Civics: Students Fail the Test

Article excerpt

Studies show many students don't know civics or American history. VFW is helping to fill the educational void.

Too often we hear phrases like "today's children are tomorrow's leaders.' This isn't too comforting according to scores just in from a U.S. Education Department test.

Three-quarters of America's high school seniors are not proficient in civics, suggests the results from the 1998 assessment. Many have no idea how our country was even founded.

Another survey, conducted only in the San Francisco Bay area, finds that less than half of the teens questioned knew the country from which the U.S. won its independence. One student offered Korea, saying freedom was achieved about 50 years ago when the Korean War began!

In James Loewen's Lies My Teacher Told Me (1995), a book about students' lack of U.S. history knowledge, he writes that two-thirds of American 17-year-olds can't place the Civil War in the right halfcentury. And when asked about the Vietnam War, 22% of students think it was a conflict between North and South Korea,

Such findings are alarming. That's why VFW members must play an active role in reversing the educational tide.


According to Mike Gormalley, VFW's director of citizenship education and community service, there are many ways members can help enact change. But first and foremost, he said, members must back the schools.

"Such statistics should be of grave concern' " he said. "We can offer support in many ways and turn things around.'

VFW members should be in constant communication with local educators to ensure they have the necessary resources to teach civics and American history. Offering to make a classroom presentation on one's war experiences is a way of assisting the schools. Donating history books and other materials is another.

"Presenting stories about experiences in war will speak volumes to these students because it will likely put a face on what they've been learning," Gormalley said.

He encouraged members to contact area schools and make sure Echoes From the Wall is now being implemented in their history classes. An initiative of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, this program is designed to fill a void left by most history textbooks. …