Americans' Lack of Education in History Is a Worry .

Discussion in 'Off The Beaten Track' started by jlai, Oct 1, 2011.

  1. PDilemma

    PDilemma Well-Known Member

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    I don't know what you're reading, but I think that is what both Matryeshka and I have been saying in this thread.
     
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  2. numbers123

    numbers123 Well-Known Member

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    in general the standardized tests are asking for dates and when my sons were in school, it was not so important as the why, how and what but the when. So many teachers do not have the time to teach more than dates.

    And FWIW - I suck at the geography game that someone posted a link several years ago. And given a blank outline of North America, I honestly couldn't identify where one border ended and other one started.
     
  3. icecat

    icecat Active Member

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    i agree across the board on the "behind the scenes' look at history and used it extensively when homeschooling my youngest. but without a timeline to put it in perspective I think it loses much effectiveness.
     
  4. PDilemma

    PDilemma Well-Known Member

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    Kids need to put history in order. You can't ignore dates, but that doesn't mean they have to memorize them.
     
  5. vesperholly

    vesperholly Well-Known Member

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    Bilingual? When would I ever use that skill? I took 7 years of Spanish and hardly remember a thing - due to attrition of use, not disinterest. I don't disagree with your other criteria, but it's just not economical to go overboard teaching something of little value to the majority. Students who want to become bilingual will certainly achieve it themselves.

    I'd ditch a history or even senior-year math requirement for a mandatory personal finance course, though. :shuffle:

    I think what we need is not more education but more travel. Get out of your sheltered life and see the world. Only by experience in the real world can people truly understand how other countries function. Unfortunately, being that America is so big and so physically isolated from Europe and Asia, that is financially impossible for many if not most Americans. Even students who can manage to go to college, semesters abroad aren't cheap. I think a state-to-state exchange program would be pretty cool.

    PDilemma, that's one scary story. All that uproar over people who can't even vote! :lol: :rolleyes:
     
  6. Vagabond

    Vagabond Well-Known Member

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    • Watching Spanish-language television
    • Listening to Spanish-language radio
    • Reading Spanish-language newspapers and periodicals
    • Reading Spanish-language books, often obtainable at general-interest bookstores that have "Libros en Español" section or on line
    • Visiting Spanish-language websites for news, recipes, entertainment, etc.
    • Going on vacation in Spanish-speaking countries, most of which have few people who are fluent in English
    • In any number of jobs for which proficiency in Spanish is a requirement or an advantage; e.g., being a physician in Southern California
    • Interacting with the large number of people in this country whose first language is Spanish and whose proficiency in English is limited at best
     
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  7. barbk

    barbk Well-Known Member

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    Was the game the evil Ubi? http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/169990/the-hardest-game-ever

    I never knew there were so many islands I didn't know. Or how hard it is to know which German river is which on a map without political boundaries or cities labeled. :eek:

    But on the standardized test issue, I'd have to disagree about it being primarily focused on dates. Most states don't even test Social Studies. Those that do usually use questions similar to the one's in California's released questions:
    http://www.cde.ca.gov/ta/tg/sr/documents/rtqgr8history.pdf

    They're very, very strong on "describe, explain, or discuss" and there is virtually no need for a student to ever include a specific date. (Though understanding what happened in what particular sequence can be important.) Added to that, the scoring rubrics I've seen often tell scorers to ignore incorrect dates or misspellings of names and places.

    California's released questions don't look awful to me. Ambitious, but not awful, and certainly not an expanded game of Trivial Pursuit.
     
  8. Japanfan

    Japanfan Well-Known Member

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    It's important as general knowledge of the world we live in. And because knowing about places goes hand-in-hand with having an awareness of world beyond the place where you live.

    I don't disagree. But when you learn the why and how, you learn other details such as place. Dates are difficult to remember, but places are easy.
     
  9. jlai

    jlai Title-less

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    Places aren't easy to remember, not to me. I mean, think China in 500 BC or some other date, and there was a battle in this ancient city which no longer exists and is now where? Not to mention the changes in names of regions over time. And on top of that, in the old days, they dated everything after the names of the emperors and you have to mentally convert Emperior X, Year 4 to a BC or AD date. :wuzrobbed
     
  10. numbers123

    numbers123 Well-Known Member

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    I agree that it is important to know where this city or that city is placed in the world, but to know the three largest or more populous in each country is a little irrelevant.

    Maybe important to know since there are cities that have the same name but located in different countries. Vancouver, London, etc.
     
  11. Japanfan

    Japanfan Well-Known Member

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    Is it irrelevant to know the three major cities in a country that is right on your border? I learned all the major American cities growing up in Canada, as a matter of course - not only in school. I don't consider that knowledge irrelevant at all since I live in the same part of the world and also, find the US interesting geographically.

    In fact, most people in the developed world know the major American cities. Shouldn't Americans likewise be familiar with places outside the USA? The fact that many don't reflects the US's isolationist stance to a certain extent.
     
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  12. numbers123

    numbers123 Well-Known Member

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    Maybe I am not clear. Why do you need to know the 3 MOST POPULOUS cities. Isn't it enough to know major cities? Population growth waxes and wans. For me to keep current on the population of a city is different that knowing three cities in Canada
     
  13. Prancer

    Prancer Jawwalking Staff Member

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    I took Spanish for years, too, but while I live in this country, I live in Ohio. There are very few Spanish-speaking people here and the ones I know speak English. No jobs here require Spanish proficiency, although it can be a benefit in medical work (but isn't necessary by any means). We don't have Spanish language TV (it is available in some cable packages, but is very limited, and we just have basic cable, anyway). There are no Spanish newspapers and I'd have to special order magazines or books. I don't vacation out of the country often enough for that to help me maintain a language.

    If I lived in California or Texas or Arizona or Florida, I would probably use Spanish enough to remember some of it. As it is, *shrug*. I've had even less use for French, which I took strictly to pass a language test in grad school and cannot speak at all. I can read it, sort of, just as I can with Spanish--but the necessity never arises and the opportunity hardly ever comes up, either.

    I could, of course, make it a priority, but why?

    Most Americans do know major cities outside of the US. They just don't know a whole lot about Canada. Most Americans couldn't care less about Canada. You can think that's awful if you like, but Canada simply isn't on our radar very often.
     
  14. jlai

    jlai Title-less

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    Even in places like Texas, many students don't pick Spanish as a second language in high school. From my personal experience, many end up picking German or French or some other language based on what their friends are taking or what sounds cool or other reasons that don't have much to do with what language they need right now. And of course, these students wonder why they don't ever use the language they learn.

    I always wish that they'd make Spanish the mandatory eta: second language to learn where it's prevalent enough to use on a daily basis. But alas, monolingualism runs deep even in places where people could use bilingualism .
     
    Last edited: Oct 2, 2011
  15. vesperholly

    vesperholly Well-Known Member

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    Exactly my point. thank you for wording it better than I could :)

    I would think that most Americans know at least Toronto, Vancouver (Olympics) and probably Ottawa (capitol) or Montreal. Beyond that would depend on personal interest and experience. I know quite a lot about Italian and especially Roman geography, mostly because I've been there.
     
  16. Civic

    Civic New Member

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    Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver. Just showing off.:D
    Geography and history were two of my favorite subjects in school. I never understood why other kids considered them boring. However, history classes do get more interesting in college. The instructors are more knowledgeable and have the freedom to tackle controversial topics.
     
  17. milanessa

    milanessa engaged to dupa

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    :scream:
     
  18. smurfy

    smurfy Well-Known Member

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    Intersting topic, and sad in so many ways.

    I have always loved history, and I was very fortunate to go to a very good school system with great teachers in all disciplines. Some of my favorite teachers were the history teachers. One had a Ph.D in American history. It seemed all my history teachers loved the topic and knew so much. My dad also loved history and reading.

    The European history I took was slanted towards British history. When I travel to places in Europe like France or Ireland and I read up on their history, I find I know more than I thought, and it easy with timeline, due to the intersection with the British history that I am more knowledgeable about.
     
  19. Vagabond

    Vagabond Well-Known Member

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    Since you are a teacher, I am sure you know how important it is to keep on learning about this world we live in even after our formal education ends. Reading in a foreign language, whether it be periodicals, webpages, or novels, is an especially important part of one's continuing education because (among other things) it gives one different perspectives. And why shouldn't someone who can read French, for example, not read Les Fleurs du Mal or Les Misérables in the original at least once in his adult life?

    People in non-English-speaking countries read English-language publications to keep informed about what is going on in the world and how outsiders view their own countries. Some of them also read English-language fiction just for fun.

    Why shouldn't we make it a priority?

    As PDilemma said upthread, while there is a lot more to the study of History than just knowing dates, learning dates -- at least some dates -- an important part of it. , especially insofar as they are related to other dates.

    Anyone who graduates from high school in this country (indeed, anyone who finishes eighth grade) should know the approximate dates and order of Prohibition, the Depression, the New Deal, and World War II and which of them overlapped with each other. He should also know that World War II happened within the lifetime of people who are still living and that many men (and some women) in their eighties and nineties are World War II veterans.

    :encore:

    This is so true.

    The U.S. is in many ways a very isolated country, but, like it or not, the outside world intrudes on our lives whether we want to or not, and what we do effects the rest of world: 9/11, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, NAFTA, the drug wars in Mexico, etc.

    And even if someone doesn't know what the three largest cities in Canada are, there are times when one should (1) want to know and (2) be able to look things up. If there's a breaking story about something happening in Montreal, for example, one might want to know just how big a city it is and whether it is one of the largest cities in the country.
     
  20. Japanfan

    Japanfan Well-Known Member

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    So they care about other countries in the world, just not Canada? I find that hard to believe. Can't see why Ireland or Portugal or innumerable other countries would be on your radar. And most Americans undoubtedly know the big cities like Paris, London and Tokyo - but that says nothing about general geographical knowledge.

    But yes, I do think it is sad that you could care less about a country that a) shares your history to a certain extent, b) has a long-standing and close relationship with you (closer than your relationship with many other countries), c) provides with you with abundant resources, and d) is heavily influenced by you. Not caring about Canada therefore indicates that you care less about your own country's impact on the world and its relationship with other countries.
     
    Last edited: Oct 2, 2011
  21. Prancer

    Prancer Jawwalking Staff Member

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    Because there isn't enough incentive.

    And if people want to know, they can't look this up because......?

    Are we talking about general geographic knowledge now? I thought we were talking about knowing about big cities in other countries.

    I had no idea that Canada was the barometer of all the world for us. I think Americans care about their relationships with a lot of countries; Canada is kind of taken for granted in all that, mainly because we don't expect Canadians to a) go to war with us or b) go bankrupt or c) take over our economy. If you want to get on the radar of most Americans, any of those would do it nicely. Disasters and impending doom are much more likely to draw attention than quietly going about your business.
     
  22. Civic

    Civic New Member

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    Not just in 2008. The Democrats always hold their convention first; at least they have for as long as I can remember.
     
  23. Vagabond

    Vagabond Well-Known Member

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    Of course they can look it up. On the other hand, I would have to say that Americans tend not to look things up. Blame their teachers, blame their parents, blame their own lack of curiosity. There's more than enough blame to go around.
     
  24. Prancer

    Prancer Jawwalking Staff Member

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    I don't find that to be true at all. They don't always look up things I think they should, but they sure do Google a lot.
     
  25. Vagabond

    Vagabond Well-Known Member

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    Some do. Some don't.

    There are plenty of people here on FSU (Americans and others) who clearly don't, even though they obviously have Internet at their fingertips.
     
  26. Prancer

    Prancer Jawwalking Staff Member

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    But that's just people, isn't it?
     
  27. Japanfan

    Japanfan Well-Known Member

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    I'm talking about general geographic knowledge, which includes big cites other the prominent ones which people everywhere pretty much can't avoid knowing the names of (i.e. London, New York, Paris, Tokyo).

    I did not say it was. Rather, I said the relationship is such that it certainly merits more than zero consideration from Americans and that the relationship reflects America's influence and identify - which should be of interest to Americans.


    That's a pretty sad statement and point of view IMO. It precludes a lot of countries that America has relationships with. And certainly reflects an isolationist stance. The Iraq War showed that many countries might not go to war with you and no-one is likely to take over your economy except China perhaps, at some point in the future. And, I seriously question whether the average American is concerned about Greek's financial crisis (though I'd say the same for the average Canadian). It's mostly investors and politicians who care about that, many average North American citizens are quite oblivious to such events.

    What about being interested in other countries for themselves? Interested in your neighbours because they are your neighbours and you share commonalities? There is much richness and knowledge to be gained from such interest.

    If Canada is a barometer of anything, it's of that disinterest. However, I should qualify my statement by acknowledging that many Americans are interested in other countries/the world and seek out knowledge of countries/the world.
     
  28. RockTheTassel

    RockTheTassel Well-Known Member

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    There's no denying that learning a foreign language is beneficial and worthwhile. But is it worthwhile enough? I'm sure anyone who has tried knows how difficult not just learning but retaining a foreign launguage is. It takes a lot more time and commitment than many high school kids are willing to give it. And realistically, how many of them are truly going to use it later on? Many adults don't use their time to read in their own language, let alone a different one.

    That time is better spent improving students' critical thinking, writing, and math skills. Many kids go to college or the workforce and struggle because they did not learn these subjects well enough in high school. It's much better spending time preparing them for what they're going to do after high school. That time can also be spent letting them further explore subjects they find interesting and might want to pursue, be it a foreign language or something else.

    It's a great idea teaching everyone in the US to be bilingual. It just isn't practical or realistic.
     
  29. Vagabond

    Vagabond Well-Known Member

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    Maybe. I do wonder whether people in other countries are brought up to look things up more than Americans do. (And, yes, I did try looking that up on Google just now.)

    I wish some of our friends from outside the U.S. (and outside North America) would participate in this thread. Their perspectives could be very interesting.

    If, as jlai suggested upthread, foreign-language instruction were designed to get students to the stage where they were reading works of literature in the original, the benefit to students' critical thinking skills would be enormous.

    In fact, for a few privileged young people in the U.S., this is exactly the kind of education they are already getting.

    At the Brearley School in New York, for example, students begin studying French in fifth grade. In tenth grade, they are reading L’étranger and Rhinocéros. In eleventh grade,

    In twelfth grade, there is a choice between French Literature Through the Ages and Modern French Literature.

    I would say that that is a good way of improving critical thinking. (And, to be sure, it is complemented by similarly outstanding education in other subjects.)

    As for not having enough time to read, that is in many ways a choice people make. For example:

    http://www.csun.edu/science/health/docs/tv&health.html

    If people wanted to read for four hours (or even one hour) a day instead of watching television, they would do so.

    Making every American bilingual may not be practical or realistic, but that is only because we, as a society, have chosen to make it impractical and unrealistic, just as we have chose to undervalue instruction in History and Geography.
     
  30. taf2002

    taf2002 flower lady

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    Every time I see this thread it makes me mad. I don't know if OP was born in the US, is a naturalised American, or is a citizen of somewhere else, but the assumption that Americans are somehow less than other people is annoying & typical. Why are we the constant target of this kind of thread? Every nation has a huge part of the population who will never have the money to travel to other countries, even those countries close by. Those people may or may not learn a foreign language, be able to name major cities in other countries, or know the history of other countries. Why judge a nation on the most insular and/or ignorant of its population?

    When I married a Canadian I could name the provinces & many of the cities, & I knew much of the history of Quebec & Ontario...not so much about the western provinces. I can also name most of the British kings & queens, and I know a lot of European history. I'm sketchier on Asian history, but I do know quite a bit about Japan, India, & China. I took French in HS & college, & Spanish in college. I'm also pretty good in World Geography. And I think I'm pretty average..I was a mostly B & C student, and I don't have any post-graduate education.

    ETA: oh yes, I forgot to say that I'm an ignorant loud-mouthed Texan who was educated mostly in substandard Texas schools.

    ETA2: I also read Volaire, Moliere, & Cervantes, among others, in HS, & French & Spanish books in the original language in college.