“Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it.” — Edmund Burke
Today’s history quiz:
— How many amendments does the Constitution have?
— What is the economic system in the United States?
— The Federalist Papers supported the passage of the U.S. Constitution. Name one of the writers.
Surely most readers did not peek to see the answers, which are: 27, capitalism, and Hamilton, Madison or Jay. The questions are among those asked of persons seeking to become naturalized citizens.
A dust-up occurred recently when the S.D. Board of Education decided not to require early U.S. history in high school. Given the generally limited knowledge of history by graduating seniors and college students, a more rigorous requirement arguably would be positive.
Under the new standards, which go into effect for the 2016-17 school year, districts have the option of offering in high school early U.S. history (1776-1876), which now is taught in the eighth grade. Advocates wanted it repeated somewhere in the 9-12 curriculum since test scores show a weakness in this area.
The state board was so deeply divided it decided to poll history teachers and superintendents across the state. Guess what? They were divided, as well, which prompted the option, not mandate, for early U.S. history.
History does not receive the respect it deserves. Burke was correct. Those not learning from history are destined to repeat the same mistakes. We have testing for language, math and science, but not for history. And, get this, South Dakota history is not a requirement for graduation.
Time magazine reports that most eighth-graders are failing U.S. history and government tests. Time cited the Nation’s Report Card 2014, a federal survey.
A CNN story about fourth grade students said many could identify Lincoln, but few could say why he was an important president.
One student said he was important because he had a beard. Another said he was killed at a puppet show.
Some continue to doubt the value of history, particularly if it relates to memorization of facts and events. Yet attendant to such study is a much better understanding of how our nation was formed and how those factors affected its development, up to and including today.
Our students would benefit from a broader study of history: more U.S. history so they know who they are, and more world history because the globe is getting smaller.
Sept. 23, 2015