History isn’t the only incoherent mishmash in American education

An article in the February issue of Educational Leadership magazine has this to say about the Common Core literacy standards, which have been adopted by states and school districts across the country:

“After a feckless decade of implementation, one major study found, the standards have turned out to be a bust. Instead of improving performance, the standards led to declines in literacy.”

“In the heady development phase, there was plenty to like about the ELA (English Language Arts) Common Core….But the actual standards were a disaster: The original anchor standards had metastasized into an impossible profusion of grade-by-grade minutiae….Many of the standards were indecipherable: One curriculum expert called them ‘blithering, poorly thought out abstractions.'”

One could say precisely the same thing about the profusion of standards for “historical thinking.”

When historical thinking skills replaced knowledge acquisition as the primary purpose of history education–and migrated from the history profession to the education arena–they swelled in quantity and pretentiousness. History-education groups released competing lists of various skills that tended toward vague competencies and formless objectives, such as “read historical narratives imaginatively,”or “prepare to live with uncertainties.”

The Educational Leadership article makes this recommendation: “Schools should revise their curricula around radically reoriented, severely reduced norms, specifications, guidelines and exemplars.”

You could say precisely the same thing about history education.

The EL article can be accessed here: https://bit.ly/3bjIO2n

See also: “Historical Thinking Skills: A Second Opinion,” by Mike Maxwell, from the Nov. 2019 issue of Social Education, journal of the National Council for the Social Studies.

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