A panel of noted historians has harshly criticized the history curriculum in elementary and secondary schools and called for required historical studies for all students, even kindergarteners.
The Bradley Commission on History in Schools has described the current history curriculum as "seriously inadequate in both quantity and quality" and stressed that history should have a larger and more vital place in education.The panel's report, "Building a History Curriculum," said 15 percent of current students do not take American history in high school, and at least 50 percent do not study either world history or Western civilization.
For decades, historical studies and historical literature have been virtually neglected in the earliest grades, said the commission report. In many cases, elementary students are not exposed to history or geography until the fifth grade.
"History should not be just a mad dash through the centuries with teachers trying desperately to get to the 1980s before school lets out in June," said commission Chairman Kenneth Jackson, Mellon professor of history and of the social sciences at Columbia University in New York.
"If history is to be properly taught and understood, teachers must have enough time to provide context for facts and training in critical judgment based upon evidence."
The commission urged that the study of history be required of all students, whether or not they are preparing for college. Whatever careers may lie ahead for students, the panel said they will all practice the profession of citizen, so that all should have the opportunity to learn American, European, and world history and geography throughout their school years.
The Bradley Commission is composed of 17 noted scholars and teachers, including Pulitzer Prize winning historians Michael Kammen, Leon Litwack, and C. Vann Woodward, who also is a winner of the Bancroft Award.