June 02, 2006

Historic amounts of money going to history program

Good history or bad economics?

Ledger reports today that the U.S. Department of Education is awarding Polk County a federal grant to improve the teaching of American history.

  • The Polk County School District is among 124 districts nationwide that received a "Teaching American History" grant.

  • The $861,094 grant will provide training and resources for 30 history teachers in Polk for three years.

  • The district will work with the Smithsonian Institution, National Council of History Education, Museum of Florida History and history professors from the University of Florida to develop an intensive instructional program.

  • The goal is to give students a deeper understanding of American history. Students will be tested before and after the program to see how much they learned.

One of my undergraduate majors was history (I even taught high school American History for a year), so I am pleased to see increased emphasis on the subject. I wonder, though, if this program will accomplish major goals and whether or not it is the best use of taxpayer dollars.

$861,094 - almost $29,000 per teacher - to train classroom teachers to do what they've already been trained to do? Multiply that number by 124 school districts, and we're talking real dollars.

Were history teachers across the country taught "bad" history? Must they be re-educated? Are their teaching skills inadequate when compared to teachers of other disciplines? Is this district, and other school districts nationwide, unable to identify successful teachers capable of sharing, training and inspiring their fellow teachers? Are history textbooks poorly written? Are teaching materials inadequate? Whose political agenda is driving the program?

Could the program's $100 million-plus be spent more wisely? What am I missing here?

Update -- Thanks to iheartTexas for this link:

New Florida Law Tightens Control Over History in Schools


tenacious (k)D said...

This makes the passage of the new bill even more unsettling. Check this out for the disturbing facts on the Ed Omnibus Bill http://hnn.us/roundup/entries/26016.html

aikane said...

Thanks for the link. I'm adding it to the post.

This new "factual history by law, by god" appears to be yet another attempt to remove questioning and analysis -- and the whole thinking process -- from education. I love Rep. Vana's question: "Whose facts would they be, Christopher Columbus's or the Indians'?"

"Factual history" must depend upon the same logic used by a high school principal who once lectured me that "controversial" books like "The Catcher in the Rye" and "Slaughterhouse-Five" were inappropriate for high school reading lists -- that teachers should teach reading without controversy. He was not impressed with my argument that high school students should already know how to read, and that "literature" was more than reading: it actually required higher thinking skills.

Imagine the "factual history" the ideologues would like to see in future history books:

"Following 9/11, everything changed. George Bush invaded Iraq to protect America from terrorists. His vision was to liberate the world of evil and make it safe for democracy. He would have succeeded, but Democrats, the media and liberal extremists of his era failed to support the troops, thereby undermining the efforts of god-fearing patriots. Despite losing Iraq and the Middle East, however, President Bush and the Republican Congress, spurred on by religious leaders and Cheney-Rumsfeld's PNAC team of visionaries, were able to strengthen presidential powers, rescue the federal courts from "liberal activism," and criminalize "non-American" activities that weakened the country's moral fiber."