As a little kid with an affinity for history, I always knew I was in the minority. But new test results now reveal that not only is history failing to capture the interest of today’s kids, most of them have no understanding of even the fundamentals that have defined our nation. According to The New York Times, the majority for fourth graders can’t tell you why Abraham Lincoln was a significant figure and only 2% of high school seniors know what Brown Vs. Board Of Education was about.
The Times reports:
Over all, 20 percent of fourth graders, 17 percent of eighth graders and 12 percent of high school seniors demonstrated proficiency on the exam, the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Federal officials said they were encouraged by a slight increase in eighth-grade scores since the last administration of the history test, in 2006. But even those gains offered little to celebrate, because, for example, fewer than a third of eighth graders could answer even a “seemingly easy question” asking them to identify an important advantage American forces had over the British during the Revolution, the government’s statement on the results said.
History has always been one of the least-prioritized subjects with funds and emphasize nearly always handed to science and math departments with English willing to stand down anyone who gets in the way of their scraps. These findings from the Times evidence how a fixation on reading and math scores alone (you can tip your hat to the No Child Left Behind Act) are essentially failing our children. And considering how public figures like Sarah Palin are willing to rewrite Wikipedia pages to suit their political interest, it’s no wonder children’s understanding of history are a bit shakey.
Linda K. Salvucci, a history professor in San Antonio who is chairwoman-elect of the National Council for History Education has described history as a “shortchanged” subject. Federal money aside, she points out that many teacher-education programs encourage aspiring teachers to receive certification in social studies instead of history because it will enable them to teach civics or government. Yet it seems that what our kids are still in need of is a solid history lesson.