Nevada History standards called lax

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Late-night talk show host Jay Leno can make a history teacher flinch with his "Jaywalking" segment.

Random individuals stopped on the street appear stumped when asked who the Americans fought in the Revolutionary War.

They can be wildly off the mark in blaming the North Vietnamese for bombing Pearl Harbor. (It was the Japanese).

Carson City School Board member Joe Enge thinks it's because history education has been dumbed down.

Enge, a former history teacher, said that fact-driven, chronologically taught history is being replaced with something less in public schools. History instruction is moving toward a thematic approach that seems "high-sounding," but is really shallow in content, Enge said.

The Carson City School Board member fears that if Nevada's Council to Establish Academic Standards, which meets today, approves new history guidelines for K-12 education that are thematic in approach, the state will be making a mistake.

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Tim Matthewson - 7/23/2008

I recall several people asking me as a teacher of history to make sure that my courses are not all names and dates. But I never did understand what the alternative is supposed to be -- apparently it supposed to be "thematic," whatever that means. How can one understand history without names and dates? Once students have mastered the names and dates, the textbook knowledge of the past, then one can go beyond names and dates to study interpretation and how the raw data of history (names and dates and other "facts") that is documents are turned into interpretation. That usually happens at more advanced level of history education, but it is impossible to skip the primary steps of education with turning the students into people who cannot answer a Jay Leno quiz. It's amazing how many persons cannot even answer the question, when was the War of 1812?