Friday, November 9, 2007

Teaching America

Article by William J. Bennett on National Review Online

These are tough times for, and in, America. We are at war, and we find that war highly controversial. Many of our political leaders have record-low approval ratings and too many are held in ignominy. Washington — our nation’s capital — is held in contempt, as a laugh line by comedians. But perhaps a greater tragedy than all of this is that we seem to no longer have any kind of reference point. For indeed, we are not living in the toughest of times, we are not living in the worst of times, nor are we fighting the toughest of wars. But try telling that to our nation’s young people; too many of them absorb too much of the negativism taught by our culture to know this.

The truth is, we’ve been in far worse shape in terms of what we’ve had to endure in this country — but we may not have been in far worse shape in terms of what we know about our country. Too many of our high-school students do not graduate high school, and of those who do, too many do not know the basic facts of their own country’s history.

This year’s National Assessment of Education Progress (our “Nation’s Report Card”) revealed that over 50-percent of our nation’s high-school students — our population reaching voting age — are functionally illiterate in their knowledge of U.S. History. Tragically, students do not begin their education careers in ignorance: if you track education progress in the 4th, 8th, and 12th grades with the Nation’s Report Card, you will see students know more in the 4th grade, less in the 8th grade, and are failing by the time they are high-school seniors. Relative to what they should know at their grade level, the longer they live and grow up in America, the less they know about it. How did this happen? Why is knowledge of and about the greatest political story ever told so dim?

I think that William J. Bennett's America: The Last Best Hope is going om my Christmas list this year.

William J. Bennett is also the author of The Children's Book of Virtues.

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