Each year, fourth graders visit the New Hampshire Historical Society in Concord as part of their study of state history. It used to be a “capstone” field trip, said Elizabeth Dubrulle, the society’s director of education. Now it’s a substitute for the history education most no longer receive in the classroom.
“We used to employ a very Socratic method with the kids,” she told NHPR reporter Jason Moon. “We would try keeping them engaged by asking a lot of questions, drawing on what they knew. We had to change that because we would ask questions and it would be crickets. They didn’t know. They weren’t getting the background.”
Dubrulle and the museum teachers give examples of the “history deficit.”
. . . students who named ISIS as America’s enemy in the Revolutionary War or who were unable to name the president during the Civil War.“
. . . “We’ve had kids from Manchester schools, who when they came through our field have trip said they had no idea there were mills in Manchester. They had no idea what those brick buildings were that they saw everywhere.”
The society is creating a free, online curriculum on New Hampshire history for fourth graders.
It’s not just a New Hampshire problem, according to Knowledge Matters. Elementary students devote 85 minutes a day to language arts, but just 18 minutes a day to social studies. (And social studies may not mean history or civics.)
Most elite universities don’t require history majors to study U.S. history or government, complains George Will, citing an American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) study.
Others let students satisfy the requirement with “micro-history” courses such as “Hip-Hop, Politics and Youth Culture in America” (University of Connecticut), and “Jews in American Entertainment” (University of Texas).
More than a third of college graduates couldn’t identify Franklin Roosevelt as the architect of the New Deal in a recent ACTA survey. Nearly half did not know the lengths of the terms of U.S. senators and representatives.