The “Learning Standards for Social Studies”, applicable to middle schools, seems a comprehensive, even awesome syllabus, covering state, national and global history, geography, economics, civics, and government. Unfortunately the DOE’s syllabus is only hot air reduced to cold print.
It states, in part, that “students will use a variety of intellectual skills to demonstrate their understanding of…major ideas, eras, themes, developments, and turning points in the history of the United States and New York…examine the broad sweep of world history from a variety of perspectives…the geography of the interdependent world…including the distribution of environments…economic systems and associated institutions…an understanding of the necessity of establishing governments…the governmental systems of the U.S. and other nations…”
Does the practice measure up to the theory and if not, why not?
A survey of one hundred students at a Region 5 middle school who were exposed live to this imaginary curriculum, showed that less than 5% of them possessed a basic fund of facts about any branches of the subject. They did not know the capital of their own state, the name of its governor, the structure of its legislature. Neither could they identify when the Renaissance flowered or the Civil War and World War 2 were fought. None had heard of Winston Churchill or Josef Stalin, and nobody could provide a shred of information about the legacy of communism or the foundation of capitalism.
Wednesday, May 11, 2005
Ron Isaac writing in EducationNews on the shocking lack of history knowledge among pupils despite being asked to "demonstrate their understanding" of major themes. Perhaps they should also be asked to know subject matter first. In any event, the discrepancy between the grandiose schemes and the paltry results is striking.