AEI's report on social studies teachers

Amy Fagan

Last week, our friends at the American Enterprise Institute released an interesting new report, High Schools, Civics and Citizenship, which surveyed public high school social studies teachers across the country.?We at Fordham also released a report recently, Cracks in the Ivory Tower?, which surveyed education professors. The two reports are somewhat similar in that they both examine the attitudes of those responsible for educating our youth. (And, top-notch researchers Steve Farkas and Ann Duffett worked on both reports.)

The AEI report?sought to find out what social studies teachers think and do. Among the findings, the attitudes and values of teachers seem to be in step with those of the American public. For instance, 82 percent of teachers think it is most important for high school students to ?respect and appreciate their country but know its shortcomings.? Likewise, in 2002, 90 percent of Americans said it was better to include both the bad and the good when teaching American history.

However, it also seems that social studies teachers may be setting too low a bar for what they expect students to know about American history and government. Teaching facts is the lowest priority for social studies teachers when it comes to instruction in citizenship. Of the five priorities high schools may have around the teaching of citizenship, only 20 percent of teachers put teaching key facts, dates, and major events at the top of their list. And, it's the last of twelve items rated by teachers as absolutely essential to teach high school students: only 36 percent say it is absolutely essential to teach students ?to know facts (e.g., location of the fifty states) and dates (e.g., Pearl Harbor).?

Interestingly, Fordham's report found (among other things) that while 83 percent of education professors believe it's ?absolutely essential? for teachers to teach 21st Century skills, just 36 percent say that about teaching math facts and 44 percent about teaching phonics in the younger grades.

Hmm?is knowing?facts a thing of the past?

These are just some brief highlights, however. ?There's a lot more to delve into in both reports, so please?check them out!

?Amy Fagan