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Why American Don’t Know Their History and How to Change It

The vast majority of Americans couldn’t pass the U.S. citizenship test when asked test questions in a recent 50-state survey, but that’s not because their teachers failed them or because students are no longer required to study American history. It’s because the American history curriculum has focused on memorization of names, events, and dates, which students find irrelevant, boring, random, and fail to retain beyond their class test. So finds a new report from the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation.

“Unlike some critics, who fault teacher training or weak course requirements,” notes Ed Week, “the report’s authors say bad curriculum is to blame.”

“Based on our analysis, this is not an issue of whether high school history teachers are adequately prepared or whether children today even study American history in school,” said WW president Arthur Levine. “The answer to both questions is yes. This is an issue of how we teach American history and whether today’s learners see relevance and are engaged in what and how history is taught.”

Read the full report here.

Applying the lessons found in the research, the Foundation is launching a major national initiative to transform how American history is learned today, providing high school students with an interactive digital platform intended to make American history more engaging and exciting to all learners, particularly those who do not see the importance history plays in the present and future. Find out more about the WW American History Initiative here.


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