Tuesday, February 09, 2010

From Ignorant to Abysmally Ignorant

I’ve been watching and reading with interest the debate regarding North Carolina ‘s Department of Education and its revision of history-related public education. If you have not heard about this issue, Fox News broke a story last Wednesday (read article here). Currently, 11th graders in the state study American History from exploration until wherever they get – usually someplace around World War I. The proposed change is that instead of starting with exploration, to skip everything until 1877, in an attempt to have students be able to “see the big idea, where they are able to make connections and draw relationships between parts of our history and the present day."

Later that day, the North Carolina Depart of Education came out with its own press release (read here), in an attempt to salvage the proposals. Their idea is to teach United States History three times. "Our goal is to give students more study of United States history and to teach it in a way that helps them remember what they have learned," said State Superintendent Atkinson. "Students will have United States history three times before high school, and in high school they will have at least two more courses. The events, people and dates that are so familiar to many of us will still be taught to students. That means everything from early exploration through the Civil War, the 20th century and today."

So, I went through the proposals (which you can read here). History only gets a small nod in the third grade, it is mostly civics and economics. Nothing about the American Revolution or Civil War. Fourth grade is not much better. The proposals start out with more civics and government, then geography, with some culture, economics, and personal finances. When it comes to history, students are to compare American Indian groups before and after European colonization, the causes and effects of European exploration and colonization, summarizing state symbols, and analyzing “North Carolina’s role in various conflicts and wars.” Well, there is a nod, but North Carolina has been involved in eleven major conflicts since it became a part of the United States. How would someone explain this in a week or two? Fifth grade is not really any better. More Civics, more government, more economics, more personal finances. The only real mentions to history deal with immigration and migration patterns; political, social, and economic culture in colonial American; comparing major battles and military campaigns of the United States (once again, way too broad a topic); and, the “changing roles and the impact made by men and women of diverse groups.”

Sixth grade – the same, with “technology” being the history focused on.
Seventh grade – more of the same, with three of the seven points on technology, the fourth point is “Identify the origins of conflicts that have significantly affected people in North Carolina and the United States” -- far too broad. The fifth point is to “explain the impact of various types of conflict on specific groups and individuals (e.g., taxation, policies leading to the American Revolution, land ownership disputes and racial tension during the Wilmington Race Riot of 1898, desegregation during the Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education).”

Eighth grade – more technology, and all of the history tends toward a global perspective.

And then in high school, students have a year of Civics and Economics, US history after 1877, and Global history.

So, minimal time is given to the two most crucial times in American history: the American Revolution and the American Civil War. Interesting how both of these two times period are about how a group of people felt that they were not being treated correctly by their respective governments and rose up in an attempt to start their own government. The first was successful, and second was not. Maybe I’m just reading too much into it…


Arebindixie said...

I do not believe that you are reading too much into it. I have long felt that our public education system measures academic acumen and success via the lowest common denominator and is more useful at training good proletariats rather than preparing students for independent, objective thought. I hold a BA in History from Guilford College (1991) and I am a member of Phi Alpha Theta. I would enjoy teaching history but I will not be party to the revisionist license of the canned curriculae utilized by public education. Furthermore, while I find social history of periodic interest, I do not see where it merits the amount of attention that it currently receives as it has within itself determined little in the course of world events and Western civilization.

Anonymous said...


Our public school system has obviously promoted the so-called new era, what is politically correct, and through the years has digressed from history to what is socially acceptable.

As a former public affairs officer, United States Homeland Security, I know all too well, according to the powers that be, what to say and what not to say, what is acceptable and what is not acceptable, what people want to hear and what people don't want to hear, when to speak and when not to speak.

History, as with journalism, must always be viewed with fairness, balance, and objectivity, regardless.

Michael, you summed it up, during the Civil War the South was demonized for Secession; today, the South, by the masses, is demonized as initiating a war because of slavery.

Regardless of what the individual thinks and believes, the South has not been treated with fairness, balance, and objectivity, and to ignore the "Era" does nothing to ameliorate the situation, but to the contrary, it promotes ignorance and intolerance.

Matthew D. Parker