Can history be saved?
That was the question examined by last week's Senate hearing on "The American History Achievement Act," a bill proposed by Senators Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts. This legislation would increase the frequency of national assessments in history from once a decade to once every four years and would authorize (voluntary) state-by-state break-outs of NAEP history results in grades 8 and 12. National Assessment Governing Board executive director Charles Smith announced that NAGB has already decided on a quadrennial schedule for history and expressed willingness to cooperate on state NAEP reporting, depending (of course) on funding. But the heavy hitter was historian David McCullough, delivering an Independence Day sermon on the woeful state of history education. "I think we are sadly failing our children, and have been for a long time," he said. Perhaps the most promising statement at the hearing came from the senior senator from Massachusetts, who promised to require testing in history under a reauthorized No Child Left Behind act - the surest way to keep history from becoming history.
"Students lagging in American history," by Kaitlin Bell, Boston Globe, July 1, 2005
"U.S. history: Our worst subject?" Testimony before the U.S Senate, June 30, 2005