History is not the only thing lacking in today’s schools

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Blogger William E. White’s Huffington Post article, “Education in America Serves No Purpose Today,” is a great call to arms for reforms to our education system. I experience our school system from a variety of perspectives. I live with a teacher, so I hear about the inner workings of the system. I work with history museums who have a hard time getting teachers to bring their students for field trips because history is not one of the tested subjects required by the “No Child Left Behind” Act. I work with educators who spend their time writing our nation’s past into math and literacy curriculum in an attempt to get a little bit of American history into the school day. And I am friends with parents who are frustrated with the type of education their children are getting compared to their own educations 20 years ago, and to OUR parents educations 40-50 years ago.To quote a powerful part of White’s argument: “The United States of America is truly built on the foundation of “We the People.” Without active and informed citizens, the republic will fail. Over and over again the founding generation reminded themselves, and us, that an educated citizenry is the fuel — the guarantee — of a strong, vital republic. Thomas Jefferson in particular was an advocate for an educated citizenry. But our twenty-first-century schools do everything but train our children to exercise their civic responsibilities. We demand that schools provide workers for business, keep our children off the streets, socialize them, and even instruct them in the fundamentals of procreation. We fail, however, to teach the responsibilities of citizenship because we have failed to teach our children American history.”

Why has history been removed from classrooms? “No Child Left Behind” made it important to teach literacy and math, and implemented a set of tests each student at each school in America has to pass. If students don’t pass the tests, teachers can lose their jobs, school administrators can be replaced, and entire schools can be shut down. It is easy to see why teachers and administrators devote their time “teaching to the test”.

Recently, people in the science and technology fields have realized students aren’t graduating from school prepared for jobs in the sciences. Corporations like ExxonMobile responded with “Let’s Solve This,” a website dedicated to boosting math and science education.

The arts community responded with Americans for the Arts  and the television network VH1 created Save the Music to encourage music in schools.

HBO recently aired a four-part special called “The Weight of the Nation,” which addressed the obesity epidemic in America and devoted an entire segment to childhood obesity. They looked at the junk food being served in school cafeterias and discussed that physical education and recess have been cut from school days because of the tests, contributing to childhood obesity. They pointed out that with obesity on the rise, we, as a country, are going to have an increasingly harder time finding people with the physical strength and stamina to serve in our Armed Forces in the future. There is a joint committee of Federal agencies at work on this problem, but they rely on Congress passing legislation regulating these items to be successful, and right now, Congress has not shown an interest.

So there are a variety of fights being waged on behalf of our students to get a variety of subjects back into the school day. But I wonder: Where are the corporations willing to put money behind getting history back into the schools? I don’t know of any – please let me know in the comments if there are some. With Teaching American History grants not being funded, and other similar programs losing funding, the history field need someone with money to step up in a big way.

William White’s article makes suggestions for ways parents can help their children learn about their responsibilities as citizens, and I agree with all of them. Many of the organizations I list above also rely on parents to fill in the gaps the public schools are leaving. But I worry about the children in the inner city Title I public schools. They aren’t getting this “extra” education at home from their parents. They can’t get out of school for field trips, and for a lot of reasons, they are failing their tests and being subjected to changing teachers, administrators, and inconsistencies that make their educational gaps even larger.

How can this country continue to be the greatest in the world when our education system is in such disarray?

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