Who cares about History anyway?

Apparently NOT the MA Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, which voted against adding History to the list of subjects being tested through MCAS. ELA and Math were joined by science, but not history.


As noted in the above linked op-ed by Robert Kostka, a retired social studies teacher (formerly of the Bridgewater-Raynham school district):

In the fiscal crisis, Bridgewater-Raynham initially eliminated all its middle-school social-studies teachers and relied on other faculty to teach social studies. Several other districts did the same thing.  

This happens in many other districts – where people with training in science or ELA are just barely managing to keep ahead of the kids to whom they’re supposed to be teaching history!

In addition to the fact that this is a disservice to the parents whose taxpayer dollars are supposed to be funding a quality education for their children, the larger problem with this failure is the damage it does to our society and our mission to help kids become good citizens. As the writer eloquently notes:

But we must recognize that in a nation not bound by common racial, ethnic or religious backgrounds, it is the public schools that educate upcoming generations about the democratic ideals that bind us together as a nation.

By walking away from making passage of a U.S. history test a high-school graduation requirement, the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education has unwittingly turned its back on one of the central roles that public education was designed to play.

Many people don’t understand the point of MCAS and may think, so what? Not adding a history test just means less schedule shifting. But that logic misses the point – this is not about MCAS – this is about taking learning seriously. History is not a subject that just anybody can or should teach– good history teachers bring the material alive for their students, by engaging them, helping them get at the essential, philosophical and maybe even theological questions, questions about human nature, about the rise and fall of empires, about global-scale human depravity like we saw in 1930s and 40s Europe or in North Korea now, and among Communist regimes in Russia and China, as well as triumphs like we’ve seen in the founding of America, the leader of the free world because it is rooted in ideas and ideals– and has even transcended its own historical racial barriers.

There are so many amazing learning experiences that our children will be deprived of if we lose our sense of the importance of history, of the importance of approaching history in a serious way in the classroom. Let’s hope the Board’s decision does not become a trend.    

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