- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 7, 2003

Just six states earned a grade of A for their schools’ U.S. history standards, while 22 and the District received failing marks in a national study commissioned by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute.

The District was included among states whose standards were rated “ineffective” and given Fs. Virginia’s standards were rated “very good,” rating a B grade and tying for 7th place with Delaware, Georgia, Kansas and Oklahoma. Maryland ranked 15th with a “fair” rating for a C grade.

States rated “outstanding” and given A grades for having the best standards for teaching history from kindergarten through 12th grade, in order, were: Indiana, New York, and Arizona. California, Alabama and Massachusetts tied for third place.

“This is at least part of the explanation for the many assessments that show young Americans knowing less about history than any other subject,” said Chester E. Finn Jr., the Washington-based institute’s president.

The “Effective State Standards for U.S. History: A 2003 Report Card” study was conducted by Sheldon M. Stern, recently retired historian at the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston, for the institute.

The Fordham Institute promotes higher academic standards and better teaching. Mr. Finn said he believed this was America’s first evaluation of state-by-state U.S. history curriculums.

States that received the highest scores have academic standards requiring comprehensive, balanced lessons that teach history in coherent sequence, the report said. States with poor rankings were said to have historically selective or inadequate standards without fair, balanced context and a coherent and cumulative U.S. history sequence.

The District’s U.S. history sequence is “limited … lacks any sequential development … is starved for specific historical content,” the report said. “History teaching and learning in the D.C. plan are confined in a virtual straitjacket of social studies jargon, making it extremely difficult to identify what teachers should teach and what students should learn.”

The report said Virginia’s 1995 history standards were “one of the best frameworks in the nation,” but added that a 2001 revision of the curriculum was less historically substantive. As for Maryland, the reports said the state’s standards were “quite comprehensive … despite the fact that sequential development and substantive recapitulation are very limited.”

Mr. Stern pointed to the trend of “multiculturalism” for much of the reason that history is not taught properly.

“History standards have inevitably become tangled up in profound realities of American life [that is] the anti-educational values promoted in popular culture and the bitter turf wars, culture wars, and legitimacy wars among interest groups at all levels of American society,” he said.

“State history standards must acknowledge the key issues and events that comprise the whole American story, including both the inspiring and the terrible events of our past.” But history lessons are often skewed and distorted by “presentism — judging the past through the lens of today’s values, standards, and norms,” the report said.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide