Proficiency in history, civics alarmingly low

  • Proficiency in history, civics alarmingly low
    Proficiency in history, civics alarmingly low

    Retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor opined: “The fact is that knowledge about the Constitution is not something that is handed down through the gene pool; every generation has to learn it.”
    U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor observed: “For me, civic education is the key to inspiring kids to want to stay involved in making a difference.”
    Unfortunately, our nation’s schools are doing a poor job in teaching history and civics.
    The most recently released Nation’s Report Card test results (2018) show that most eighth grade students know little about civics and even less about history. The Nation’s Report Card is compiled by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).
The average U.S. history score for eighth-grade students was four points lower compared to the previous assessment year of 2014 when a mere 18 percent of students were judged proficient in history.
    As for civics, the NAEP reports: “In 2018, about 24 percent of eighth-grade students performed at or above the NAEP proficient level on the civics assessment, which was not significantly different from the 23 percent of students performing at this level in 2014, the previous assessment year.”
    Perhaps you wonder why any of this matters. Maybe you believe schools should only worry about teaching the STEM subjects - science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
    The continued existence of the liberty we tend to take for granted depends on an informed citizenry. It is not enough to know there is the U.S. Constitution. An informed citizen must know what it is, how it was conceived, what it means, the significance of the Bill of Rights and so forth. An informed citizen must be ready and willing to defend and protect the Constitution.
    In a letter written on Jan. 6, 1816, Thomas Jefferson observed: “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.”
    The failure to effectively teach history and civics will lead to tragic consequences. As philosopher George Santayana warned: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to relive it.”
    No matter one’s political viewpoint, we all can agree the nation is at a crossroads in its history. Whether this noble experiment in a republican form of government that guarantees God-given (natural, if you prefer) liberties will depend on our knowledge of history and civics. The NAEP test results, the historical mythology of the New York Times 1619 Project, the nonsense spewed by so many of our public figures must be taken as warning signs that our liberties cannot be taken for granted.
    Following the release of the 2014 NAEP test results, O’Connor and retired astronaut and U.S. Senator John Glenn wrote in a Wall Street Journal essay: “Citizenship begins long before students can vote. Civic education will help them exercise their vote, and participate in our democracy, in an informed manner. The NAEP results indicate that it’s not the students who are failing to learn, but we who are failing to teach them.”
    It was true then. It is true today. Time is running out for our schools to get serious about history and civics education.