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Monfredo: Need More Emphasis On History & Civics In Our Schools

Sunday, September 11, 2016

 

A few weeks ago the Worcester Telegram and Gazette wrote a most provocative editorial on the lack of History and Civics in our schools. The editorial is “spot on” starting from the quote by Winston Churchill for engaging our students in the history of our nation and teaching them the importance of how Civics education can lead to being a productive citizen.  Students who leave high school with a strong background in history and civics are more likely to vote and discuss politics at home, volunteer and work on local issues.  In addition, research points out those schools with civic learning programs are more likely to be safe, inclusive, and respectful and experience fewer high school dropouts.   We can’t forget our past if we are to progress as a nation and the schools need to encourage and offer more history and civic courses in their curriculum!    Here is the editorial that was published last month. 

OUR VIEW

The perils of forgetting our history

“A nation that forgets its past has no future.”

— Winston Churchill

How easily we’ve slipped in educating a generation that has not forgotten, but is missing the opportunity to fully understand and appreciate the lessons of our past.

When standards-based education reform came to Massachusetts, we had assumed the emphasis on core academics would not detract from other, equally important, subjects.

The MCAS tests, required for math, English and science, would mark a floor, not a ceiling. Teachers and administrators had their own, higher standards for achievement, we assumed, and a broader idea of a complete education.

We considered fears that what wasn’t tested wouldn’t be taught to be an insult to the professionalism of the state’s educators.

It now appears we were wrong, at least when it comes to many school administrators.

School districts have cut back on art, music and elective courses in order to concentrate on math and English. New tests have been added in the years since the MCAS was launched in the early ’90s. The state now requires science testing. Federal laws require yearly testing in every grade, so the time spent on tests has multiplied, from 30 hours a year in 2000 to 95 hours a year today.

Just one test has been dropped over those years. The state’s 1993 Education Reform Act called for a test in U.S. history as a graduation requirement. But that requirement was postponed again and again, and in 2009 the Patrick administration cancelled it altogether, citing the expense of administering it.

But the cost of that decision can’t be measured in dollars alone.

It turns out that which isn’t tested really isn’t taught - at least not with the requisite seriousness. School districts across Massachusetts have reduced course offerings in history, civics and geography. Certified social studies teachers are being replaced by teachers with other specialties and other interests. Try as they might, can teachers whose first love isn’t history inspire children to study the past in the same manner? Or is it a disservice to all students? Whether they were born in the U.S. or just arrived last week, students need to be taught their nation’s history, study its founding documents, and learn how its government and politics work.

Massachusetts’ neglect of history shows in its scores.

Bay State students regularly lead the nation in scores on standardized tests for math, English and science. But on one long-running test of U.S. history and civics, Massachusetts hasn’t finished in the top 10 in nearly 30 years.

In this turbulent election year, we’re even more aware of the importance of a citizenry educated in the nation’s laws and principles.

A recent World Values Survey found a disturbing trend, with the share of Americans who think the U.S. should have a “strong leader” who does not have to “bother with parliament and elections” rising from 24 percent in 1995 to 32 percent today. Young people were more likely to agree than older respondents, which could be a reflection of the decline in the teaching of history and civics.

Parents, students and teachers agree that Massachusetts schools need more teaching and less testing.

State officials should seek a waiver from the federal government to cut back on annual testing in English, math and science. But they should introduce tests in U.S. history and civics, in at least three grades.

The commonwealth’s and the nation’s founders believed nothing was as important to the success of our democratic republic than the active engagement of citizens who understood its history and institutions. Teaching those things must be a core function of our schools, not an afterthought

 

Related Slideshow: Central MA’s Top High Schools 2015

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#100 Nipmuc Regional High

Upton, MA

2014 Rank: #134

Enrolment: 627

Mascot: Warrior

Claim to Fame: Aerosmith played its first gig at Nipmuc Regional high on November 6, 1970.

2015 performance at a glance

Graduation rate: 96.2% (+0.7%)

District spending per pupil: $11,900

Student-teacher ratio: 13:1

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#95 North Central Charter Essential

Fitchburg, MA

2014 Rank: #197

Enrolment: 217

Mascot: N/A

Claim to Fame: Students from over 30 cities and towns in central Massachusetts are eligible to enroll at North Central Charter Essential. 

2015 performance at a glance

Graduation rate: 78% (-8.3%)

District spending per pupil: $13,569

Student-teacher ratio: 9.4:1

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#90 Shrewbury Senior High

Shrewsbury, MA

2014 Rank: #117

Enrolment: 1,684

Mascot: Colonial

Claim to Fame: Famous alumni include Shawn Loiseau, who played linebacker in the NFL. 

2015 performance at a glance

Graduation rate: 94.9% (+0.2%)

District spending per pupil: $11,612

Student-teacher ratio: 14.8:1

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#87 Lunenburg High School

Lunenburg, MA

2014 Rank: #104

Enrollment: 427

Mascot: Blue Knights

Claim to Fame: Gordon Edes, a sportswriter for The Boston Globe, is a member of the class of 1972.

2015 performance at a glance

Graduation rate: 98.2% (+1.4%)

District spending per pupil: $12,027

Student-teacher ratio: 12.4:1

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#73 Tahanto Regional High

Boylston, MA

2014 Rank: #80

Enrollment: 297

Mascot: Stags

Claim to Fame: Students, teachers, and faculty now enjoy a $32.2M building that opened in 2013.

2015 performance at a glance

Graduation rate: 94.2% (+7.3%)

District spending per pupil: $11,644

Student-teacher ratio: 12:1

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#63 Tantasqua Regional High School

Fiskdale, MA

2014 Rank: #63

Enrollment: 770

Mascot: Warrior

Claim to Fame: Famous alumni include Joel Crouse (Country Singer) and James Lynch (Guitarist for the Dropkick Murphys).

2015 performance at a glance

Graduation rate: 91.7% (-3.2%)

District spending per pupil: $12,403

Student-teacher ratio: 9.6:1

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#51 Algonquin Regional High

Northborough, MA

2014 Rank: #33

Enrollment: 1,452

Mascot: The Tomahawk (T-Hawk)

Claim to Fame: Famous alumni include Mark "The Bird" Fidrych (former MLB pitcher), Ryan Gallant (professional skateboarder), Nathaniel Raymond (human rights investigator and anti-torture advocate), and Mike Sherman (former head coach of the Green Bay Packers), and current offensive coordinator of the Miami Dolphins). 

2015 performance at a glance

Graduation rate: 97.1% (-0.4%)

District spending per pupil: $12,929

Student-teacher ratio: 13.7:1

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#45 Nashoba Regional

Bolton, MA

2014 Rank: #76

Enrollment: 1,075

Mascot: Chieftain

Claim to Fame: Famous alumni include Hal Gill (National Hockey League player with the Nashville Predators), Koren Zailckas (Author of bestselling book Smashed), and Clive Weeden (Professional basketball player).

2015 performance at a glance

Graduation rate: 95.3% (+0.2%)

District spending per pupil: $13,107

Student-teacher ratio: 14.2:1

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#40 Hopkinton High

Hopkinton, MA

2014 Rank: # 53

Enrollment: 1,122

Mascot: Hillers

Claim to Fame: Famous alumni include Keegan Bradley (Professional Golfer).

2015 performance at a glance

Graduation rate: 99% (-0.2%)

District spending per pupil: $13,005

Student-teacher ratio: 13.9:1

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#26 Westborough High

Westborough, MA

2014 Rank: #26

Enrollment: 1,045

Mascot: The Ranger

Claim to Fame: Westborough High offers a wide variety of curricular and extracurricular musical ensembles. 

2015 performance at a glance

Graduation rate: 97.1% (+0.5%)

District spending per pupil: $14,306

Student-teacher ratio: 12.7:1

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#14 Bromfield School

Harvard, MA

2014 Rank: #13

Enrollment: 414

Mascot: Trojan

Claim to Fame: Famous alumni include Keir O'Donnell (Starred in the popular comedy movie the Wedding Crashers) and Lynn Jennings (In 1992 she became the first American woman to win an Olympic medal in long-distance track). 

2015 performance at a glance

Graduation rate: 97.1% (-1.2%)

District spending per pupil: $14,691

Student-teacher ratio: 12.9:1

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#8 MA Academy for Math and Science

Worcester, MA

2014 Rank: #285

Enrollment: 97

Mascot: Gompei the Goat

Claim to Fame: Seniors at MA Academy for Math and Science take a full-time course load at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. 

2015 performance at a glance

Graduation rate:100% (0%)

District spending per pupil: $13,466

Student-teacher ratio: 13.1:1

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#5 Advanced Math and Science Academy

Charter School

Marlborough, MA

2014 Rank: #6

Enrollment: 569

Mascot: War Eagle

Claim to Fame: Advanced Math and Science Academy offers more than ten computer science classes to students: ranging from Game Design to Intro to Java/Networking. 

2015 performance at a glance

Graduation rate: 99% (+0.4%)

District spending per pupil: $14,723

Student-teacher ratio: 12.3:1

 
 

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