Tim Slekar, Director of the Educator Preparation Program at Muskingum University in Ohio comments here on the recent report that NAEP scores in history and civics dropped during the pandemic. The decline should surprise no one since neither subject has mattered for the past two decades. Far more worrisome, he says, is the erosion of democracy. How do you prepare students to participate in a society where voter suppression and gerrymandering are widespread and are approved by the courts? Where members of the Supreme Court see no harm in accepting valuable gifts from billionaires? Where one of the two national political parties insists the last presidential election was stolen without any evidence? Where nominees for the highest Court testify under oath that they believe in stare decisis, then promptly overturn Roe v. Wade? Where killers stalk schools and public places because of the power of the gun lobby? Where honest teaching about political events and history is considered divisive and may be criminalized?

Slekar writes:

“In the 1930s, George Counts dared the schools to “build a new social order” comprised of an active, critical citizenry, challenging industrial society’s inequities through boldly democratic education.  In 2016, a supposedly educated population of United States citizens elected Donald Trump as its next president, ushering in what surely will be a new social order.  For decades preceding that election, social studies educators, researchers, and leaders have rejected powerful and critical social studies learning efforts in favor of superficial standards-setting and accountability talk….My guess is that Counts would not be very happy with Trump’s construct of a new social order, and my point is that standards—particularly in social studies—have been useless as instruments intended to affect how the social order Counts envisioned might be built through public education.”


I wrote the above in 2018. 40 years of devotion towards the erosion of the civic mission of history and the social studies had resulted in the election of a narcissistic reality tv show host to the presidency of the United States. There were no headlines about the dismal state of teaching and learning American history and civics in 2018. The most obscene—in-your-face evidence of civic failure was ignored.

And now America is faced with a “crisis” because of an insignificant drop in 8th graders’ test scores in US History and American Civics NAEP tests. Really? This is our national concern? Really?

What about the fact that the 8th graders tested spent significantly less time in History class than 8th graders 10 – years ago?

What about the fact that 8th graders 10 years ago spent significantly less time in History class than 8th graders 20 years ago?

Thank you Race to the Top (Obama) and No Child Left Behind (Bush).

What about the current reality of state legislatures taking the insignificant time devoted to the teaching of History and whitewashing the content that can be taught through the mandated erasure of painful truths that make some “uncomfortable?”

What about legislating penalties on teachers that involve students in that horrible civic responsibility of engaging with their elected officials?

The evidence is clear. We have a crisis of democracy. We have a morality crisis that has been legislated since 1983. The mission of public schools was purposely killed and now we have a society of grievance snowflakes that openly believe intolerance, bullying, and racism are constitutional rights.

Test score drop? Fake news!