WASHINGTON, DC, Nov 20 – This November the country celebrates American History and its Founders, plus National Native American Heritage– a reminder—in duplicate– that the “olden days” are important.
“Essentially, this is an opportunity to teach a lesson to our children and grandchildren: that the past is prologue to the future, and that an understanding of the events and personalities that shaped our nation will help them grow into knowledgeable, responsible and productive adults,” says education advocate David Bruce Smith.
Smith, who is an author and publisher, co-founded the Grateful American Book Prize with the late Dr. Bruce Cole, the former chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, as a means of restoring enthusiasm about history as an integral part of early education.
“Our aim was to inspire a ‘grass roots’ movement that would motivate students to learn about the country’s successes and failures; one way is with a good book, because it often engages a child more than a history text. During the past five years, we have sought to encourage authors and their publishers to create more interesting works of historical fiction and non-fiction for kids, and, I think we have had some success.”
Smith points out that in recent decades, elementary and secondary educators have pivoted away from the humanities, to a curriculum heavy with math and science; in the process, history has been pushed from the “priorities”.
“While STEM is a worthy objective, it fosters a lack of understanding of who we are, what we’ve done, and what we will do.”
The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) will soon release the results of its most recent evaluation of students’ knowledge of American history. The most recent test—from 2014–showed that only 18% of eight graders were at or above the “proficiency” level in history, and just 23% in civics.
“It’s unlikely that the 2019 assessment will show much of an improvement, so it is imperative that we rely on methods that supplement classroom education. The Prize is our effort to make a difference. Meanwhile, parents, and grandparents can help by encouraging their children and grandchildren to enjoy the plentiful array of historically accurate books already in the libraries, and the new books published every month,” Smith said.