Sunday, February 22, 2009

Boren laments civic illiteracy

In a speech Saturday night at Mount Vernon, University of Oklahoma president David Boren "urged a renewed national focus on the teaching of American history," The Norman Transcript reports.
"To remain great, a nation must understand how it became great," he said. "Today Americans are shockingly ignorant of our own history."

He cited statistics showing that only half of U.S. high school graduates recently surveyed knew which side America fought for in World War II.

"The ignorance of our own history and the lessons that can be drawn from it in critical times like these is due to the fact that only 8 percent of America's colleges and universities require courses in American history and government to receive a degree," Boren said. "All students, regardless of their anticipated occupations, are citizens and their knowledge of our history and understanding of our constitution is vital to the future of our country."

I realize that Boren, ever the team player, is reluctant to criticize fellow members of the Takings Coalition (especially K-12 educators). But let's be frank here. It doesn't make sense to blame our widespread civic illiteracy on lax degree requirements at colleges and universities. Boren himself remarked that only half of high-school graduates knew which side American fought for in World War II. That's something a student should learn long before he graduates from -- or even drops out of -- high school.

Given his stature in Oklahoma, Boren would be doing a real public service if he would simply tell it like it is. To his credit, he did so in 2000, when he informed the regents that more than 48 percent of OU students admitted on the basis of their 3.0 high-school GPA needed remedial courses. "I'm sorry to say this may be a statement as to how well students are being prepared in the rest of our education system," Boren said.

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