Thursday, July 06, 2006

Speaking of History

In my last post, a mother with children in the public school asked about supplemental history texts for her children. After reading this article about how little children actually read in school, even at the high school level, it is apparent why she asked.
I have a fair amount of anecdotal evidence, even from people who would be quite shocked to hear that high school English departments are no longer assigning any complete novels , that they understand that nonfiction books, for instance history books, are not being assigned at all. One partner in a law firm in Boston, who went to Phillips Academy in Andover several decades ago, commented...[E]veryone knows there are no history books assigned in schools. Even at Andover in his day, he had only selections, readings and the like, never a complete book. A Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute, sometimes thought of as a conservative place, told me, when I commented that I couldn't find anyone who agrees that our high school students should read one book, that "The only hope is parents introducing their kids to reading, and that's a mighty slim hope."
For our country's sake, I hope he's wrong. But somehow I just don't think he is.

Recently, we had an interesting conversation with a young seventh grade boy in our neighborhood. He is from India, so we were asking him about his native country. He told us he really didn't know much because he moved here when he was a baby. "But," he said, "ask me about America, I know a lot. I always get A's in school on that subject. I even had to take a citizenshp test and passed." We asked him three pretty basic questions. One of which was when did our country declare it's independence and from what nation? He couldn't say. After the third question he was frustrated. Not with us but with his school. He told us the things he had learned about America, needless to say not much of it was actually history.

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