Jacoby: ‘Don’t Know Much About History’ . . . Of National History Tests

Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby’s latest piece joins the legion of those lamenting the historical illiteracy of America’s youth:

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 1985: “The Decline And Fall of Teaching History.

In 1976: “Times Test of College Freshman Shows Knowledge of American History Limited.

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.

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4 Responses to Jacoby: ‘Don’t Know Much About History’ . . . Of National History Tests

  1. BP Myers says:

    Funny, and I don’t know why they stopped airing it, but I used to watch the “Citizen Bee” competition every Memorial Day weekend on C-SPAN. Sort of like a spelling bee, except with history questions, high schoolers from all over the country competed, often having to give quasi-essay length answers to what were some very difficult questions (“Discuss the motivations behind Germanic migration to this country at the end of the nineteenth century” or some such thing.) Anyway, that there are still some kids that can compete at that level, perhaps balances out the obliviousness of all the rest.

  2. Fred Grosso says:

    The Glen Beck, libertarian and tea party hystorians don’t help much.

  3. Steve Stein says:

    So what you’re saying is
    Those who fail to learn that we fail to learn history are doomed to repeat that we fail to learn history?

  4. Pingback: FRC Blog » Don’t Know Much about History

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