AMERICAN HISTORY NOT REQUIRED - No Problem?

(11/29/2002)

By Teresa Starcher

Have you ever been pondering over a situation, when suddenly the thought occurs, hey, what's wrong with this picture? Recently, I read an article in TIME about a debate held at the University of Texas between the Young Conservatives of Texas, who are supportive of the President's policy for Iraq, and the Campus Coalition for Peace and Justice, who are opposed.

According to the article, although, “…a fist fight almost broke out. The evenings moderators managed to restore order before any damage was done, and the meeting ended civilly two hours later with each team thanking the other for its participation.”

Upon reading this, I was as proud as a cow with her new calf. After all, this depicted our nation's students being engaged in political concerns while learning as well and these same students may become leaders of our nation in the future.

But this week I read a story in the December issue of Readers Digest, titled Why History? By David McCullough. Mr. McCullough wrote. “This year the American Council of Trustees and Alumni reported that none of the nation's top 50 colleges and universities now require American history as part of the curriculum. In fact, one can go forth into the world today as the proud product of all but a handful of our 50 top institutions of higher learning without ever having taken a single course in history of any kind.” I bet that I incredulously stared at this paragraph for five whole minutes as other sources of this same topic, stored vaguely, in my memory, came filing in. Wherein it was stated that a very high majority of high school students couldn't even pass an elementary school quiz on American history. Also brought to mind was the article in Time and a heavy, foreboding sadness mixed with disgust came over me.

Given the unfortunate fact that history repeats itself with disastrous results. What course should we have to take, and I mean literally, to try to advert this fact? How are these students, who will one day perhaps become our nations voters, writers, lawyers, politicians or even supreme court judges be able to keep our nation on track without knowing and really understanding what has shaped it or what it is based upon?

It's inane to even imagine that it can. This is like watching a train pull out of station, gathering steam to wend through mountainous terrain and you know that it has no brakes. Could you in good conscience, simply stand by and say to yourself, “Oh, it can make it, no…problem”?


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