Wednesday, January 23, 2013

DC Ponders Dropping Social Studies

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it…. Studying history is necessary to avoid repeating past mistakes.” – George Santayana (1863-1952)

DC Ponders Dropping Social Studies
Commentary by Sanford D. Horn
January 23, 2013

Ignorance isn’t bliss – it’s downright stupid and dangerous. It’s bad enough we have a Congress and administration unfamiliar with the Constitution of the United States, but to perpetuate such ignorance by eliminating civics, government, and social studies in the DC school system is irresponsible at best if not criminal.

This is not some sickening plotline of a Dumb and Dumber remake. Worse, this is a moronic plot dreamed up by vacuous imbeciles within the DC school system to combat their already distressing lowest in the nation graduation rate of 59 percent. (  

Those supporting such a horrific notion have raised the white flag in perpetuity and guaranteed future generations a return to slavery and a loss of the American dream as well as the American way of life in a democratic-republic.

In the shadow of the Capitol Building, the White House, the Washington Monument, the Jefferson Memorial – for whom is honored not just the author of the Declaration of Independence, the third president of the United States, but also the founder of the University of Virginia – and the Lincoln Memorial; in the shadow of the splendor of what is the nation’s capital and the seat of the federal government, sits in virtual ashes, the public school system of the District of Columbia.

Include in that wreckage, the dozens of charter schools – at two of which I taught, and can testify the dire need for social studies, government, geography, and civics. At a bare minimum high school curriculum must include a year of world history, two years of American history, and a year of civics/government. The three years of history should also include geography. At the lower grades, introductory civics, social studies, and maps and map reading should be mandatory.

To abandon the social studies, et al, is to surrender to those who would replace our democratic-republican institutions with socialism and in a generation all will have been lost and nothing will have been salvaged.

A revolution was waged to give the American people its freedom from the tyrannical government of King George III. When asked in 1787 following the Constitutional Convention what kind of government the new country was given, Benjamin Franklin responded, “A republic… if you can keep it.”

That war all but had to be refought two generations later during the War of 1812 – a war barely glossed over in textbooks and classrooms alike.

Make no mistake, this pandemic of dumbing down our curriculum and ultimately our society as a whole, as we fall farther and farther behind foreign countries with fewer resources is not limited to our nation’s capital. Cities large and small, rich and poor, rural and urban, are equally susceptible to the degradation of the educational system.

While this is not the place to lay blame, teachers’ unions, administrators, and quite frankly anyone whose positions are weakened by poor student performance, are clearly at the top of the list of those responsible for making such an appalling suggestion to downgrade the American curriculum. For while it may be DC today, it could very well be Kansas City, with its 40 percent graduation rate, tomorrow, or Chicago, with its 60 percent graduation rate, the day after, or any other fledgling city such as Cleveland, at 34 percent, Detroit, at 25 percent, or Indianapolis, at 34 percent.

And it is not just the loss of social studies et al, which I teach, that is of concern, it is the slippery slope that if this subject could be abandoned in the guise of the interest of improving graduation rates, why not eliminate chemistry, physics, biology, algebra, geometry, English, and all challenging subjects.

The school systems are enablers of ignorance under the mistaken notion that we must continue to coddle students, reward them for simply showing up, and protecting their precious self-esteems when none of the above will vaunt them into college, a good productive job in the workforce, or grant them the ability to compete on a global level.

Just the opposite. The less children learn the less they will earn as adults and the more deeply entrenched and dependent upon government they will become. This is already an entitlement society, but the continuing dumbing down of the curriculum will destroy any balance between the ability to provide for those in dire need versus those who simply refuse to provide for themselves.

Parents ought to be clamoring at the schoolhouse doors demanding more discipline, more challenging curriculum – including social studies, to enable their children to remain free in a society that is theirs to rule in the next generation, if they are able.

Do we really want to turn out so-called graduates who know nothing of the history of their country? What is their incentive to join the military and defend this nation and its principles if young people do not know the history or its founding principles? Can we afford to have a nation so ignorant of its rights that it eventually becomes mired in a police state?

Are the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution mere paper to be ignored that we will ultimately surrender our rights and freedoms as archaic, superficial, and meaningless? The slippery slope there, is to abandon the right to vote and choose our own government, which is what an ignorant society will do – it is easier to let someone else do the thinking and make the challenging decisions.

As it is voter turnout is barely above 50 percent in a presidential election year and infinitely lower in other years. Fewer and fewer people are already making those decisions for those who find it to difficult or meaningless to exercise their rights. How much attention were those folks paying in social studies, civics, or history class?

Eliminating social studies et al, from the curriculum will not only relegate the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States to the dustbin of history, but it will also relegate the United States to third world status.

I don’t wish to become Cuba, North Korea, or Russia. Do you?

“Freedom is a fragile thing and is never more than one generation away from extinction. It is not ours by inheritance; it must be fought for and defended constantly by each generation, for it comes only once to a people. Those who have known freedom and then lost it have never known it again.” – Ronald Reagan, January 5, 1967, from his first inaugural speech as governor of California

It is far easier to conquer an ignorant people unarmed and bereft of facts and knowledge than it is to conquer a learned society.

Sanford D. Horn is a writer and educator living in Westfield, IN. He taught American History, World History, and Geography at two charter schools in Washington, DC prior to moving to Indiana.

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