How the Common Core Standards Can Help U.S. Students Understand History

tags: history education, Common Core



...[A] recent study by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni reveals that 83 percent of recent college graduates could not identify “government of the people, by the people, for the people” as a phrase from the Gettysburg Address. Another recent survey, conducted by Common Core, an education advocacy group, found that 57 percent of the nation’s 17-year-olds weren’t able to place the Civil War within the correct 50-year time period.

These are tragic statistics. After all, any meaningful discussion of history, policy, or politics cannot take place if students don’t know when the seminal event in American history took place. But, there are a few hopeful developments in primary and secondary education that may reverse the national decline in civic knowledge.

One hopeful development is the Common Core State Standards, which have been voluntarily adopted by 45 states and the District of Columbia. Although the standards focus solely on English and math, the English standards call for students to analyze and understand some of the foundational documents of American history, including the Gettysburg Address. The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, a nonprofit devoted to improving history education, has a new Common-Core-aligned “Teaching Literacy through History” program that helps teachers expose students to these documents in a substantive way. Lesley Herrmann, executive director of Gilder Lehrman, noted in a panel discussion last week that teachers are hungry for good content with which to implement the Common Core. In fact, the organization’s website is receiving over 80,000 visits each week....



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