- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Founders of an organization that promotes a thorough liberal-arts education for American youths say the No Child Left Behind law’s focus on reading and math testing has squeezed out other key subjects such as history and literature.

Educators, scholars and advocates have formed Common Core, an organization to promote programs and policies that will challenge students in a range of subjects, including history, literature, foreign language and the arts.

Common Core commissioned a study that found the nation’s 17-year-olds struggling with basic facts about historical events and literature. Many couldn’t identify Adolf Hitler, place the Civil War in the correct time frame or identify the author of the Canterbury Tales.

Lynne Munson, executive director of Common Core, said the focus on testing in the federal education law is “draining the content from our classrooms.”

“Common Core will be a consistent and clear voice for liberal-arts education,” she said.

In the telephone survey of 1,200 teens, nearly a quarter couldn’t identify Hitler. Offered specific 50-year time frames of historical events, only 43 percent gave the right answer on the Civil War and 60 percent responded correctly for World War I. Fifty percent correctly connected Joseph McCarthy with investigating communist activity.

Asked about classical literature, only 45 percent could identify Oedipus, and 44 percent incorrectly thought “The Scarlet Letter” was about a witch trial or a piece of correspondence.

Overall, students scored 73 percent in history and 57 percent, a failing grade, in literature.

Education Department spokeswoman Samara Yudof said Common Core’s goals are “not mutually exclusive” with No Child Left Behind.

“It’s good to talk about expanding the curriculum,” she said.

President Bush and first lady Laura Bush yesterday touted an initiative of the National Endowment for the Humanities that will teach schoolchildren about history through artwork. Schools and libraries that sign up for the “Picturing America” tour by April 15 will receive this collection and an in-depth teaching guide, Mrs. Bush said.

“The goal is to share the American experience with a wide audience,” she said.

Meanwhile, the survey showed that teens are learning some history: 80 percent correctly identified “checks and balances” as the idea that each branch of government should keep the others from wielding too much power, and 88 percent knew the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor was the event that led the United States into World War II.

Students did best on history questions related to American race relations. The one question that more than 90 percent answered correctly asked them to identify the speaker of “I have a dream,” Martin Luther King.

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide