Ninety-eight percent of high school seniors couldn’t explain Brown v. Board of Education on the National Assessment of Educational Progress exam, according to the Boston-based Pioneer Institute. States should require students to pass a U.S. history exam “with a strong focus on the founding documents” to earn a high school diploma, argues a new Pioneer report.
States, perhaps with federal help, would have to set aside funding for high-quality training in “the teaching of rigorous academic content,” the report adds. “Administrators should focus their hiring on teachers with strong content knowledge,” rather than familiarity with “the latest pedagogical techniques.”
Trendy education ideas, such as “21st century skills” and “authentic learning,” focus on showing students “how the issue they are studying either reflects or will impact the life they live now,” the authors write.
The idea that the purpose of education, let alone history education, is to remove a student from the here and now and to get them to understand ideas and worlds beyond their immediate interests is anathema to proponents of today’s trendy reform ideas.
“The stories of the past – be it about the rise and fall of Napoleon, the march of Alexander the Great across Asia, or the rise and ideas of businessmen such as John D. Rockefeller – are intrinsically fascinating,” they write, not just “for what lessons their stories can offer us today.”