Americans’ historical cluelessness could doom freedom

Nov 5, 2013 by

By Jamie Gass –


A little patience and we shall see the reign of witches pass over, their spells dissolve, and the people, recovering their true sight, restore their government to its true principles.

Thomas Jefferson, 1798

In 1798, the young republic was gripped by the Alien and Sedition Acts, which abridged civic dissent. Today, policymakers from Boston to Washington are casting jinxes on K-12 U.S. history instruction and interfering with schoolchildren learning about our nation’s past.

Jefferson knew that the perpetuation of our republic requires citizens who can critique government policies and students who are educated about the country’s foundational texts and liberties.

In the Commonwealth, the co-authors of the landmark 1993 Massachusetts Education Reform Act recognized the importance of students exploring our nation’s history. “The [state] standards,” they wrote, “shall provide for instruction in at least the major principles of the Declaration of Independence, the United States Constitution and the Federalist Papers.”

Regrettably, on the civics portion of the 2010 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), known as the Nation’s Report Card, over two-thirds of America’s students scored below “proficient” and “only 7 percent of eighth graders could correctly identify the three branches of government.”

But to Governor Patrick’s administration, softer “21st century skills” such as “cultural competence” and “systems thinking” are a higher priority than learning U.S. history. In 2009, claiming prohibitive costs, his administration postponed a requirement, beginning with the class of 2012, that Massachusetts public-school students pass a U.S. history MCAS test to graduate from high school.

via Jamie Gass: Americans’ historical cluelessness could doom freedom | Providence Journal.

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