Washington, DC - A pair of education experts warn that today’s schoolchildren will be hard-pressed to fulfill their duties as American citizens due to their lackluster performance as students of history and civics.
Bruce Cole and Roger Beckett argue that schools “neglect” these subjects. Cole is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and the former chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Beckett is Executive Director of the Ashbrook Center at Ashland University. Commenting on the newest report from the U.S. Department of Education's latest National Assessment of Educational Progress, they wrote in a recent opinion article that the report shows “we are raising another generation of historical and civic amnesiacs.”
The 2015 NAEP assessment, which has earned the nickname, the Nation’s Report Card, tested approximately 29,000 eighth graders, finding that only 18 percent were proficient in history. Just 23 percent of them showed skills in civics.
“Unless we as a society make rediscovering America a priority, we risk more than a few lousy test scores. We risk losing our understanding of who we are and why America is uniquely important in the long history of the world,” Cole and Beckett concluded.
Cole, who is co-founder of the Grateful American Book Prize, an award for authors of kid-friendly books based on factual events and people in American history, said the Prize is a means of encouraging young readers to take an interest in who and what we are as a nation.
“Tests and polls and studies have shown that our citizens, but especially our young people, don't know enough about where we've come from and how the past informs the present and has some bearing for the future."
The Op-Ed he co-authored with Beckett stresses that “students who are strangers to the basic facts about their government lack the tools they need to become fully functioning citizens of our republic. When citizens don't understand their rights, or the powers and limits of their government, they're at a long-term disadvantage in asserting and defending those rights and in holding their leaders accountable.”
The federal government has cut back on its support of history and civics in the classroom in recent years, they said. Cole and Beckett propose that the private sector step up to the plate as it did to solve the problem of STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] education. “Dedicated and focused nonprofit organizations across the country can, in fact, help parents and teachers educate the next generation about what it means to be an American.”