Don't teach less about history

High school students should learn Revolutionary and Civil War history, writes North Carolina State Sen. Marc Basnight in a letter to the state education department. The department plans to teach early U.S. history in elementary and middle school, while teaching only the period after 1877 in 11th grade.  That’s a terrible idea, writes Basnight, who is president pro tem of the state Senate.

As a reader of history myself, I think that no one should graduate from high school without a thorough understanding of the Declaration of Independence, the Founding Fathers, the writing of the Constitution, and the personalities involved. Furthermore, it is my belief that only high school students have the capacity to understand complex and awful parts of our nation’s history such as slavery and the Civil War.

. . . Sadly, students know very little about history as it is.

North Carolina history standards earned an F from Fordham in 2006, points out James Elias of Common Core. “Now they’re trying to make them even worse!”

Update: Nominate an outstanding American history teacher for the Teacher of the Year award given by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. The national winner gets a $10,000 prize; state winners get $1,000.

Update II:  North Carolina has scrapped its proposed history standards and will come up with a new plan by April.

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  1. I studied early U.S. history in elementary school. And middle school. And high school. And in several courses in college. And to a fair degree in law school. And I still wish I knew it better. Having a well-grounded sense of history is absolutely essential when people enter the adult world. Most people don’t have it, which is why we, as individuals and as a society, continue to repeat mistakes over and over again, and don’t see bad situations developing while there is still time to stop it.

  2. Back in the 1980’s when I was in middle/high school in Massachusetts, the schedule for History was:
    8th grade: History of the Americas from the Explorers up to, but not including the Civil War;
    9th grade: U.S. History from Civil war forward.
    10th grade: Half year of Civics & Government.
    11th grade: European/World history (A.P., honors, or regular)
    12th grade: A.P. U.S History (optional)

  3. Some years ago, the sociologist David Resiman recommended that Social Studies not be a part of the pre-college curriculum, as, he suggested, some teachers would find the temptation to indoctrinate students irresistible. I’ll settle for a voucher-subsidized competitive market in education services where parents could determine which indoctrination their children would receive.

    My nominee for top History teacher of all time: Ken Burns.

  4. Don Bemont says:

    “I’ll settle for a voucher-subsidized competitive market in education services where parents could determine which indoctrination their children would receive.”

    Actually, I am curious as to how parent choice will affect the place of history in many schools. A huge portion of the public wants curriculum closely tied to future job opportunities. So many schools may come to see history and literature as extras, in the same vein as music — secondary concerns.

    btw, although I certainly take Resiman’s point, it would appear to me that real life history teachers are all over the lot, in terms of their politics. At least the ones I know are.

  5. Kevin Smith says:

    I teach in high school in NC and can tell you that anyone who thinks our middle schools teach history has been hanging out with Cheech and Chong. The only subjects tested to evaluate our schools are Reading and Math. Science and History are completely untaught. At. All. Then they expect a single semester World History class to teach history up to 1740 and a single semester US History class to teach history up to the present. 90 days each class. YEAH, right……

  6. Well, that puts them out of APUSH.

  7. That is genuinely awful. I think they are doing it because IB History–which only covers that period–has set the criteria.

    The good news–I don’t believe America will stand for it. Let’s hope not, anyway.

  8. tim-10-ber says:

    Let’s see…design a test for science and history and it will be taught in middle school…

    I loved history…we studied state history in 4th grade, US history in 8th grade, I forgot what I took in 9th and 10th grade history but it was back to US History in 11th grade. I imagine there was an optional class my senior year if I wanted it…

    I agree with the comments already stated…this country is in the sad shape it is in because history is NOT taught through out school…

  9. Our American complaints about too much history is one of the few things that Europeans can truly laugh at us about. A friend who grew up in Germany told me they have so much history that students have to study very hard every year to learn it all.

    My kids’ 6th grade world history is now a bunch of junk. They read about each culture and talk about what food they eat and clothes they wear. I think the Roman Empire got a couple of paragraphs. Study Mesopotamia and the Cradle of Civilization? I think it got a sentence or two.

  10. Instead of telling schools what to do, it’s time for a revolution in history teaching by using the Internet as a Historyscope, allowing anybody to learn all the history they want outside of school. Check out my site to see the work I’ve already done.


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