In rare moments when Congress isn't preoccupied with war, taxes or prescription drugs, it is worrying that American students don't know any U.S. history. Congress is right to worry, but it doesn't follow that the federal government is capable of fixing the problem.
The "National Assessment of Educational Progress," known as the Nation's Report Card, reported that less than half of high-school seniors demonstrate even a basic grasp of history.
The American Council of Trustees and Alumni, in a report called "Losing America's Memory: Historical Illiteracy in the 21st Century," charged that 55 colleges and universities, including the most prestigious, have no U.S. history requirement and only a fifth of colleges require courses in history at all.
On the other hand, some colleges do require courses in "non-Eurocentric culture or society," and that requirement can be filled by courses in human development, sociology, theater, dance or film. Social science requirements can be met by courses in women's studies.
In 1994, the National Endowment for the Humanities gave funds generously provided by the taxpayers to professors at the University of California, Los Angeles, to produce a volume prescribing what U.S. public school students ought to be taught about their country.
When the 271-page book "National Standards for United States History" was published, it was shot through with multiculturalism, anti-Western bias, and the politically correct nonsense that all ethnic and gender groups are victims of white male oppression.
"Standards" was such an embarrassment that the U.S. Senate denounced it in a vote of 99 to 1, with even Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., voting against it. Longtime American Federation of Teachers Chief Executive Officer Al Shanker said it was the first time a government ever tried to teach children to "feel negative about their own country."
After the public flap, the authors made some cosmetic changes in "Standards." But thousands of copies of the original book were already in use by schools and textbook publishers.
Congress should have learned that if we give taxpayers' money to the current crop of history professors, they would rewrite history to serve liberal dogmas. Congress didn't learn; it continues to include millions of dollars for the teaching of U.S. history in various appropriations bills.
Phyllis Schlafly is a national leader of the pro-family movement, a nationally syndicated columnist and author of Feminist Fantasies.
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