Contrary to the assumption that curriculum reform is promoted by only by conservatives, a member of the progressive movement recently lamented that students were losing touch with their American heritage. “We need to care, the Progressive Movement needs to care that the fabric of civics education in our country essentially has been decimated,” said Andrea Batista Schlesinger at a recent conference on the New Deal.
However, Schlesinger warned the audience to not tell anyone what she said, lest she be accused of being a neoconservative. “And this where I feel that I can do this safely here so I hope that you won’t go and tell anyone else what I said here because these are the [moments] of which my friends and colleagues accuse me of being a neoconservative but I feel you’re a trusting audience and that you’ll let me get through my points,” she said.
And what were these scandalous, inadmissible comments? The Executive Director of the progressive Drum Major Institute expressed her concern on how badly American students performed on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) and other civics tests.
She pointed to students’ demonstrated unfamiliarity with Martin Luther King, Jr., how less than half of college students can identify their local representative, and how some students didn’t know that non-citizens couldn’t vote.
The 2007 NAEP report indicates that
• 14% of Fourth Graders understood defendants had a right to a lawyer.
• 47% of Fourth Graders identified the role of the Supreme Court.
• 28% of Eighth Graders could explain the historical purpose of the Declaration of Independence.
• 49% of Eighth Graders linked religious freedom to the Bill of Rights.
• 5% of Twelfth Graders could explain checks on presidential power.
• 50% of Twelfth Graders understood that federal laws preempt state laws.
Schlesinger asked, “Do young people understand why social security was created? Do they understand why it’s a social insurance program not an investment program?”
“We’ve got to fight this fight. If we don’t, I think our coalition is damaged forever,” Schlesinger said.
Schlesinger believes that a culture of corporatization is creeping into American society, undermining the belief in Franklin Roosevelt’s redistributive social welfare policies. She pointed to the youths’ support for a privatized social security as evidence. At this conference celebrating the New Deal’s 75th anniversary, Schlesinger questioned whether the New Deal would still be relevant to American youth in another 75 years.
“We need a population of young people… [a] populace of young people who are prepared to ask the questions, who are prepared to ask the questions of corporate power…I’m not really suggesting homeschool for progressive children—alright, it’s a possibility,” she said. The audience laughed at the homeschooling comment.
Bethany Stotts is a Staff Writer at Accuracy in Academia