Recently, an Iowa grandfather shared a conversation he had with his granddaughter, a fourth-grade public school student, about what she was learning in American History. Her response, “Grandpa, did you know that the Revolutionary War was fought for the freedom of rich, white males?” This story illustrates the growing problem of politicization of civic education.
Last summer, many Americans were horrified as rioters defaced public buildings and tore down statues across the nation out of political correctness. The reality is, it has become more popular to destroy history than to learn from it.
The crisis in civic education has been building for decades. In our technology-driven society, most attention is given to STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) programs and preparing students to pass standardized exams. Meanwhile, subjects such as American history and government suffer.
Although STEM and technical education are valuable, education is more than just preparing an individual with the necessary skills to succeed in an occupation. Education must also be about character, citizenship, and liberty.
Not only do students lack a basic understanding of American history, government, western civilization, and economics, but civic education has become politicized. Even math has fallen victim to the political agenda.
Many schools across the country are using radical curriculums which reflect a unique interpretation of our nation’s history.
These same radical theories are being taught in Iowa. A recent example was the Ames Community School District’s use of Black Lives Matter curriculum, which led to oversight hearings before the Iowa Legislature. The Iowa Legislature is also debating the controversial use of the 1619 Project, which argues America’s founding was based upon the institution of slavery.
To confront the policy challenges of today, citizens must understand our history and government. “History is the source of all life’s lessons, the good and the bad. We turn to history to see what to embrace and what to avoid,” wrote James S. Robbins in Erasing America: Losing Our Future By Destroying Our Past.
As school curriculum is becoming more politicized, institutions should provide greater transparency regarding what they are teaching. Schools should be required to post online all learning sources, including supplemental materials used for instruction in the classroom. By increasing transparency of the curriculum, parents will know what is being taught.
It is time we place a higher emphasis on teaching American history and government in our educational system. Likewise, greater academic transparency is needed in our classrooms. If parents oppose what the school is teaching their child, they should have the ability to select a school, whether public or private, that best fits their child’s educational needs and values.