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Uneducating America: Student Test Scores on U.S. History and Civics Hit All-Time Lows

Uneducating America: Student Test Scores on U.S. History and Civics Hit All-Time Lows

The multiple-choice questions on the NAEP history test are very basic. For example, one question asks, “Susan B. Anthony was a leader who helped

  1. immigrants come to the U.S.
  2. women win the right to vote
  3. older people win the right to get Social Security
  4. children win the right to an education.”

Another asks, “Indentured servants were different from slaves because indentured servants were

  1. freed at the end of their term
  2. did much easier work
  3. came from the West Indies
  4. were paid less money.”

Peggy Carr, commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics—the organization that creates, designs, develops, and implements the NAEP—told reporters that while the civics scores are “alarming,” even more distressing were the history results. While many analysts rushed to blame the Covid-induced school closures for the abysmal showing, Carr noted that the problems well predated the pandemic. “For U.S. history, I was very, very concerned. It’s a decline that started in 2014, long before we even thought about COVID. This is a decline that’s been [going] down for a while.”

It’s not only students’ history and civics NAEP scores that are deficient. In November 2022, the scores released for the reading and math test taken earlier in the year showed that just 33 percent of the nation’s fourth-graders were proficient in reading, and 36 percent proficient in math. The eighth-graders did even worse: 31 percent scored as proficient in reading, while a painful 26 percent showed proficiency in math. According to the report’s authors, “the national average score declines in mathematics for fourth and eighth graders were the largest ever recorded in that subject.”

Relatedly, the national average score on the 2022 ACT, a college admissions test, fell to 19.8 (out of a possible 36), down from 20.3 in 2021, according to data released in October 2022 by the nonprofit that administers the test. While education leaders invariably use the pandemic lockdowns as an excuse, the Wall Street Journal observes that this is the fifth consecutive year that ACT scores have declined, and the first time that the average score has dropped below 20 since 1991. English scores fell to 19 out of 36, down from 19.6 last year.

Weighing in on the NAEP history results, U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona explained that the poor scores “further [affirm] the profound impact the pandemic had on student learning in subjects beyond math and reading.” Fair enough, but then Cardona ludicrously proclaimed: “Now is not the time for politicians to try to extract double-digit cuts to education funding, nor is it the time to limit what students learn in U.S. history and civics classes. We need to provide every student with rich opportunities to learn about America’s history and understand the U.S. Constitution and how our system of government works. Banning history books and censoring educators from teaching these important subjects does our students a disservice.”

Just how does keeping a six-year-old from being exposed to books with explicit sexual themes translate to banning books and censoring educators? As for funding, we are pouring record amounts of cash into the bottomless education pit, and it’s done very little to help. While there’s no doubt that the forced Covid shutdowns did damage, other causes explain why students are not learning effectively. As scholars Lance Izumi and Wenyuan Wu have chronicled, many students report increased ideological indoctrination in the classroom, which is leading to weaker standards and lower expectations. “One California student reported that a teacher at his school told the class that perfectionism and striving for perfection was part of white supremacy culture. Another of his teachers ‘made it seem like it was bad to have a good work ethic or to be supportive of meritocracy.’ In his school, grades were inflated, low grades were eliminated, late assignments were allowed, and multiple retakes of exams were permitted. Rigor simply disappeared.”

When teachers spend time forcing race- and gender-infused woke gibberish down the throats of American children, less time is available for more traditional subject matter. Here are a few of the myriad instances of students being hammered with the ravings of the woke:

In Buffalo, New York, students were told that “all white people” perpetuate systemic racism, and kindergarteners were forced to watch a video of dead black children, warning them about “racist police and state-sanctioned violence” that might kill them at any time.

The San Diego Unified School District orders students to “confront and examine your white privilege” and to “acknowledge when you feel white fragility.” Additionally, children are told to “understand the impact of white supremacy in your work.”

In a training session for teachers in Seattle, schools were deemed guilty of “spirit murder” against black students.

In Springfield, Missouri, teachers are trained that people are given a “biological sex assigned at birth,” which often conflicts with their “gender identity” and “gender expression.”

In Illinois, the Evanston–Skokie school district has adopted a curriculum that teaches pre-K through third-grade students to “break the binary” of gender.

West Hartford Public Schools in Connecticut has begun to introduce gender ideology in kindergarten as part of what it calls “social justice lessons.”

So instead of learning factual American history—the good and the bad—students are now at the mercy of far-left advocates pushing a radical racial and sexual agenda. Unless the education establishment reverses course in a hurry, parents, already responsible for feeding, clothing, and housing their children, will need to educate them as well.

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