The bad news is that our collective knowledge was lousy then, too.
An intriguing thought is raised later in the article. Sam Wineburg of Stanford makes the point when he criticize the standards approach to pedagogy.
Wineburg said the history standards that teachers must cover are often so detailed that the main points of the American story are lost, and few schools teach the subject well in any case. Teachers skip quickly from topic to topic, he wrote, while"the mind demands pattern and form, and both are built up slowly and require repeated passes, with each pass going deeper and probing further."
To some extent his comment may be a defense of the social studies approach. That is a problem from my perspective. However, it does echo some musings of my own lately. The detailed mandating of content—something that is creeping into universities, by the way—reflects the assumption that many of the people who teach don’t really know what matters. As a result too many educators are discouraged from making the stories of history their own.
The best, of course, work around the limitations of standards. But I fear that, no matter how well designed, detailed standards are procrustean in impact. They force people to stretch or cut history into shapes that no longer live.