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The Dawn Patrol Richard Falknor on 14 Oct 2010 08:58 pm

A Sobering AEI Report on Teaching Civics

“Freedom is a fragile thing and is never more than one generation away from extinction.  It is not ours by inheritance; it must be fought for and defended constantly by each generation, for it comes only once to a people.” Ronald Reagan

“‘History is who we are and why we are the way we are,’ said David McCullough, perhaps America’s most celebrated popular historian. From a nation’s history, to its economic structure, politics, and constitutional order, a teacher can inspire appreciation or revulsion, mindless conformism or gratuitous agitation, boredom or wonder.”AEI report

If there is one serious goal overlooked in the political uprising against the Obama Administration, it is reforming, then elevating the importance of teaching American history and government to the next generations of voters.

We have listed chapter and verse on these concerns  — so central to our freedom —  in our March 26, 2009 post Will Republican Politicians Help Us Fight the Culture Wars?

The GOP on the state and national levels just can’t seem to get their arms around what goes on — and what is omitted — in taxpayer funded schools and colleges.  As Stanley Kurtz wrote over two years ago —

“The Bush administration’s attitude was that Bill Bennett/Lynn Cheney-type culture war issues sap political capital that could more profitably be put toward the war effort or social security reform. This was a huge mistake. Fighting the education culture war would have accumulated political capital. When it comes to the left-leaning craziness of the education system, the public is with us.”

High Schools, Civics, and Citizenship
What Social Studies Teachers Think and Do

Now comes the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) with this new report entitled “High Schools, Civics, and Citizenship What Social Studies Teachers Think and Do.”

Among some disheartening findings summarized in the AEI press release  “Do American High Schoolers Know What It Means to Be a Citizen? A Survey of Over 1,000 Public and Private High School Civic Studies Teachers Says No

  • “Teachers are largely uncertain as to what should be taught about civics. They set too low a bar for what they expect students to know about American history and government.
  • Facts, such as key dates or the location of the 50 states, are the lowest priority for social studies teachers when it comes to teaching citizenship. Notions of tolerance and rights are emphasized instead of history, facts, and key constitutional concepts.
  • Only six in ten teachers deem it absolutely essential for high schools to teach students ‘to understand such concepts as federalism, separation of powers and checks and balances’ (64 percent) and ‘to be knowledgeable about such periods as the American Founding, the Civil War and the Cold War’ (63 percent). (Underscoring Forum’s.)

Here is a troubling extract from the report’s executive summary

“Public and private school teachers share remarkably similar views when it comes to what it means to be an American and what students should learn about citizenship . 

  • Public and private school teachers give remarkably similar rankings to these five possible priorities that high schools may have around the teaching of citizenship:
    • ‘Internalizing core values like tolerance and equality’ (49 percent public versus 54 percent private rank it first or second in priority)
    • ‘Promoting civic behaviors such as voting and community service’ (49 percent versus 44 percent)
    • ‘Instilling good work habits’ (46 percent versus 41 percent)
    • ‘Understanding the key principles of American government’ (38 percent versus 43 percent)
    • ‘Teaching key facts, dates and major events’ (20 percent versus 19 percent)”

The AEI press release concludes – –

“Gary Schmitt, director of the AEI Program on American Citizenship, concludes that,’this survey shows that teachers take the subject of civics seriously, but they lack guidance and support from parents, principals, and policy-makers. Making matters worse, teachers seem to be at sea as to what the content of a civics curriculum should be–with key concepts and important facts ‘failing’ to make the grade.’ (Underscoring Forum’s.)

Winning short-term political battles over taxes and spending and getting a more job-friendly economy – – very important as they are — isn’t going to win the longer war to maintain American exceptionalism.  If our teachers can’t or won’t effectively teach who we are and how our government works and how all that is connected to the details of our history, how can we possibly pass on our tradition of freedom — and how can we insist that immigrants assimilate? Assimilate to what — when not enough of our schools are teaching our own heritage to our own children?

“Environmental Education” vs. Solid Civics

Readers may wonder about taxpayer-supported teaching priorities (see Board of Education details in the foregoing link) after reading Lisa Gartner’s Washington Examiner article“Maryland schools must offer environmental education.” Who reviews the environmental science in the curricula to ensure that it is sound?  How does “environmental education” comport with learning about established American property rights?  With learning about free-market solutions to important challenges? Here is a Chesapeake Bay Foundation ally rejoicing in the environmental-education development: “There will be an Environmental Literacy Summit co-hosted by the MDCLI Coalition and the Chesapeake Bay Trust on October 20th in Annapolis.” Do we believe that those who are skeptical of anthropogenic global warming will be the stars of this “summit”?  How will Maryland environmental education teachers and texts discuss the human cost to malaria-ridden countries of the Rachel Carson legacy?  We may (just) be able to roll back Green Statism today, but how long can we keep doing so if new voters have no grasp of our history or are unable to see through the propaganda of  statists?

Back to Tea Parties

Apparently, we can’t keep waiting for our friends in the GOP to come to grips with reforming civic education. The Tea Partiers will have to be a moving force in this effort – – as in so much else. For, as we all know, the Tea Parties are essentially about freedom.



(Via Wikipaedia)


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