Sunday, October 05, 2008

The end of history 

John Hinderaker weeps for our children, who know no history. John correctly fingers the politicization of public education, which like everything else has become a battleground in the culture wars, and one that conservatives are losing badly:

My youngest daughter started middle school this year. After around a month of classes, as far as I can tell the curriculum consists largely of propaganda about recycling. My high school age daughter told me tonight that in Spanish class she has been taught to say "global warming," "acid rain" and "greenhouse effect" in Spanish. I don't think they've gotten around to translating "hoax" yet.

The schools can teach anything if they care about it. The problem is that they don't care about teaching history, least of all American history. Public education is agenda-driven, and American history--the facts of American history--is not on the agenda.

And read this, which quotes historian David McCullough:
But I speak also from experience. On a winter morning on the campus of one of our finest colleges, in a lively Ivy League setting with the snow falling outside the window, I sat with a seminar of some twenty-five students, all seniors majoring in history, all honors students-the cream of the crop. "How many of you know who George Marshall was?" I asked. None. Not one.

At a large university in the Midwest, a young woman told me how glad she was to have attended my lecture, because until then, she explained, she had never realized that the original thirteen colonies were all on the eastern seaboard.

Who's to blame? We are.

There really is no defense for the results of our monopoly public schools, at least not when considered nationally. The Princeton Charter School, which is public but managed independently down to its curriculum, achieves massively better results by teaching an integrated course in history, English, and art. Students spend the 5-8 grades learning history, literature and art from ancient times to the present. The result was that at ages 12 and 14 the TigerHawk Teenager was able to tour the Louvre and the Vatican Museum, respectively, and have opinions about what he wanted to see and questions to ask the guide. I suspect that virtually all of his classmates could have done the same.

Now, kids growing up in Princeton are obviously more privileged than virtually everybody on the planet, but I guarantee you that the Charter School students know much more than their peers going through the monopoly system. Even better, they all have a basic grounding in world history from beginning to end that will allow them to put everything else they learn into context. And, finally, I guarantee that there are at least some eighth graders in that school who know who both George Marshall and John Marshall were!


By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Oct 05, 10:43:00 PM:

Don't waste your time judging the educational system through anecdote, we've all got stories to tell, but the kids are alright. If you want to try and impress me, get some standardized test scores which show the supposed decline of their understanding of history. May fortune bless McCullough (his book on Adams blew me away) but for god's sake, he was 12 years old at the end of World War II -- of course he would expect everyone to know Marshall. History appears fixed in time, when it's only a fleeting, culture-driven narrative 'bout the way things were.  

By Blogger Dawnfire82, at Sun Oct 05, 11:26:00 PM:

I never realized just how worthless my public education was until I got to a university and started paying people to teach me.

And even they don't get it right sometimes. I think I've shared my 'communist history teacher taught freshmen that the US committed more wartime atrocities than the Japanese in WWII' story here a couple of times over the last few years.  

By Blogger Casey Klahn, at Sun Oct 05, 11:33:00 PM:

The last 2 comments are examples of my belief that WW II history will be dumped/attacked/changed soon. As soon as the last few veterans have passed, it will be time for the crpweasls on the left to begin the narrative changes.

Except they forget one thing. I heard the stories at my WW II vet father's knee, and I can recite it all by heart.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Oct 06, 12:14:00 AM:

I find their ignorance about economics even more disturbing.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Oct 06, 12:17:00 AM:

Illegal immigration takes it toll, also. One of my son's high school teachers told me, "I wish I could teach the class at your son's level". My grandson is the only one in his kindergarten class who is not in ESL (English as a Second Language). The politicians do not care because the downside only shows up on generic tables and graphs. The families of the poor children who get shortchanged by the unions, politicians and community activists have to deal with their failures every day.  

By Blogger Donna B., at Mon Oct 06, 01:24:00 AM:

I am so glad that my children went to private schools for their "basic" education. I think what they learned in the 8th grade then is comparable to a HS diploma today.

Except that part where they were taught HOW to learn. I'm not sure that's offered at the college level in many places.

I'm urging them to home-school or use private schools for my grandchildren.  

By Blogger smitty1e, at Mon Oct 06, 07:08:00 AM:

Where does it go, in the long run?
It sounds like we're headed for Idiocracy, with a semi-educated remnant.
The market should disadvantage these public daycare/skool graduates, and favor workers that actually know something.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Oct 06, 07:31:00 AM:

Some teachers spend more time on indoctrination than education.I experienced this in Manalapan NJ schools. My daughter began Towson Univ in Sept and the very first day they began the left wing propaganda.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Oct 06, 08:38:00 AM:

John and George Marshall? Weren't they Penny Marshall's brothers?  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Oct 06, 10:57:00 AM:

I consider the education I received adequate, even exceptional by recent standards. I learned many facts (places, events, and dates) but mostly just the facts of history, both in high school and college, though I had at least one exceptional teacher at both levels. But it wasn't until after I left school and started teaching myself that I really learned anything useful by reading outside the curriculum I'd been given and slowly assimilating the causes and course of events.

Right now I am rereading The Guns of August and getting far more out of it the second time around, probably, at least in part, as a result of having read The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich twice in the interim. Now I am reading about the causes and course of the First World War with an understanding of what it would lead to, and that is an invaluable perspective. One, I might add, that it would be virtually impossible for any teacher in either a public or private school setting to furnish students.

No, even the best formal education can but only prepare a student to informally continue his or her own education. That is a lifetime pursuit and, I might add, responsibility of the individual. Unfortunately, far too few schools seek to imbue that concept, believing I guess that the goal of education is merely to bestow a diploma.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Oct 06, 11:53:00 AM:

Well, I went to private school and managed to learn very little history, in spite of being considered an excellent student.

When I had great teachers, I absolutely got it. Otherwise, it really wasn't my thing.

I'm basically with Squealer on the "anecdotal" problem.

"Excellent" teaching of history seems to be complicated by the fact that it is, by necessity, taught through some interpretive lens -- i.e., the importance of the historical fact, as well as its significance, depends on a particular perspective. (Just see the different conclusions drawn by people about recent history -- including which are truly "important" facts -- even on the pages of this blog.)

And history, like most other subject areas, benefits from repeated reinforcement of the ideas presented -- that is, if your parents (or other caregivers . . . and, later, friends) are able to help reinforce the lessons and draw parallels/inferences in daily life, it is helpful to true retention and understanding. Certainly being fortunate enough to have a family that visits museums in Europe falls into this category of reinforcement. As does a through-line series of classes at a single school, as PCS apparently appreciates.

Many schools and teachers -- in both public and private settings, and at all levels -- address topics of history without this appreciation for "context," to students' detriment. This seems particularly true when you consider that people learn and retain information in patterns.

(I learned this last tidbit -- Uncle TH -- at back to school night at our sons' excellent, and racially and economically diverse, local public school.)  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Oct 06, 05:44:00 PM:

Squealer's ( Oct.05 comment) "editorializing" is ahistoric with a correct footnote re: referrencing test scores ...is that "nuance"?probably, ergo: a fashion statement.Are we to believe that the General and the Jurist were/are a fashion of the 19th&20th centuries? That is proof of Squalidthinking's ahistorical relativism ( he must be in the koolaid bowl for St.Baracki)...are we to gainsay the echos of both men's careers which roar into out extant timeframe?The saying :"a chain is only as strong as its weakest link" needs to be applied to the "Squalid One's" overt nekulturny , as the Russians might observe. It's shallow intellectual posing like this which has Barry trying to open the gate with his skeleton key of relativism and subtext of racial guilt- oh gee whiz, is that too nonPC , folks?jesus wept!  

By Blogger Miss Ladybug, at Mon Oct 06, 11:06:00 PM:

How can one graduate high school and not know the 13 colonies were all on the east coast? That's just basic geograhy...

I graduated high school 20 years ago. While I officially only ever attended "public" schools, my years living in Germany were more like a private school setting. The teachers I had, for the most part, were excellent, both in elementary school (3-6 grades) and high school (jr/sr years). Teaching in a DoDDS school was a pretty choice teaching job, and they (whoever did the hiring) could afford to be picky. It also didn't hurt that there was such easy access to lots of museums: art, science, history. Then, I had parents that were much interested in "going and doing". Before I was even in school, my family made a trip to Holland, which I don't really remember. When we were back in Germany when I was in school, we went all over the place from our home in Augsburg: Munich, Frankfurt, Heidelberg, Berlin, Rothenburg, Salzburg, Dachau, Bertchesgarten, and the list goes on. I was taken to museums, historic sites, and cultural events (from professional puppets shows to the annual Christkindlmarkt). I was exposed to other cultures, but I always knew and was proud of the fact that I was an American.

I will admit that my history education of the later half of the 20th century was lacking: we were lucky if we ever got finished with WWII in US History... What I know of that, I have learned since high school... And, I am always learning. I just finished - in the wee hours this morning - a book on Mrs. George S. Patton, which gives a different insight into the man she married than what I know from history programs and biographic movies about him...

I am a teacher without a classroom. If I ever do get that first teaching job, I want to instill in my students a love of learning because I understand that there is much more to learn than can ever be taught in school...  

By Blogger GreenmanTim, at Tue Oct 07, 02:35:00 PM:

Calls to mind this video


that I believe I've shared before. A bit of a cheap shot, but hysterical if it weren't so pathetic.  

By Blogger Miss Ladybug, at Wed Oct 08, 12:03:00 AM:

That YouTube video isn't much different that Jay Leno's "Man on the Street" interviews. I always wonder how many knowledgeable people they interviewed that got cut from the broadcast. But, it still amazes me how many ignorant people there are running around this country, and that they are allowed to vote...  

By Blogger Assistant Village Idiot, at Wed Oct 08, 08:37:00 PM:

Learning that is not reinforced is not remembered. Of course that midwestern student learned at one point where the 13 Original Colonies were. I learned the major exports of Uruguay, too, but I don't remember it now because I never used it. You have refreshed the memories of the important facts thousands of times.

What you put in will only be retained by people who have the intellectual interest to keep going on a topic, or on general information. You don't remember because of the schools. You remember because that's the sort of person you are. This is also why people of equal IQ's have equal vocabularies when they are 60, whether they went to college or not.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Fri Oct 10, 10:11:00 AM:

"May fortune bless McCullough (his book on Adams blew me away) but for god's sake, he was 12 years old at the end of World War II -- of course he would expect everyone to know Marshall."

Hey, "squealer", why don't you go read it again for comprehension? He wasn't talking about "everyone". He was talking about "all seniors majoring in history, all honors students". Do you understand?

I graduated high-school in 1974 (almost thirty years after the war) with a D average and didn't go to college, and I say that anyone who doesn't know who George Marshall was is a moron.

Jesus. The problem is bigger than most people know: not only are people becoming unconscionably ignorant, they also don't know how to think.

We're looking at the rise of the Eloi, ladies and gentlemen.  

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