Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

Hope for a Renaissance

Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

Hope for a Renaissance

Article excerpt

DID YOU ever think that one day you'd be nostalgic for the excellence movement? Neither did I, and I'll bet neither did those responsible for Still at Risk: What Students Don't Know, Even Now, recently released by a group called Common Core. It has certainly garnered its share of headlines around the nation by reporting the familiar finding that kids just don't know enough about history and literature. And the excellence movement, for all its faults, at least acknowledged the importance of learning in the traditional liberal arts.

I've written here before that it seems unreasonable to expect 17-year-olds to have had enough time in their brief lives as adult readers to acquire a very broad background of knowledge in areas that require a great deal of reading. And history and literature clearly require plenty of reading, which requires plenty of time.

I stand by that opinion, but it does trouble me that only 43% of 17-year-olds can identify the half century during which the American Civil War took place. Not the actual dates. Not even the decade. The half century! The entire history of the U.S. pivots around that conflict, and it's difficult to have an informed view on much else in U.S. history without at least a rough sense of when it took place.

Of course, it troubled me just as much in 1986, when just 32% of 17-year-olds answered the same item correctly, as reported in What Do Our 17-Year-Olds Know? …

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