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Volume 21, Number 6
November/December 2005

Is History … History?

Standards, accountability, and the future of our nation’s past


Last summer, historian David McCullough garnered headlines across the country when he testified before the U.S. Senate subcommittee on education and early childhood development, decrying the woeful state of history education in American schools.

McCullough, whose latest book, 1776, then topped the best-seller lists, told the subcommittee, “We are raising children who don’t know who George Washington was.”

Charles E. Smith, executive director of the National Assessment Governing Board, told the subcommittee that assessment results show that “the majority of 12th graders did not know, for example: (1) that the Monroe Doctrine expressed opposition to European colonization in the Americas at the early part of the 19th century, (2) how government spending during the Great Depression affected the economy, and (3) that the Soviet Union was an ally of the U.S. during World War II.

This is an excerpt from the Harvard Education Letter. Subscribers can click here to continue reading this article.


For Further Information

For Further Information

Maryland Humanities Council. History and Social Studies Education in Maryland: A Cause for Concern. 2003. Available online at

National Council for History Education. The Crisis in History. 2005. Available online at

C.E. Smith. Testimony before the Senate Subcommittee on Education and Early Childhood Development. June 30, 2005.

C. von Zastrow. Academic Atrophy: The Condition of the Liberal Arts in America’s Public Schools. Washington, DC: Council for Basic Education, March 2004.