Don’t Know Much About History

by Robert Pondiscio
November 20th, 2008

Pencils out, clear your desks.  Pop quiz!

What ”inalienable rights” are referred to in the Declaration of Independence?  What are the three branches of government?   Name a right or freedom guaranteed by the First Amendment to the Constitution.  Which branch of government has the power to declare war?  And finally, what percentage of Americans failed a test of these and other basic civics, history and economic questions? 

Seventy-one percent.  Yep.  More than seven out of ten earned an F.The average score was 49%.  USA Today reports that of 164 respondents who say they have held elected office, 44% was average.  

Without knowledge of your country’s history, key texts and institutions, you don’t have a frame of reference to judge the politics and policies of today,” Richard Brake, head of the institute’s American Civic Literacy Program, tells the paper.

Take the quiz yourself, or give it to your students right here.  And after they’re done and you’re thoroughly depressed, here’s a link on how to become a Core Knowledge school.

It’s The Economy, Stupid. Right?

by Robert Pondiscio
October 23rd, 2008

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says failing public schools pose America’s greatest national security concern–undermining the United States’ ability to lead and to compete in a global economy.  Speaking at a conference in Long Beach, California, Rice said it breaks her heart to see “kids who might be the next Nobel Prize winner trapped in some public school that’s just basically warehousing them.”

As a secretary of state, it makes me terrified because if we cannot do better in educating all of our people, then we are not going to be competitive in a global economy…We’re going to become protectionist, we’re going to turn inward, the United States is not going to lead.

In an unrelated NY Times op-ed, the Berkeley professor of education and public policy Bruce Fuller takes exception to fusing “the fundamental purpose of schooling to the capitalist yearning for economic expansion.”

Sure, as parents we want our children to succeed economically. But we also worry about whether they are forming supportive friendships in school and becoming confident thinkers in the hands of nurturing teachers. While contemporary parents still subscribe to humanistic ideals when it comes to children’s well-rounded development, the new utilitarian approach is too quick to fuse schooling to dollar signs. Do we really need more college-educated workers or would we be better off with young people who are employed and engaged in their local communities?  

A National Teachable Moment

by Robert Pondiscio
September 19th, 2008

It’s a newsroom cliche that some stories write themselves. Like this one: It’s been an historic week of stock market and economic turmoil driven by a massive debt and liquidity crisis. So the U.S. Treasury Department chooses this week to unveil…(wait for it!)…A program to teach schoolkids about the responsible use of credit

The theme of the campaign (I swear I’m not making this up) is “Don’t let your credit put you in a bad place.”  David Colker of the Los Angeles Times couldn’t resist waggishly leading his story on the program with, “See Sally. See Sally run from the bank. Run Sally run!” 

The quote of the week, if not for the ages, comes from Don Iannicola, Treasury’s deputy assistant secretary for financial education.  “The events unfolding in the last few months can be seen as a national teachable moment,” Iannicola tells the Times. 

Gee, ya think?

Just a suggestion, perhaps all government bailouts of Wall Street financial institutions ought to come with the requirement that the firms’ execs take — and pass — the course.