Friday, April 28, 2006

David McCullough on the Teaching of History

From the National School Boards Association web site:

The Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and author of 1776, John Adams, Truman, and The Johnstown Flood offered other examples of how Americans are ignorant about history.

The examples listed were pretty scary--and they were from history majors!

I found the following comments fairly interesting:

The quality of history textbooks, which McCullough says are filled with “politically correct mush,” is another problem. “They are so bad, they seem designed to kill the interest of the student.”

The problem has been compounded by the reading and math testing requirements of No Child Left Behind, which have “pushed history to the back burner,” he says. “It’s so stupid and so shortsighted.”

Students can improve their reading scores by delving into literature from history, not textbooks, he says. He suggested they could read Abraham Lincoln’s addresses, Martin Luther King Jr.’s letters, and “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere.”

I agree with him about the politically correct mush, but vehemently disagree with him about NCLB. What he's bemoaning is poor implementation of the law at the local level, not any requirement in the law. Besides, he gives the solution in the next sentence--we can have reading and history in the elementary schools if we read historical works! I think his dogma got in the way of his karma there.

We've been conducting standardized testing at my school this week. We're testing in history. If I remember to, I'll confirm what history we're testing when I get back to school on Monday. I think we're giving two history tests....

Anyway, go read McCullough's entire article. It's short enough that it won't take more than a couple minutes.

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