Liberal-Arts Advocates Demand Wider Curricula

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), February 27, 2008 | Go to article overview

Liberal-Arts Advocates Demand Wider Curricula


Byline: Amy Fagan, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Founders of an organization that promotes a thorough liberal-arts education for American youths say the No Child Left Behind law's focus on reading and math testing has squeezed out other key subjects such as history and literature.

Educators, scholars and advocates have formed Common Core, an organization to promote programs and policies that will challenge students in a range of subjects, including history, literature, foreign language and the arts.

Common Core commissioned a study that found the nation's 17-year-olds struggling with basic facts about historical events and literature. Many couldn't identify Adolf Hitler, place the Civil War in the correct time frame or identify the author of the Canterbury Tales.

Lynne Munson, executive director of Common Core, said the focus on testing in the federal education law is "draining the content from our classrooms."

"Common Core will be a consistent and clear voice for liberal-arts education," she said.

In the telephone survey of 1,200 teens, nearly a quarter couldn't identify Hitler. Offered specific 50-year time frames of historical events, only 43 percent gave the right answer on the Civil War and 60 percent responded correctly for World War I. Fifty percent correctly connected Joseph McCarthy with investigating communist activity.

Asked about classical literature, only 45 percent could identify Oedipus, and 44 percent incorrectly thought "The Scarlet Letter" was about a witch trial or a piece of correspondence. …

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