By Ashley Bateman
This Fourth of July, sometime between the beginning of the parade and the fireworks finale, most Americans will display a collective pride in their nation’s history.
All the red, white and blue, the grand flying of flags, display a patriotism founded in national unity and remembrance of those who fought for freedom centuries ago.
Americans continue to profess their support for history and civics, but their public education establishment does not seem to share that same priority. With government requirements redirecting the focus of achievement goals exclusively toward math and reading, the importance of civics and American history in the classroom is in fast decline.
A general disregard for national heritage is trickling down through the system. Measurements by the U.S. Department of Education and private organizations have consistently found American students’ basic knowledge of U.S. history to be sorely lacking and negatively trending over time.
An important place to start, as many public school classrooms do, is with the Pledge of Allegiance.
The civic mission of schools is crucial to American public education, and yet little is done to uphold that mission. Our public schools do a disservice to American students by failing to prioritize history and civics within the ever-broadening subject of social studies.
Until the middle of the 20th century, most American high schools offered three courses in civics and government, focusing on current events, civic engagement and democracy as a whole – topics that are now lumped together and are not part of school accountability.
Last year, the federal Department of Education canceled the American history and civics tests from the National Assessment on Educational Progress, in response to budget pressures.
Lacking luster for some, teaching civics education and history needs to be a national effort. If not, a daily rote reading of the Pledge of Allegiance recognizes nothing of true and long-standing value.
Ashley Bateman is adjunct scholar at the Lexington Institute, a public policy think tank in Arlington, Va.