One of the things I've noticed among homeschoolers is that people tend to be either "science" people or "history" people. The reason I noticed this difference in the first place is because on different occasions, I've had "science" mothers from our homeschool co-op come to me wondering why I assign so much history in my classes. This always seemed odd to me, especially when compared to the science classes, which easily assigned as much or more work than what I had assigned. To be fair, it's not that they don't think history is important; it just doesn't seem to be as important or as necessary as other studies. Yesterday, one mom explained to me, "These kids have to be ready for the SAT, which is mainly science and math and writing. They need that to get into a good school."
It's an interesting comment in light of a recent study done by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute entitled, "Failing Our Students, Failing America" which asks the question, "Is American higher education doing its duty to prepare the next generation to maintain our legacy of liberty?" Suzanne Fields commented on the report in a recent column:
"Civic literacy" is found to be declining at some of our finest (and most expensive) colleges and universities. Many graduates leave college with less knowledge of American history, government, foreign affairs and economics than when they entered as freshmen...USA Today picked up the story and noted,
"Though a university education can cost upwards of $200,000 and college students on average leave campus $19,300 in debt," the report concludes, "they are no better off than when they arrived in terms of acquiring the knowledge necessary for informed engagement in a democratic republic and global economy." (italics mine)
"The study from the non-profit Intercollegiate Studies Institute shows that less than half of college seniors knew that Yorktown was the battle that ended the American Revolution or that NATO was formed to resist Soviet expansion. Overall, freshmen averaged 50.4% on a wide-ranging civic literacy test; seniors averaged 54.2%, both failing scores if translated to grades.
"In general, the better a college's U.S. News & World Report ranking, the less its civic literacy gain."
Apparently, Harvard seniors had the highest scores at 69%, but the study points out that this is still only a D+. Our best schools may be turning out educated scientists and entrepreneurs, but it seems that they are not turning out educated citizens.
Fields' column concludes,
"The study ... was aptly titled, "Failing Our Students, Failing America." Thomas Jefferson knew that education was essential for the republic to remain strong. He wrote that the purpose of education was to "enable every man to judge for himself what will secure or endanger his freedom." That was crucial in his 18th century, and it's crucial in our own 21st. We forget at our peril."
And that's why I teach history. My kids may not learn it anywhere else.
Want to take the quiz that stumped the best and the brightest from Yale and Princeton? You can find it here.