Linda K. Salvucci: Teaching History May Become a Thing of Past

Roundup: Talking About History

[Salvucci is vice chair of the National Council for History Education and a professor of history at Trinity University in San Antonio.]

As the start of a new school year approaches, not to mention the November elections, Americans face a dizzying array of fiscal, human, environmental and other crises. More than ever, our democracy requires an educated citizenry capable of analyzing the world around us and of making informed judgments. So this is why Americans — from parents to voters to policymakers - must address yet another deepening crisis, the one in history education at the K-12 level.

As if the approval in May of gravely flawed social studies standards by the Texas State Board of Education is not depressing enough, the nation lost one of its most learned, passionate and effective public champions for the study and appreciation of our collective past with the passing of Sen. Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia in June. However complicated his own legacy, Byrd understood that we must invest in the future by understanding the past, which is why he used his considerable influence to sponsor the Teaching American History grants program.

Now this, the only federally funded program for professional development for history teachers, is in jeopardy at precisely the moment when there has been a drastic decline in time devoted to teaching history at the K-12 level....

Previous generations of Americans placed history at the core of a rigorous, high-quality education, understanding that true democracy requires not only historically mindful leaders but also an informed citizenry capable of making discerning judgments in public and personal life.

Moreover, for the 21st century workplace, learning how to think, rather than what to think, is an indispensable skill. So, the past indeed is prologue, and the study of history, now deeply threatened, matters more than ever.

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