By Bill Korach www.thereportcard.org
“Dare to Think” a conference on November 4, 5 co-hosted by The Report Card Publisher Bill Korach and Clay County School Superintendent Charlie Van Zant, focused on American student’s knowledge deficit in reading and writing history and how to solve it. Superintendent Van Zant stated: It is vital that we teach…a true account of American History and what made this nation exceptional.” Van Zant pledged to implement a number of recommendations coming out of the conference that would begin to raise the bar on history educational standards in Clay County Schools.
Dr. Peter Wood, President of the National Association of Scholars, stated at the conference that in 1964, 82% of colleges required at east one semester in Western Civilization. By 2010, no elite college required it. By 1993 only 2% of colleges required history. Dr. Wood pointed on that when Gov. Mitch Daniel of Indiana disparaged Howard Zinn’s anti-American history used in high schools, “A people’s History of the United States,” over 33,000 pro-Zinn teachers marched against Gov. Daniels.
Paul Horton, University of Chicago Laboratory School history teacher stated that American students have a reading crisis. Horton stated that the US Department of Education’s NAEP survey points out that in 201`0, 55% read below basic level. With the Kaiser Family Foundation pointing out that kids spend over 7 hour per day on video games and media but less than ½ hour per day on homework. Horton recommended that history books be substituted for textbooks as a way to provide a better learning experience.
Armand Alacbay, of the American Council of Alumni & Trustees (ACTA) stated that the NAEP stated that on 12% of high school students were proficient in history. On a recent ACTA survey, only 22% of students correctly identified the source of the phrase “Government of the people, by the people and for the people” as the Gettysburg Address.
Rev. Marty McCarthy led a panel discussion about restoring moral guidance in public schools. He quoted from President Theodore Roosevelt: “To educate a man in mind and not morals is to educate a menace to society.” Rev. McCarthy was joined by Dr. Daniel Scoggin, CEO of Great Hearts in Arizona. Attorney Stephen Guschov of Liberty Counsel, and Superintendent Charlie Van Zant. Dr. Scoggin stated that Great Hearts instruction in morality is built into the Great Hearts curriculum. Students learn from the great books and include a study of the Bible as literature. Attorney Guschov stated that it was completely within the law for the Bible to be studied in school as an historical document.
Will Fitzhugh, Publisher of “The Concord Review,” stated that students whose works get published in his journal tend to be accepted at the top schools in the world. He encouraged students to start writing in very early grade levels by one page per year. So by the time students reached high school, they would be able to write 10-12 page papers.
Art Yeaman’s Ben Franklin and Dennis Bigelow’s James Monroe were given standing ovations for their historic, witty and bravura performances.
The breakout groups recommended to Superintendent Van Zant that more rigorous writing, and reading in history be implemented per the recommendations of the presenters. Specifically, Will Fitzhugh’s “One Page Per Day” writing plan, submissions to The Concord Review and an incentivized reading program are undertaking. It was also recommended that more in-depth teacher training programs be implemented. Van Zant stated that a number of programs could be implemented on a small scale and expanded.
The urgency of history instruction was emphasized by an article in the Providence Journal by Jamie Gass entitled: “Americans’ Historical Cluelessness could Doom Freedom”,
“We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution” is a history contest promoting civic knowledge among the nation’s high-school students by using congressional-style hearings to make teaching and learning interesting for both pupils and teachers. Since its inception in 1987, more than 28 million students and 75,000 educators have participated in this contest.
But in the fiscal year 2011 budget, the “We the People” contest was defunded by the White House and Congress. Even though the annual budget for the U.S. Department of Education reaches $69.8 billion, in fiscal year 2012 no federal funds were appropriated for civic education in our country.
Just this summer, the U.S. history-civics NAEP tests were indefinitely postponed for America’s students. The Obama administration blamed it on a $6.8 million sequestration budget cut. With its own independent governing board, NAEP testing is supposed to be insulated from partisan mischief.”
Look like the ideas coming out of “Dare to Think” cannot be implemented a moment too soon.