Friday, May 23, 2014

Yikes! Students Don't Know History

American students don't know history, according to Timothy Egan in this essay for the New York Times. He says that many Americans "can’t even place the Civil War in the right half-century," and notes that others "think we fought alongside the Germans in World War II."

Egan asked Ken Burns what he thought was the problem. He believes the problem is that we don't teach civics any more. He says that civics is  “the operating system” for citizenry; if you know how government is constructed, it’s no longer a complicated muddle, but a beautiful design.

David McCullough believes that educators share much of the blame for “raising young people who are, by and large, historically illiterate.”

Are Egan, McCullough, and Burns right?


Steve Jones said...

This kind of essay used to really bother me - until I did some research to find out that these complaints have been heard for a century in the US. Every four or five years someone writes the exact same essay that Egan penned, experts from all sides point to their current favorite scapegoats to explain it all, then we forget about it until the next essay. See Sam Wineburg's 2004 article on the subject here:

Also, FYI, looks like your link to Egan's article is broken. --Steve

George Coe said...

Thanks. I fixed the link.