US 8th Graders Don’t Know Much About History

What American kids know – or don’t – about the nation’s history and civics is a reflection of the political and economic circumstances affecting their schools, writes Diana D’Amico Pawlewicz.

Test scores for history began their decline about a decade ago. (Don Mason via Getty Images)

By Diana D’Amico Pawlewicz 
University of North Dakota

When national student test scores revealed recently that knowledge of U.S. history and civics had reached an all-time low, one Republican lawmaker described the drop as an “outright failure that should concern every parent across the country.”

The test scores showed that 86 percent of America’s eighth graders were not proficient in U.S. history, and 79 percent were not proficient in civics.

While one top U.S. education official described the scores as “alarming,” the official rightly pointed out that the decline actually began nearly a decade ago.

In my view as a historian of education reform and policy, the latest history and civics test scores were a predictable outcome. While it is difficult to establish an exact cause of the decline, here are four factors that I believe contributed to it.

1. Pandemic Fears of Learning Loss

When students gradually began to return to their physical school buildings after they were closed when the Covid-19 pandemic began, researchers, politicians and critics of teachers unions began to worry about learning loss in math and reading.

Historically, when there are worries about test scores in core subjects like reading and math, other subjects become less of a priority. This deemphasis on subjects beyond reading and math has taken place before. Specifically, after the Bush-era policy No Child Left Behind became the law of the land in 2002, teachers reported that the emphasis on testing took away time and resources for social studies.

They also say it threatened arts education, which has been shown to benefit children’s overall academic, emotional and social well-being.

2. The Politicization of Social Studies

At the same time that many education experts were worried about learning loss in reading and math, conservative politicians were working incessantly to limit what can be taught in social studies.

In one of his first acts as governor, Virginia’s Glenn Youngkin, for example, set up an anonymous tip line for parents to report teachers who taught “divisive concepts,” such as the notion that the U.S. is “fundamentally racist or sexist” or that a person from a particular race or sex bears responsibility for past actions committed by other members of the same race or sex. The tip line has since been quietly shut down.

Across the country, state legislatures led by conservative politicians have adopted bills banning instruction about aspects of U.S. history that could, they believe, make white children feel “discomfort” or “guilt.”

All of this has created an atmosphere of fear for the nation’s teachers, who remain largely unsure of what they can and cannot teach. For some teachers, this political context has led them to self-censor and limit what they teach about American history, potentially depriving students of a richer understanding of the nation’s politics and policy.

3. Education Budget Cuts

Although research has long shown that funding matters for student achievement, many school districts around the country are currently struggling for adequate resources.

The pandemic has amplified existing racial and economic disparities – and recent national test scores in history and civics are an extension of those disparities.

Not only were the average scores on U.S. history tests lower for Black students than white ones, but the decline from 2018 scores to 2022 was 42 percent greater for Black students. Black students collectively lost 4.5 points, or 1.8 percent of their average scores, from 2018 to 2022, versus 3.5 points, or 1.29 percent, for white students.

And the situation was even starker for low-income kids. Compared with 2018, children who are eligible for free or reduced lunch – a standard measure of poverty – saw their scores drop more than twice as much as they did for their higher-income peers who did not qualify for the program.

Specifically, they lost five points – going from 250.5 in 2018 to 245.5 in 2022, versus just two points for those who do not qualify for free and reduced lunch, who saw their scores drop from 274 to 272 between 2018 and 2022.

4. Teacher Shortages

Mounting job stress and the blaming of teachers have led many educators to leave schools altogether, generating widespread teacher shortages.

Among teachers who left the profession in 2022, a record high of 64 percent quit, as opposed to being laid off or fired, leaving district and state leaders scrambling to lower requirements for substitutes in an effort to find adequate classroom support.

Evidence suggests that experienced, professionally trained teachers are critical for students’ academic achievement. With that in mind, low test scores in history and civics begin to make more sense.

Keys to Improvement

What American kids know – or don’t – about the nation’s history and civics is a reflection not of the kids, but of the political and economic circumstances that affect their schools.

The factors that support student learning – funding, qualified teachers and high-quality curricula – are well known. In my view, if history and civics scores are to improve, then what is needed is more funding for public schools, more support for professional teachers and the freeing up of educators from policies shaped by contentious political debates about what they can and can’t teach about U.S. history in America’s classrooms.The Conversation

Diana D’Amico Pawlewicz is associate professor of education research and director, I-REEED, University of North Dakota.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The views are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

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48 comments for “US 8th Graders Don’t Know Much About History

  1. robert e williamson jr
    May 15, 2023 at 12:38

    On history. I had a great world history teacher my freshman year of high school, he got me hooked, but I could tell then history was not everyones cup of tea. In spite of this, this teacher had his methods and most came away with at the very least an idea of how important it could be.

    Notes on the chalk board revealed more that history, often they were the answers to his test questions. In my view it worked. Why, because he got his point across that way.

    Math and science being disciplines, history is more of critical thought process when taught by a person who teaches the material that way.

    Dave would have most certainly ran afoul of many high school administrator these days. It’s too bad schools have lost that.

    Thanks CN

  2. robert e williamson jr
    May 14, 2023 at 19:27

    The public education system in the United States is an embarrassing failure at most levels.

    One of the most disastrous and harmful reasons is the school boards leadership or lack there of and why? Because of politics. Politics in education should be taught without party bias or the representation of any religious belief being used to prohibit the teaching of science.

    As with so many facets of the United States populations government programs, the fighting of old battles over and over again, as parties control and then lose control of congress. Allowing the parties to re-hash old political battles that result in the gridlock that burns up budgets and the legislative clock.

    The condition of the education system is no more than a symptom of a failing society.

    See the wars on communism, poverty, illiteracy, drugs and terrorism. Just to mention a few.

    These are problems fought with billions of dollars and very damned little progress. Progress that many times was stifled by partisan politics.

    The two parties instead of looking to remedy this problem, in my view, embraced it, this recurring introduction of bills, as a tool to be used to satisfy lobbyist demands (by those big money high powered special interest groups) to revisit and re-legislate topics that should be considered as settled.

    Besides, considering the amount of money this country pisses away on war as being criminal in and of itself simply because of the waste of state treasure and the destruction melted out, these embarrassing government failures are killing the country while the political hacks get rich.

    Washington and it’s political criminals are repugnant.

    Thanks CN

  3. lester
    May 14, 2023 at 18:17

    Ignorance of history has all kinds of bad consequences. Biden, eg., thinks that if Chinese people are prosperous, it hurts Americans somehow. He wants to destroy the Chinese semiconductor business by refusing to export semiconductors, on the assumption that Chinese people are stupid and uncreative and can’t invent things on their own. Nothing is further from the truth, of course, as a browsing of SCIENCE AND CIVILISATION IN CHINA, by Joseph Neddham and others, would teach him. You can be sure that Biden has read no books on Chinese history. Nor have most of his advisers and cabinet members. Nor have most of our Congressmen.

  4. jamie
    May 14, 2023 at 16:15

    I think the problem of education in US or in any other country is much deeper and it goes much more back on time. Education is about perception, perception is about culture, culture is about evolution… how history is being told, what it is being left out (consciously or even more unconsciously) , what it is being emphasized, the myth and taboos that have been created around it…
    In many places they still believe that patriarchal society has been created by men to oppress women, instead of women being just an accomplice in its making; in Italy as well in Switzerland surveys at universities show that the majority of young women prefer to marry a wealthy man than pursue independence and careers;
    in politics women TODAY are reinforcing a society that privilege violence, brute force, over negotiation (typical of a male/patriarchal society), Ukraine the most astonishing example that shows how female politicians can be just as bad as any man and beyond, how they push for violence instead of negotiation, how their minds lack of critical thinking and empathy. One big different of a matriarcal society was that violence was much less preferred.
    Just like Pilger says that what we see today is “propaganda by omission” the same is true for education; many in Europe still believe US defeated the nazi…
    it is astonishing how culture reinforce itself through so many mechanisms that we are mostly unaware of… unless we don’t teach about how to be self-aware, about who we are, about how culture shapes our thinking and perception, often distorting it, teaching about evolutionary forces that shapes us, etc., working toward better history and civic teaching it is a waste of time and most of us, whether we learn them thoroughly or not, 99.9% will die without even knowing who they really were, failing to have achieved true freedom from evolutionary forces, that in spite all the money, freedom of movement, speech, expression etc.

  5. lester
    May 14, 2023 at 14:05

    My history instruction back in the 50s and 60s was mostly crap, too – far from the philosophical history Gibbon lauded. If I got interested ih history and archaeology as a future profession, it wasn’t because of our basketball coache’s inadequate instruction. Eg, he skipped straight from the Civil War to WW II, overlooking the industrialization of the USA or the Great Immigration which had brought most of our grandparents to our village in Iowa. Iowa History was worse, if possible.

    I think it was my immigrant grandfather’s stories, a taste for fantastic fiction and a couple pop histories of archaeology in my high school’s library which sent me to my BA in archaeology, my PhD in History. I never taught either for a living, but I have never regretted the long and broad view of events they taught me. And real history is often more fantastic than anything Tolkien or Michael Moorcock wrote!

  6. Robert Sinuhe
    May 14, 2023 at 02:08

    These comments skirt the fact that the author is making points. Are those points valid or not? I feel they are and I don’t feel confusing the issue by bringing up personal experiences in education helps understanding the author’s point. Some school districts are providing barracks for teachers to live in because the money paid them is not sufficient to live on. This tells how little our society values education.

  7. Tomonthebeach
    May 13, 2023 at 19:31

    That those ignorant of history are doomed to repeat it jibes with the personal experience of most adult Americans. Nevertheless, American history classes are boring jumbles of factoids – ask any 5th grader. What nobody seems to mention is that K-12 history books are boring and taught in unengaging ways intentionally. America like to edit its own history so that Americans are always on the righteous and winning side. After all, slavery did give Africans a chance at a better life farming in the southern US than they would have had in the jungles of Africa. Slaves were generally treated humanely. Also, we respected the cultures of our indigenous “Native” Americans. We even created technical advancement reservations to help them more quickly integrate with our more advanced industries. Events like the Civil War and the Little Big Horn were just instances of people resisting progress.

    There is scant mention of the wide popularity among Americans of Nazism and associated ethno-superiority and antisemitism coincident with Hitler expanding the movement in Europe. Little is said about the national popularity of radio evangelist priest, Father Coughlin, who promoted antisemitism and Nazism. There is little K-12 history linking capitalist opposition to labor unions as a factor in our reticence about entering WWII. Too bad that 26 million communists died at Hitler’s hands while America discussed the pros and cons of entering the war until attacked in 1940. It is rarely touched upon that the US was basically embargoing Japan from needed raw materials thereby crippling its economy. Surely that had nothing to do with the infamy of Pearl Harbor. Those sorts of historical facts get edited out as mere opinions or distractions, and in the process, US history classes are boring and seem lacking in relevance to real life.

  8. John Manning
    May 13, 2023 at 16:02

    The USA is not a country for which I have much interest. Despite that, when talking to people from the USA including my relatives I have always quickly realised I know more US history than they do. Knowledge of history in the USA is being able to recite trivia such as the dates when the civil war began and ended. The politics behind major events is never learnt. Some major events (eg the wars with Canada) are never learnt. This is not a change. Knowledge of the history of the rest of the world is effectively non existent.

  9. shudderer
    May 13, 2023 at 14:36

    It rare to find anyone any age that has a grasp of our countries history. Or even a cursory understanding of what is going on presently.
    In the 1960’s a Senator from Mississippi was asked why his state spent least of any state on education. His response, “if they became educated they would move out of the state”.
    It sounded ignorant,but no, it was a profound statement of the road plan to manipulate the population.
    This wasn’t even a slip of tongue, it was a forerunner for the entire country.
    Our country is run by slight of hand.
    Look at dems fighting to raise debt. Laughable, when gov. is financed by debt everything costs double over the year with interest.
    The debt is surplus (untaxed) money borrowed from the rich. We then pay them interest on that untaxed borrowed money.
    The rich get richer. The country remains dysfunctional, sick, uneducated and impoverished. We pine and fight to pay them interest on their untaxed surplus, borrowed.
    Another slight of hand was changing the name of the Department of War to the Dep. of Defense, in 1947. This so we as a nation would willing spend half our money on WAR.
    I am leaving out more than mentioned.
    Education and being informed is increasingly irrelevant, possibly UN-American.
    Time to shudder

  10. Random Amber
    May 13, 2023 at 11:18

    Skepticism is good and healthy.
    Ignorance is neither, nor is it ‘strength’.

    Actually, the key to reading history is to believe none of it. Read multiple versions, from different points of view, and then try to find reality from that combination and what you observe of human beings. But always be skeptical of any one account.

    Of course, that explains why Americans are so confused about history … this is the land where a one-page memo is considered “wordy”, and the idea of an American reading even several one-page memos with conflicting ideas is of course preposterous. The mind trained by looking at the pictures in comic books rebels at the very notion. Americans want pictures, and they want everything to agree with what they already believe…. or else they burn that book, or otherwise ban the book and its author. In the name of “Freedom” or “Justice” of course.

  11. Random Amber
    May 13, 2023 at 10:58

    America was once a revolutionary society that did know history. But, yes, that was a long, long time ago.

    That of course was one of the things that had to be overturned in order for the American Revolution to be overturned and create the America that now follows the policies of the City of London and bows in fealty before the English King and their publicity princesses. Erasing History was a key step to creating the world where American now stands shoulder to shoulder with the European Elites and fights to crush freedom everywhere in the world, in the image of the old European Dream.

    If Americans actually still knew their history, they’d join in a rousing and loud chorus of “God Bleep The King”, therefore, Americans’ knowledge of their history of revolt and freedom was something that just had to be sent down the memory hole.

    I was trying to search for the history of American official attendance at the English Coronation. Most of the search results instead were glowing coverage of Queen Jill’s trip. In America, history is buried by the current PR. The BBC actually talked about the history in its slanted fashion, apparently to deflect British anger that King Joe himself did not come to Bend the Knee. They pointed out that America began to love the British only with the reign of the Queen Victoria. They of course skipped over the part that before that Britain had been a hated enemy against whom the Americans had fought two wars and almost a third given the British textile mill owners strong support for the Confederacy and its cotton and slavery.

    • Valerie
      May 13, 2023 at 15:37

      India hasn’t forgotten though Random:

      “Inevitable’ India’s jewels taken by British empire will be returned, says author”

      Narendra Modi is preparing a campaign to reclaim items in UK museums and held by the royal family, such as the Koh-i-noor.

      A leading writer on the British empire has said it is inevitable that Indian jewels and historical artefacts looted under colonial rule will be returned, amid reports that the country will begin a campaign to get them repatriated.

      Sathnam Sanghera, authored Empireland: How Imperialism Has Shaped Modern Britain.

      (The Greeks have been trying for years to get the Elgin Marbles returned.)

    • joey_n
      May 15, 2023 at 03:31

      It makes me wonder if the ‘chumminess’ between the USA and England explains why the USA still isn’t on the metric system. AFAIK English feet and inches were based on the body parts of dead English monarchs, which I find hard to justify for a supposedly independent republic.
      * Thomas Jefferson made the USA the first Anglophone society to use a decimal currency ($1 = 100 cents) at a time when Britain still used pounds, shillings and pence. Jefferson even wanted the US to go metric and requested a copy of the meter and kilogram. The sailor responsible for the ship was captured and killed by British pirates, and it never went through.
      * The US participated in the 1875 Meter Convention, while the British Empire did not.

      • lester
        May 15, 2023 at 11:30

        The UK went metric decades ago. The US and Canada were supposed to go metric together in 1976. Canada made the switch, no problems. US people threw tantrums and refused to change.

        It makes exporting hard. GM cars are popular in PR China, but they don’t buy the ones made in Detroit, because they are not in the international (metric) system. If you need a part, you can’t buy it easily. And no one understand the speedometer. Miles per hour? What are miles?

  12. Black Cloud
    May 13, 2023 at 10:36

    Newly minted senior citizen here. I was taught in high school that the US defeated Germany in WWII and that the Soviet Union was an evil Empire with nuclear weapons that threatened the world.

    In other words, I was taught exactly the opposite of the truth that the USSR defeated Germany in WWII and that the US is an evil Empire with nuclear weapons that threatens the world.

    • Steve
      May 13, 2023 at 16:43

      Sounds like your knowledge of history is no better today than it was when you were in high school.

      America is neither a shining city on the hill nor an evil empire. It’s a flawed country full of contradictions, just like every other country.

      The USSR did not defeat Germany in WWII, the Allies did, all of them, including the USA and the USSR. The USSR does hold the distinction of paying the highest blood price to earn that victory, and deserves respect for that, but without Lend-Lease and the Allied military efforts in Africa, Italy, D-Day and the ensuing march to Berlin, the Soviets would have been hard pressed to roll up the Nazis on the eastern front like they did.

      I also question how much attention you paid in high school. My 1970s midwestern education may have downplayed the USSRs role in winning WWII and gilded the lily on America’s role, but it didn’t deny the truth that the Soviets were key partners in the effort. We were taught that the Churchill and Roosevelt viewed a partnership with Stalin as a necessary evil in order to deal with the more immediate threat (Hitler). They knew that they would have to deal with the Soviets eventually, but viewed them as a tomorrow problem, while the Nazi’s were a today problem.

      • J Anthony
        May 14, 2023 at 07:18

        Maybe your school was better.

      • lester
        May 15, 2023 at 11:35

        I fear “Evil Empire” does describe my country, the USA. Too many of us ID with the US government and assume that it and we are as perfect and flawless as Adam in the Garden of Eden.

    • Susan Siens
      May 14, 2023 at 16:16

      I’m with you, Black Cloud, though I fortunately was not taught what you were in high school. I sometimes don’t think I learned anything after eighth grade [in school; I read voraciously], though I had one month in a California high school which was very good. How did history class start off? Our teacher wanted us to explore the real reasons for the American Revolution [sic], you know, when we overthrew one set of oligarchs for another set of oligarchs.

  13. Bobby Len
    May 13, 2023 at 10:34

    Improve the headline by removing the words “8th Graders”.

    Then it reads “US don’t know much about history”, which is quite accurate and true

  14. Doug Darlington
    May 13, 2023 at 10:20

    The Peoples History of Empire, by Howard Zinn is a graphic presentation of American history and a fun read. Probably banned.

    • Steve
      May 13, 2023 at 16:47

      Zinn’s books are a great supplement to American history education for someone who has a solid understanding of more traditional historical interpretations. But by themselves without that grounding in ‘standard’ history, they are dangerously one-sided.

      • Susan Siens
        May 14, 2023 at 16:17

        Standard history, hmm? Crappy textbooks published by crappy publishers? Dangerously one-sided? You are very funny!

  15. May 13, 2023 at 08:57

    When Ted Kennedy rolled over and enabled George W to pass the No Child Left Behind Act it was the death knell for education in both social studies (like history and civics), and science. Because NCLB’s test-and-punish regime only applied to standardized test scores in reading and math, K-6 or even K-8 teachers found they no longer had time for content that was not related to test scores. The scientific community eventually rallied around STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) initiatives that content area made a comeback. Not coincidentally, students proficient in STEM are useful to the U.S. war machine. Social studies, on the other hand, creates informed citizens many of whom object effectively to endless wars for empire.

    • Susan Siens
      May 14, 2023 at 16:18

      Bless you, Lisa Savage, from another Mainer!

  16. Valerie
    May 13, 2023 at 07:40

    I spent most of my history lessons out in the corridor. I was so bored, i shuffled my feet, so the teacher threw me out. Well, the battle of Hastings; the great fire of London and Henry the bloody eighth wasn’t really awe inspiring. I’ve learned much more in the past decade or so visiting sites such as CN and learning from the comments and articles, than i did my whole years of school and college.

  17. J Anthony
    May 13, 2023 at 06:14

    This is by design, so that Republican pretending to be shocked about it, who will also likely go on to blame the teachers of course, is full of it. They’ve been advocating for the destruction and irrelevance of public education for decades, now they have it. And I thought it was bad when we Gen Xers were in school, I can only imagine how it is now in some places.Like us these kids will end up self-teaching as they get older.

  18. Vera Gottlieb
    May 13, 2023 at 04:27

    And same goes for world history too. Poor education hasn’t been a mystery…

  19. CaseyG
    May 12, 2023 at 22:55

    I think that a lot of people don’t know much about American history.

    I would like everyone to learn the Preamble, as even several hundred years ago, the Founders knew that they had to point out a way for those coming after them.

    Just to make things more functional too, I would like all elected senators and representatives to have to pass a Constitution test before they are seated. If they couldn’t pass the test, as I am sure that many today could not,
    it’s just a more precise way to clean out the riff riff before the stupidity ruins it for all of us.

    • Shad
      May 13, 2023 at 06:59

      A strong understanding of US history would be helpful from civic involvement to national security. For example, requiring anything of the elected Congress member other than what is prescribed in the US Constitution would be unconstitutional. Right out of the gate, an elected member requirement to “Pass” a civics test” before being stated is a violation of the First amendment.

    • Steve
      May 13, 2023 at 16:53

      While I agree that many of our representatives are painfully ignorant of the Constitution, I’m not a fan of competency testing, which has an ugly history when it comes to politics and is often used to disenfranchise the enemies of those in power. That type of testing was a big part of Jim Crow laws, and was rightfully abolished. It should not be brought back, not even for the politicians themselves.

  20. Eddie S
    May 12, 2023 at 21:47

    When WERE US citizens ever proficient in US history, and did it ever really make a difference, politically or culturally speaking? My perception is that — much like Mark Twain’s purported quote that ‘Even the devil can quote scripture for his purpose’ — you can find justification for just about anything by looking at history. And I knew enough fellow middle class US citizens I went to college with during the Vietnam War who ended up voting for Reagan and parroted all the ‘free market’ hype, and now here we are…

  21. Afdal
    May 12, 2023 at 21:25

    Is it perhaps better, however, to know nothing about history than to be deliberately miseducated about it? For example, I spent decades of my adult life believing the lie that the US’s founding fathers were in any way sympathetic to democracy (instead of outright hostile to it). Decades of my adult life believing that special propaganda which we were taught over and over from civics classes to social studies to world history: that democracy is when you elect people to government (instead of blatant oligarchy, which was actually well-known and despised by the ancient Athenians). Decades of my adult life to learn that FDR didn’t descend from the heavens and give us the New Deal, but rather that it came largely from the platforms of the Communist Party USA and two existing socialist parties at the time. Decades of my adult life to finally learn about figures like Smedley Butler, or that the cold war from start to finish was largely a justification to rescue the profits of the aerospace industry after WWII. Like many other who have grown up in the US, many facts were deliberately withheld from me or distorted in order to establish the parameters of acceptable political thought, and even in spite of straight As in every history class I still knew nothing about cause-and-effect in the world.

  22. May 12, 2023 at 20:22

    And most of their parents know even less.

    • Adina Mamon
      May 13, 2023 at 11:51

      Indeed! And lastly to finally learn that the US is the quintessential banana republic, with a CIA operation that assassinates inconvenient leaders with a progressive mandate (Malcolm X, JFK, MLK, RFK).

  23. Bruce Dickson
    May 12, 2023 at 17:16

    Globalism, the new overriding ideology, calls for stateless /nationless / atomized individuals set adrift in a society that makes no sense in which the sole permitted source of meaning is the centralized apparatus created by, and obedient to, the Prime Oligarchs.

    Who needs a National history or a knowledge of civics for that?

  24. John DeLunke
    May 12, 2023 at 16:16

    When 69% aren’t proficient in READING, it would be pretty hard for them to perform better in History or Civics.

  25. Zen Howard
    May 12, 2023 at 15:51

    However, if one looks they find that the parents now work two or three jobs and that the ‘Family Dinner Table’ has become a fiction in both the idea that a Family is gathered together after an 8-hour workday, or that the Family is not starving. There are several reasons why the kiddies aren’t learning from the family dinner table, including that one or both of the parents might be a part of the world’s largest prison population.

    The myth of the Family Dinner Table largely dates back to the era when an American worker could afford to sustain a family on one salary and that the other partner could be a homekeeper. Corporate America has since cut the real wages of American workers to the point where it now takes closer to three full-time salaries to support the family. And, unfortunately, the Labor Unions have been quite happy to go along with concession after concession after concession leading to this state of affairs. Although, you might find “Family Dinner Tables” in the homes of the union leaders and their 6-figure salaries.

  26. Zen Howard
    May 12, 2023 at 15:43

    If they can answer multiple choice questions restating the ‘magic bullet theory’ and the rest of the “Warren Commission Report”, then they are considered proficient in history. If they can not properly recite that the last American President with broad popular approval was killed by a lone gunman with a strange, direction-changing ‘smart bullet’ fired from a distance with an old WW2 Italian rifle and that the Deep State had nothing to do with it, then they lose points on their exam.

    If they can answer that the Vietnam War began with a Commie attack on Peace-Lovin American Patriots in the Gulf of Tonkin, then they are proficient in history. If they have actually heard of The Pentagon Papers and what really happened that night, then they lose points on their exam. A Bonus Question will give extra points towards their proof of proficiency if they can recite the “Stabbed in the Back Theory” that says the mighty and holy American Army would have won Vietnam if not for those evil protestors sabotaging the war effort.

    And of course, the kiddies can get big points if they can correctly identify Ronnie Raygun as the Greatest American President of All Time.

    And so it goes….

    • Nyah
      May 12, 2023 at 21:56

      “And of course, the kiddies can get big points if they can correctly identify Ronnie Raygun as the Greatest American President of All Time.”

      My U.S. History teacher told us her favorite president was Teddy Roosevelt. Not surprising, considering that the school is in a town that, at the time, had significant employment in US-spying on the USSR. If only I’d had Zinn’s book back then, I surely would’ve put her on the spot.

  27. Jeff Harrison
    May 12, 2023 at 15:42

    Hmmm. I think the problem started much earlier than that. I’m 73 and I didn’t take “social studies”. I took history: US history, European history, world history. And I took a course called civics where I learned the structure and (alleged operation) of the US government and, since I was living in Virginia at the time, the structure and operation of the Virginia state government. I think things started to head south when they stopped teaching history and started teaching “social studies” which isn’t actually the same thing.

    Frankly, these conservative politicians piss me off (no, I’m not a liberal). They are constantly trying to hide the evil/bad/stupid things that the US has done and they are creating exactly what philosopher George Santayana was talking about when he said “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

  28. Selina Sweet
    May 12, 2023 at 15:29

    Labor union membership taught a fair amount of practical civics. Kid learned
    from their parents at the dining table. The calculated result of the evisceration of unions
    probably plays a part in the kids’ ignorance. Shifting industry and jobs overseas left
    an abyss in the societal fabric that once included gathering together to promote
    change by peaceful means.

    • Patrick Powers
      May 12, 2023 at 18:20

      My sister worked for The Home Depot. THD would schedule their employees in an irregular and unpredictable manner. This was to inhibit the formation of employee friendships that might lead to organization of the labor.

  29. Selina Sweet
    May 12, 2023 at 15:22

    When enough middle classers and ex-middle classers and the poor let go of their old lens and don
    new lens enabling them to see what Chomsky rightly calls – the “savage class warfare” since Reagan
    that has been relentlessly waged against them by both flanks of the Business Party (Republican-Democratic Parties),
    the ensuing fury will assume a creative force sufficient to destroy the moat the Big Money Neoliberal Fraternity has
    assiduously built around their wealth (the socialism for the rich). Then a few more pennies will get to
    be invested in our children. And their adults will have modeled how democracy is reclaimed and taught how
    to put the necessary leashes on Fat Billionaire Sociopathic Hogs at the public trough.

  30. May 12, 2023 at 14:57

    And I doubt that YOU know our history as presented in Eugene Linden’s 1979 Affluence and Discontent!

  31. Susan Siens
    May 12, 2023 at 14:50

    Something like 20 years ago I attended a church and spoke with a young woman who went there. She was not long out of high school and she told me they had had no U.S. history post-WWII. History teaching was not much better when I was in high school in the late 1960s and early 1970s. I set type for the Indochina History Project in Boston during the 1970s as they were trying to combat the total lack of accurate information about U.S. wars in Southeast Asia.

    A serious parent never depends upon school for teaching her children; she supplements with her own experience and encouragement of reading.

  32. JohnB
    May 12, 2023 at 14:42

    Granville Stanely Hall might be a starting point. Woody Willson included.

    It’s hard to talk about the six years added to school after founding fathers time, without getting into uegenics.

  33. Greg Grant
    May 12, 2023 at 14:40

    When they say that 86% of American kids are not proficient in history, does that mean they’re not properly versed in the standard propaganda? Because if it means they have never heard of East Timor, or Mosadeq, or Arbenz, or Oscar Romero, or so many other things it makes no sense for Amerians not to know, then the number should be closer to 99%.

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