Tuesday, January 06, 2004

Centuries of additional U.S. history 

According to an article Sunday in the Duluth News Tribune, the new social studies standards would greatly increase the scope of what Duluth high school students would study. Says one teacher,
"Today, we do from about Reconstruction to as close as we can get to present day. I'm going to tell you that's a hustle."
That's 130 years. And why start at Reconstruction? Well, it's because it's not important to know Appomattox, Grant and Lee.
"If all kids are asked to do is to memorize facts, not many of us are good at that. They say, 'I don't memorize well,' and I say, 'You shouldn't have to. You should understand it.'

"If you don't know the names and the dates, well that's OK if you can understand the significance of, say, the Civil War, and how the ramifications are affecting current history."

Her department head concurs:
"What's the point in memorizing it if you don't understand it? Yes, the facts are important, but you have to be able to apply those facts with meaning, knowledge and understanding."
What is their of understanding, though, when they know no facts? Is it fear of a standardized exam that troubles these teachers? Critical thinking is not a substitute for core knowledge -- it needs knowledge as a building block.