Social studies' sinister omission
John Whitehead's essay on the results of the "Future of the First Amendment" poll [February 10, 2005] should send up red flares about the educational system. But Whitehead neglected to address the blaring reason for students' ignorance about the First Amendment, other than to say that "America's educational system has failed to provide our young people with adequate knowledge" on the topic. He erroneously placed the blame on teachers, who he says "have done a disservice not only to us but to our nation as well."
Let's set the record straight: The nationwide decline in the teaching of social studies is due to the federal No Child Left Behind Act, which requires schools to test in literacy and math (and soon science), but not social studies.
What isn't tested isn't taught– because school funding depends on high test results. Subliminally, perhaps, school districts, superintendents, and state school boards get the message that social studies is not important because the law didn't include it. Where is the incentive, then, for teachers to squeeze in time for social studies when the pressure exists to test well in the other subject areas?
What happens when a generation is raised with little knowledge of and with apathy towards the importance of the First Amendment? Here's one sinister scenario: Laws like the Patriot Act and Patriot II get passed without protest. Or maybe it gets worse than that.