Students Taking Mainly Focused U.S. History Classes Show Higher Average Scores
Whittier 360 News Network
A recent survey conducted in 2022 revealed a concerning trend in U.S. history education among grade 8 students in the United States. Sixty-eight percent of students reported taking an eighth-grade class or course mainly focused on U.S. history, a 4-point decrease compared to 2018. Meanwhile, 20 percent of students reported taking a class or course that included some U.S. history topics, which was a 2-point increase from 2018. Notably, 6 percent of students reported not taking an eighth-grade class focused on U.S. history at all.
The study also showed that students who took a class or course primarily focused on U.S. history had a higher average U.S. history score (264) compared to students who reported taking a class or course with only some U.S. history topics (252) or students who did not take a U.S. history course (250).
However, average scores for students taking a class or course mainly focused on U.S. history and those who did not take this type of course experienced a decline in 2022 compared to the 2018 data. This decline emphasizes the need to re-evaluate the state of U.S. history education in the country and implement strategies to improve the teaching and learning of this critical subject.
The COVID-19 pandemic and its subsequent lockdowns may have contributed to the decline in U.S. history education among grade 8 students. With schools forced to switch to remote learning or adopt hybrid models, educators faced numerous challenges in delivering comprehensive curricula, and some subjects, like U.S. history, may have received less attention. As schools begin to return to in-person learning, it is essential to prioritize the teaching of U.S. history to bridge the gap created by these disruptions.
Another factor contributing to the decline in U.S. history education may be the increasingly polarized political and cultural climate. Racial justice activists have brought attention to historical injustices that have long been overlooked in traditional history curricula. While it is important to acknowledge and teach about these injustices, it has led to some demonization of the United States as a whole, which may have resulted in a decreased emphasis on U.S. history education in schools. Many participants in social justice movements report being taught by public schools that the US was founded on fascist principles.
Additionally, the growing insistence of some communities on teaching separate histories for each racial or ethnic group in the U.S. may have further fueled the decline in a unified history of the country. This trend could have led to opposition to the teaching of a single, comprehensive U.S. history and contributed to the fragmentation of the subject matter. As a result, students may not be receiving a well-rounded understanding of the nation's history and the shared experiences of its diverse population.
In recent years, California and Florida have taken opposing approaches to teaching U.S. history, reflecting the ongoing debate about how to present the nation's past. California's focus on the experiences of non-White populations, while necessary to ensure an inclusive and diverse historical perspective, has led to the exclusion of the accomplishments of White Americans who played crucial roles in the founding and development of the United States. This approach has led to the demonization of Whites in the state, creating further division. Conversely, Florida has been criticized for banning the teaching of Black history or even the mention of it in U.S. history classes, resulting in an incomplete and biased understanding of the nation's past. Both paths are leading young people to have an inaccurate, false, and at minimum an incomplete understanding of the United States and its history. It is essential that educational systems strike a balance between highlighting the experiences of various racial and ethnic groups and promoting a comprehensive, unified understanding of U.S. history to foster an inclusive and well-informed society.
It is essential to recognize that the histories of White Americans, Black Americans, and Indigenous Americans do not exist in separate vacuums but rather form a single, unified history of the United States. For over 500 years, these groups have been interacting, impacting, and influencing each other in various ways, shaping the nation's development and growth. By acknowledging these intertwined histories, we gain a deeper and more holistic understanding of the American experience. Today, these diverse groups have come together to form a multifaceted society that is united by shared values and goals, despite the unique challenges and experiences faced by each group. It is crucial for educators to present a comprehensive and inclusive view of U.S. history that emphasizes the interconnectedness of all Americans and the collective journey that has brought us to where we are today.
The increased focus on race and ethnicity has also led to a troubling rise in incidents where individuals are being targeted based on their perceived race or ethnicity, which can often be inaccurate. It is crucial that education systems find a balance between acknowledging the unique histories of different racial and ethnic groups while still promoting a unified understanding of the country's past. By doing so, educators can foster an inclusive and informed environment that encourages students to engage with the complex history of the United States and its people.
Experts and educators are calling for a renewed focus on U.S. history in schools to ensure students are equipped with the knowledge and understanding of the nation's past, which will help shape a well-informed and engaged citizenry.