Home > Uncategorized > History Standards Impossible When Math And Reading Standards Elude Us

History Standards Impossible When Math And Reading Standards Elude Us

September 17, 2020

I am a member of the local Rotary club and our speaker yesterday bemoaned the fact that whenever he speaks about his experience flying WW II replica planes to HS students they display an astonishing ignorance of the war. I didn’t push back at the meeting, but as the author of the weekly newsletter I intend to share a link to this Time Magazine article by Olivia Waxman which offers a good explanation of why this is true. In a nation where educators have been unable to determine standards for math or reading it is unsurprising that we have been unable to set standards for history where the facts are more numerous and the interpretations far less clear cut. In the final analysis, Ms. Waxman’s quote from Adam Laats, historian and author of The Other School Reformers: Conservative Activism in American Education offers the best insight into why history standards are elusive:

One reason K-12 history education controversies continue to crop up is because of the “unanswered question about what history class is supposed to be for. Is the point of history class to introduce young Americans to their heritage of heroes, the glories of American history? Or is history class supposed to make young people into critical examiners of their society, a true civic education that teaches American young people to question every bit of received wisdom and be ready to change what needs changing?”

Ms. Waxman notes that 71% of the respondents to a Pew poll see history as a means of developing critical thinking about their society… but if 36% of those folks want schools to examine how capitalism contributes to systemic racism and 35% want schools to focus on the benefits of capitalism as compared to socialism you can see where the problems begin. And, as Ms. Waxman infers, history classrooms have been the venue for continued debate over slavery, communist influence, and politics.

The result is that some states, like Florida, ban certain topics altogether because they are too contentious, and those bans are easy to put in place in the name of “teaching the basics” so that all children can learn the fundamental skills like reading or mathematics. HOW those topics are taught, and what those topics ARE in mathematics are STILL contentious… but at least everyone agrees that knowing the alphabet and being able to count from 1 to 100 are important.

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