Amid the current fierce congressional debate over immigration reform, AEI resident scholar and long-time NAS member Christina Hoff Sommers discusses the sorry state of civics education in the U.S. At one time, she argues, knowledge of American history and the constitutional system which grew out of it was a powerful national unifier and assisted many new immigrants in becoming knowledgeable, full-fledged members of the body politic.
That’s far from the case now, and not only for new immigrants. As Sommers notes, a long series of empirical studies, including this recent NAS survey of the curriculum in Texas colleges and universities, thumpingly documents the extent to which U.S. history is not taught nowadays. And if students do take a history course, it’s likely to be narrowly focused on social class, race, ethnicity or gender, from which you won’t learn a whole lot about the Constitution, the Civil War or any of the central shaping events unique to U.S. history.
Instead of learning why the framers of the Constitution believed so passionately in the need to separate governmental powers at all levels, students will more likely hear that slavery wasn’t abolished and women couldn’t vote. Both of those statements are accurate, of course, but possibly you’ll agree that there’s a bigger picture in which they need to be situated.
Right now, that’s not being done very well. And often not at all.