Gov. Tate Reeves has proposed spending $3 million on a Patriotic Education Fund to educate “the next generation in the incredible accomplishments of the American Way.”
At first glance this reminded me of a column I wrote in 2003 entitled, “Do our children know what patriot’s hold dear?” Here are some excerpts:
“Kids Get Abysmal Grade in History,” read the USA Today headline just a few weeks ago. “Most U. S. high school seniors have a poor grasp of the nation’s history,” read the first line of the story. It got my attention. Just like earlier this year it got my attention when dozens of 8th graders didn’t know the words to the national anthem.
Diane Ravitch, an historian, NYU professor and a member of the Department of Education testing board said, “Our ability to defend – intelligently and thoughtfully – what we as a nation hold dear depends on our knowledge and understanding of what we hold dear…Clearly, far too many high school seniors have not learned even a modest part of it.”
The USA Today story included an Internet link to the National Center for Education Statistics web site with the history test questions for 4th, 8th, and 12th graders.
I expected to see a number of questions about “what we as a nation hold dear” – Ms. Ravitch’s comment.
I was disappointed.
Students doing better on these tests will not result in their knowing and understanding the words to the national anthem, the preamble to the Constitution, the Federalist Papers, Washington’s farewell address, or, even, the Bill of Rights. Nor will they learn the Constitutional roots for the emancipation of women, African-Americans, and Native Americans.
That was 17 years ago. My argument was that educators should include more patriotic education in history and civic education courses. That lines up, in part, with what Reeves said.
The part that doesn’t comes from Reeves seeking to control what is taught in schools. The notion of state and federal politicians taking control away from local school boards and choosing which historical facts get included in school curricula smacks of third world and communist chicanery.
Fortunately, a number of Republican legislators voiced concerns about the Governor’s approach. For example, Y’all Politics reported that House Education Chairman Rep. Richard Bennett and Sen. Bryce Wiggins favor local school boards having control.
This issue was stirred up by President Donald Trump claiming that some versions of history taught in schools “paint America as a systemically racist country.” What’s happening is that more history books include factual accounts of the often brutal impact on Native Americans from European colonization and the role and toll of slavery through the years.
As a Mayflower descendant, I cringed last week from a USA Today story presenting stark findings that challenged the traditional first Thanksgiving story.
Still, not all is good and exceptional in our history.
But, as the Bible wraps both dark and light episodes of history within its holy doctrine, America’s historical dark and light episodes can be taught in context with the values we hold dear.
That’s what Reeves should champion, not state control of history curriculum.
“Wisdom will save you from the ways of wicked men” – Proverbs 2:12.
Crawford is a syndicated columnist from Jackson.