WHEN THE Department of Education last week released the results of the latest National Assessment of Educational Progress — “the Nation’s Report Card’’ — the bottom line was depressingly predictable: Not even a quarter of American students is proficient in US history, and the percentage declines as students grow older. Only 20 percent of 6th graders, 17 percent of 8th graders, and 12 percent of high school seniors demonstrate a solid grasp on their nation’s history. In fact, American kids are weaker in history than in any of the other subjects tested by the NAEP — math, reading, science, writing, civics, geography, and economics.
But . . . as NPR’s “All Things Considered” documented this past weekend, it was ever thus – at least since 1943:
“We have to temper our alarm,” education historian Diane Ravitch tells Weekend All Things Considered host Laura Sullivan. “And realize we’re not a very historically minded country.”
You can say that again. Newspapers do — every 10 years or so.
In 1955: “Students Reveal Ignorance of US.”
Ravitch herself wrote the 1985 account, in which she argued, as she still does today, that there was never a golden age of historical literacy.
“We’ve been lamenting the state of history since 1943,” she says, “and maybe even longer.”
Future historians, take note.