Woodrow Wilson, now reviled as a racist, bears an even heavier burden of shame, writes Bill Evers in National Review. He’s responsible for replacing history, geography and civics with “the abomination we call social studies.”
The Wilson administration’s U.S. Bureau of Education puts its clout behind a 1916 federal report on social studies, issuing the report as a bulletin and promoting textbooks using the new approach.
“Social studies” should not focus on chronology or the workings of government, the report said. Instead, teachers should focus on “concrete problems” that are “of vital importance to society.”
That sounds familiar.
History should be studied if it’s “practical or functional,” social studies enthusiasts believed. “Ancient Athens was studied not as part of the political and intellectual development of Western civilization, but rather in connection with the contemporary problems of city planning,” writes Evers.
The “key note of modern education” is “social efficiency,” the report concluded. Social studies was to train students to “take a job based on the service the job ‘rendered’ to ‘the community’,” rather than personal preferences.
Instead of recommending that students study the social sciences in order to form an independent mind knowledgeable about the past, the 1916 social-studies report effectively encouraged students to conform and adjust to prevailing views. Ever since this paradigm change, social studies has been bedeviled by fads, fashions, and indoctrination in the name of relevance.
Many Americans “don’t know what happened or when” in history, Evers concludes. They don’t understand “federalism or our system of checks and balances.”
I wonder how many could tell Woodrow Wilson from Flip Wilson.