K-12 Students Still Ignorant of U.S. History

The time has come once again for us all to cringe at the results of standardized test scores showing that American youngsters don’t know beans about their own country’s history.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress has made known that more than half of American students tested scored “below basic” on their history knowledge. Fewer than one quarter scored “Proficient” or better.

Sample questions for 12th-graders included a 1940 poster of the Statue of Liberty with a giant boot poised above it ready to crush it. The boot has a huge swastika on it. The question asks which country this poster was trying to warn Americans against. Another sample question deals with triangular trade in the colonial period, while a third asks about Frederick Jackson Turner’s frontier thesis (that last one was pretty good, actually).

I wasn’t surprised by these numbers because it has become abundantly clear to me over the last seven years that my college students come into my classes ignorant of these things. All of which raises the question: What on earth do high schools do these days?

About Dr. J

I am Professor of Humanities at Faulkner University, where I chair the Department of Humanities and direct online M.A. and Ph.D. programs based on the Great Books of Western Civilization. I am also Associate Editor of the Journal of Faith and the Academy and a member of the faculty at Liberty Classroom.
This entry was posted in Academia and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to K-12 Students Still Ignorant of U.S. History

  1. I ‘m not so surprised ! the pursuit of wealth and the pursuit of knowledge are uncomfortable, incompatible bed-fellows !

  2. LOL! You’re riding my favorite hobby horse. Here I am plodding through yet another illiterate freshman comp paper, and on impulse I decide to google “My students are ignorant as posts.” Up comes your site.

    But they teach one so many things, these students do. I’ve learned, for example, that Wisconsin is a Rocky Mountain State, that Arizona is a Great Plans (sic) State, that all children of color are children at risk, that World War I happened in the 19th century, that the only thing of import that happened in the 19th century was the Industrial Revolution, and that the word episcopal is pronounced “ep-i-SCOP-al.”

    The frustrating thing is that even though they’re ignorant as posts, these young men and women are not stupid. Not by any means. They are just abysmally educated. Combine that with the fact that they’ve managed to get through years of school without doing any work, and so are surprised when the occasional college professor imagines they should read something or even that they should turn in an original, new essay rather than recycling their last sociology paper, and you’ve got big problems.

    In a moment of frustration, I actually asked them, “What goes ON in the high schools?”

    Kid in the back of the room answered, without missing a beat, “Nothing.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s