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Woodrow Wilson Foundation Releases Findings on Why Americans Don't Know History

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tags: history, teaching history, Woodrow Wilson Foundation



The vast majority of Americans couldn’t pass the U.S. citizenship test when asked test questions in a recent 50-state survey, but that’s not because their teachers failed them or because students are no longer required to study American history. It’s because the American history curriculum has focused on memorization of names, events, and dates, which students find irrelevant, boring, random, and fail to retain beyond their class test. So finds a new report from the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation.

The Woodrow Wilson Foundation (WW) report found that 39 states and Washington, DC require students to study U.S. history in middle school, and 42 states and DC require one American history class in high school for graduation. Among high school social science teachers, 83 percent are certified in social sciences and 79 percent majored in American history or a related social science discipline.

Despite that, 28 states have transitioned to a more dynamic way of learning history through the National Council for the Social Studies’ College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework for Social Studies State Standards since they were released in 2013, which means the majority of Americans were educated on history curricula stressing memorization and short-term recall of facts.

“We believe this current lack of knowledge of American history represents an extraordinary challenge to our nation and our schools in an age in which the country is deeply divided and confidence in social institutions is low,” WW President Arthur Levine said. “Based on our analysis, this is not an issue of whether high school history teachers are adequately prepared or whether children today even study American history in school. The answer to both questions is yes. This is an issue of how we teach American history and whether today’s learners see relevance and are engaged in what and how history is taught.”

Read entire article at Woodrow Wilson Foundation

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