 4th graders, 15% of government school 8th graders, and 11% of government school 12th graders had a proficient or advanced understanding of American history, while 35% of government school 4th graders, 38% percent of government school 8th graders, and 58% of government school 12th graders lacked even a basic understanding of American history appropriate to their grade.

Even though these results are bad enough, they mask the utter failure of government schools to educate Black, Hispanic, and American Indian children in basic American history. By 12th grade 80% of Black children, 74% of Hispanic children, and 66% of Indian children lack a basic understanding of American history appropriate to their grade. Our wonderful cultural diversity must be tempered by the cultural unity that comes from understanding where we came from—and by extension—where we are going.

In his a testimony before a committee of the United States Senate, David McCullough, a distinguished historian, testified in 2003, “that the ignorance of American history among students and teachers in American high schools and colleges is now so profound that it represents a threat to the nation’s security.”

Next time someone talks about how our generation is the best educated ever tell them that over 50% of government schooled 12th-graders think that at least one of Italy, Germany, or Japan were our World War II allies.

I realize that most of these posts leave you asking, “So, what should we do about it?” That’s good. You should be asking those questions. And I’ll be providing the answers to the questions I’ve raised starting tomorrow.

Regarding My Statistics: I pulled my statistics from the Bruce N. Shortt’s book, “The Harsh Truth About Public Schools,” in which he does an excellent job of citing sources. Direct sources for the studies and surveys I cited can be provided if requested.

Coming Up Next: “What I’m Not Saying” and “How A Rebelutionary Responds To China’s Challenge.”

Note: Please take advantage of the wonderful discussion taking place in this post's comment section. So far my readers (which include some other excellent bloggers) have impacted the contents of this post to American democracy, unity, and trust while also stressing the importance of balancing unity and diversity.

In Christ, Brett Harris


Continue to Part Five...