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Emphasis on History Curriculum: Not Enough?

Mount Vernon’s education staff was extremely inspired by an opinion piece by Norm Augustine in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal. As the former under secretary of the Army and retired chairman and CEO of Lockheed Martin, Augustine emphasized the importance of history in forming tomorrow’s top execs and leaders. We’d love to see your thoughts in our comment section. An excerpt from the beginning of the piece, in which Augustine asks readers which subject they think American 12th graders do the poorest in, is below:

“With all the talk of America’s very real weaknesses in the STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and math), you might be surprised to learn that the answer — according to the federal government’s National Assessment of Educational Progress — is neither science nor math. And despite what might be suggested by the number of underwater home loans, high-school seniors actually fare best in economics.

“Which leaves history as the answer, the subject in which students perform the most poorly. It’s a result that puts American employers and America’s freedoms in a worrisome spot. But why should a C grade in history matter to the C-suite? After all, if a leader can make the numbers, does it really matter if he or she can recite the birthdates of all the presidents? Well, it’s not primarily the memorized facts that have current and former CEOs like me concerned. It’s the other things that subjects like history impart: critical thinking, research skills, and the ability to communicate clearly and cogently. Such skills are certainly important for those at the top, but in today’s economy they are fundamental to performance at nearly every level. A failing grade in history suggests that students are not only failing to comprehend our nation’s story and that of our world, but also failing to develop skills that are crucial to employment across sectors.” — Norm Augustine

Photo: Flickr Commons/Ryan Stanton

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5 Responses to “Emphasis on History Curriculum: Not Enough?”

  1. Lisa Schisler Says:

    As a fourth and fifth grade history teacher I think my most important job is not preparation for a state test, not the memorization of lists of facts BUT raising up American citizens. I have a chance to impress upon them a deep love of our country, a rich look at real heroes from our past and a burning desire to protect her in any and all ways from enemies both foreign and domestic. Well educated citizens who have no passion for America are almost as useless as uneducated ones. Our children are our future and I for one want the ones I teach to have blood that runs red, white and blue.

  2. Robin Friedman Says:

    I would go further and say that history helps one become a better person. In addition to the important skills mentioned in the article, history teaches patience, resilience, wisdom, and perseverance. I have always loved history, and majored in it in college; indeed, I sometimes feel like I spend more time in the past than in the present.

    I know to many people history seems stuffy, boring, irrelevant, and just plain old, and I blame that fully on our eductional system. To me, history never been anything other than a source of inspiration, comfort, and enjoyment.

    I hope to see a turnaround in the teaching of history, especially our American history, some day soon in the future.

  3. Jay Eitner Says:

    In the end, history matters. Can those five simple words be any stronger?

    As a current school Administrator, and former American history teacher, I could not agree more with Augustine. We can all preach to the choir here; let’s get this message out to the ones who need to see it.

  4. Pamela Welsh Says:

    My praise to the above historians. Keep up the good work! I must admit, that my deep appreciation of history did not come until after high school, but the seed was planted.
    Knowing our American history gives us a sense of who we are and where we are supposed to be going. If our children truly understood the principles and values that our country was founded on, they and all Americans would clearly understand the direction that this country should be headed. And, it is not the way of European style socialism.

  5. Peter Badger Says:

    In 1799, GW wrote his River Farm overseer, “I have found that system and method are all that is required to achieve success in almost any endeavour.” In 1745, at age 13, he clearly applied his system for learning in his exercise book, now located on the Library of Congress website. Any student who keeps clear notes of the essential points of learning will do well in history or any other subject.

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Portraits in Schools

Kids holding George Washington Portrait

Mount Vernon recently invited K-12 schools nationwide to request framed portraits of George Washington to display in a respectful, prominent place.

The response was overwhelming: thousands of schools submitted letters! Along with the portrait, schools received curriculum materials to help explore our first president’s contributions.

Where has George Washington gone back to school? Click here to see!

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