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March 10, 2004

social studies classes are highly traditional

Social studies education is a battleground in the Culture Wars, with some critics charging that schools teach subversive and anti-American versions of history, while others accuse mainstream teachers of papering over injustice. Almost never is this debate anchored in any empirical evidence about what actually occurs in typical classrooms. Instead, critics site news stories about radical or reactionary teachers in particular schools, or they quote controversial education professors and assume that average teachers think the same way.

Today, CIRCLE and the Council for Excellence in Government released some actual poll results. When 15-25-year-olds were asked to choose one or two themes that were emphasized the most in middle and high school classes, they answered as follows:

45% -- The Constitution or the US system of government and how it works
30% -- Great American heroes and the virtues of the American system of government
25% -- Wars and military battles
11% -- Problems facing the country today
9% -- Racism and other forms of injustice in the American system
5% -- Other, all of the above, or dont know

I'm a fairly neutral party in this debate; besides, I don't think that empirical data can ever settle an argument about what themes should be emphasized in social studies. However, I challenge conservative critics to stop attacking schools for teaching a leftist version of history, because there's no evidence that this is happening. Leftist critics have more to complain about.

There's a lot more information, including detailed statistical analysis, here.

March 10, 2004 12:20 PM | category: advocating civic education | Comments

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