Thursday, March 05, 2015

New School Standards Mean the Eviscertation of US History

Want to know what your students are learning in public high schools?  Just take a look at the new Arkansas Department of Education frameworks or requirements for high school graduation. 
The new 2016 graduation requirement for United States History calls only for teaching American History since 1890.  Early American history is no longer necessary.  No Jamestown Colony in Virginia.  No Plymouth Colony in Massachusetts.  Gone is the expectation that the students learn the reasons for the American colonies to separate from Great Britain to form a new country called the USA.  Gone is the need to study the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, and the Jefferson presidency, including the Louisiana Purchase.  Apparently we don’t need to know about the rise of laissez-faire capitalism and the 1776 book entitled Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith.  
No more studying of the War of 1812 or the Monroe Doctrine.  Age of Jackson? – poof!  Gone.  Doesn’t matter anymore.  Westward expansion of the United States and Manifest Destiny – nope, not part of the new Arkansas program.  The Civil War – Lincoln – Reconstruction of the South?  Not important either.  We will also skip the study of failed experiments of utopian socialism.
Our students will also not learn about the Second Industrial Revolution with the advancements in technology and transportation.  No study of the steam engine, canals, highways, railroads, the telegraph and telephone, barbed wire fences, the Oliver plow, or the McCormick reaper. 
The year 1890 started a period of American history known as Progressivism.  Apparently learning about Progressivism is a critical place to start for the decision-makers at the Arkansas Department of Education. 
It is not only U.S. History that is seriously being dumbed down.  A high school course in American Government is no longer a graduation requirement.  Civics is still required – and that course is usually taken in 8th or 9th grade.  No longer will there be intensive study of the U.S. Constitution, and the powers of the Legislative, Executive, and Judicial branches of government.  No more study of the checks and balances that were put in place to curb governmental excesses.  An intensive study of the Bill of Rights is no longer deemed necessary.  The major U.S Supreme Court cases that have changed the course of America prior to 1890 are now consigned to the dustbin of history.
But wait, there’s more!  Advanced Placement (AP) courses are designed to grant college credit to students who do well on the end-of-course exams.  My Advanced Placement U.S. History (APUSH) students were the top performers in the state of Arkansas in 2014.  Unfortunately, APUSH is now aligned with Common Core.  As a result, the learning of facts has been de-emphasized.  The new focus is on process – analyzing and comparing documents to come up with meaning.  The new dumbed-down approach is so controversial, that the State of Oklahoma is moving to eliminate APUSH from its public school offerings.
Oh, one other thing.  The new 2016 Arkansas graduation requirement calls for World History to cover only the period from 1450 to present.  No more study of the Babylonian and Chaldean Empires.  No study of the ancient civilizations of China, India, or Egypt.  Can’t be bothered with the Greco-Macedonian Empire of Alexander the Great.  No need to study the Roman Empire either.  And we can conveniently skip the founding and violent spread of Islam, the Dark Ages of Medieval Europe, the conquering hordes of Asia that penetrated Europe, the Vikings, William the Conqueror of Normandy, and the signing of the Magna Carta. 
Apparently learning all the stuff I listed is considered to be just too much for Arkansas students.  Or perhaps there is another agenda at work here.  The fewer facts that Arkansas students know, the easier it is to manipulate them as adults.  Removing the understanding of the foundations of American government allows future adults to be deceived regarding the function of government. 
Does the Arkansas Legislature have any idea about what the State Department of Education is doing?  Does the governor know?  How can we be comfortable producing educated but ignorant students?  We do know this much – that if the Legislature and the Governor do nothing to fix the rewriting of history and government educational requirements for high school graduation, then by default they approve of the new dumbed-down standards. 
                                                                                                                   – Brutus
“Brutus” is a former businessman and newspaper columnist who is now an Arkansas high school teacher with classes in American History, American Government, and Economics.  He has a B.A. in Economics and an M.Ed. in Secondary Education, with graduate studies in Law.  He was a state legislative intern as a college student and has worked on several political campaigns.  He has also served as a school board member and a city council chairman.   
“The bottom line is the farther  decisions are made from home, the more tyrannical those decisions become.” – Brutus