… because it sounds like a much smaller percentage of Americans will even know what the Boston Tea Party was by, say, 2029. Reports the Associated Press:
Just 13 percent of high school seniors who took the 2010 National Assessment of Educational Progress, called the Nation’s Report Card, showed a solid grasp of the subject. Results released Tuesday showed the two other grades didn’t perform much better, with just 22 percent of fourth-grade students and 18 percent of eighth-graders demonstrating proficiency.
The test quizzed students on topics including colonization, the American Revolution and the Civil War, and the contemporary United States. For example, one question asked fourth-graders to name an important result of the U.S. building canals in the 1800s. Only 44 percent knew that it was increased trade among states.
Historic literacy and illiteracy were already in the news after Sarah Palin stirred up controversy by saying Paul Revere “warned the British” during his famous ride. The debate largely focused on whether Palin had accurately described an incident in which British soldiers captured Revere along the way. But even to have a debate presupposes a recognition of who Paul Revere was in the first place — knowledge today’s students may or may not have.
More alarming than the lack of a basic understanding of history is an apparent lack of basic reading comprehension. Check out this excerpt from the New York Times article on the NAEP test:
Students were given an excerpt including the passage, “We conclude that in the field of public education, separate but equal has no place, separate educational facilities are inherently unequal,” and were asked what social problem the 1954 ruling was supposed to correct.
So, the students weren’t even asked the name of the case from which that passage comes (Brown v. Board of Education), just what “social problem the 1954 ruling was supposed to correct.” And, even given the context about “the field of public education” and “separate but equal” and “separate educational facilities,” just 2 percent of 12th graders answered correctly.
Given all that, more than 2 percent should have been able to guess correctly even if they didn’t already know the answer!
Does anyone still want to argue that all our public schools really need, in order to give students even a passable education, is more money? Folks, the system is cracked and broken all the way to its foundation. Or would some of you prefer to wait until too few Americans recall that education in this country used to be good?
– By Kyle Wingfield