From The “Is We Getting Dummer?” Files: The College Board Thinks History Is Too Old…


The College Board, which makes the Advanced Placement tests, announced that it wants to stop including questions that cover events before 1450 on its history tests.

No wonder the nation is becoming more historically ignorant every generation. The educational establishment doesn’t comprehend the most basic of principle governing the study of history: everything can only be understood in the context of what occurred before.

1450? What about Julius Caesar, the Roman Empire, the Mongol invasion, the Pharaohs,  Plato, Aristotle, and Alexander the Great? What about Hastings, the Magna Carta, Marathon, and Christianity?


The eternal question here, since Ethics Alarms was launched in 2009, has been, “Which profession’s ethics are declining more quickly, journalism, or education? A case can be made that education is priming the decline of journalism, since increasingly journalists appear to be narrow, under-informed,and limited in their reasoning and analytical skills.

37 thoughts on “From The “Is We Getting Dummer?” Files: The College Board Thinks History Is Too Old…

  1. Both – when a so-called “journalist” who’s a recent product of the educational system writes a six-page article lambasting the Mid-Atlantic Air Museum’s World War II Weekend as a weekend of Nazi dress-up in the heart of Trump country, both professions have gone from the gutter, into the sewer, and deep into the shit in it.

  2. My son – age 23 – has always been interested in history — reading voraciously and primarily of the Western World, and the impact of history on the present. Naturally curious, he was NEVER taught American history in any organized way in school — yeah, let’s be able to name all the 17th century ‘conquerors” from Europe, but it’s of no concern it we can actually name the dates of the Civil War. My son was horrified that a great number of students couldn’t place the Civil War in the correct century much less the actual dates.

    Blame also the ‘tests.” Educators, using the term loosely, have decided what a child should know at a certain age. So teachers are teaching the test. (Does anyone remember the book “Cultural Literacy?”) The Department of Education is a useless organization which sets ridiculous standards for public education that reflect only their own biases. “Bias makes you stupid,” I think Marshall has said, and if the leaders of education are biased, they are ipso facto stupid and are only passing it on.

    We are fast becoming a nation of IQ 80s, completely prey to the powerful and influence-peddlars. The national ‘scandal’ of Trump being elected POTUS is an interesting moment: it’s really too bad that he is as inelegant as he is, but his election — against the Democrat machine — gives me some hope. (For the record: I didn’t vote for him; I wasted my vote with a write-in, because I couldn’t vote for Trump and would have chewed off my foot before voting for Hillary.)

    But back to the educational system. This kind of ignorance leads to Holocaust-deniers; the total indifference of Japan’s own Asia holocaust because we see Japan as a bulwark again Red China, the anti-semitic State Department of FDR which disallowed Jews from fleeing Hitler’s Germany but which now allows “sanctuary cities” — not for political asylum but for economic reasons so our tomatoes cost less because growers don’t have to pay minimum wage or benefits; and jumping a bit forward to excuses for Bill Clinton — POTUS as the worst — or at least more prominent –sexual harasser in modern history , AND for Hillary, who supported him through it all, ad nauseum, ad infinitum.

    I voted for Education over Journalism because after all the “journalists’ are “face men/women” who are the products of today’s educational system. They are taught from an early age to take the liberal/progressive approach to current events and history, and they don’t have the personal courage or wherewithal to investigate history on their own. From elementary school through college and graduate school — if indeed they go that far — they are the products of Agit/Prop if the highest order. Marx and Lenin would be so proud. And especially of our general attitude, and the Ivy League and other colleges who deny the “free exchange of ideas.”

    A pox on all of them. Go home schooling!

    • I voted as did E2. Journalism has always been a joke. Does the term “yellow journalism” ring a bell? Anyone? Anyone? Beuhler? The Edward R. Murrow/Walter Cronkite era was a charade. And don’t get me started on Woodward and Bernstein.

      But the American academy used to be something. It’s descent into madness is a tragedy. I mourn the really neat college I went to back before electricity (i.e., 1969 to 1973).

    • The problem with journalists and educators is they know nothing of human nature. The old saying of “Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely” should make every journalist skeptical about a person’s motivation and every educator skeptical about modern day conventional wisdom as reflected in school books.

    • Education, far and away. It’s sad decline was in full swing when I was in school, and it’s astounded me since.

      In 8th grade, I had an English teacher who sent well over half her class to 11th and 12th grade English. I think I was one of the idiots who wound up in freshman English, but it made it easier for me the rest of the way.

      In Chicago, my speech and history teachers had a few minutes of current events debate several times a week. I had some excellent teachers, and the debates were quality, from both sides of an issue. No low hanging fruit allowed.

      Graduated in Texas, nothing approaching the quality of education in Illinois. Very much a “teach to the test” regime. Not vey fulfilling.

      Junior college, my poli-sci classes were filled with people who didn’t know what I’d learned in HS, and maybe a couple kids could discuss recent history and where it’d brought us, half of the rest were clueless, the other half didn’t care. Worst was the Noam Chomsky homer I had for an instructor.

      Most kids ate it up, parroting whatever the professor said in response to my arguments, nary an “original” thought to be found.

      Several years later, at my brother in laws house, the nephew had a history book that may as well have been titled “America the awful, and why you should hate it”.

      It spoke of events devoid of the timeframe in which they occurred and the “big picture outcome” and focused on how flawed our prior countrymen must have been to decide as they did. The nephew of course couldn’t believe how bad a country he lived in, why bother with anything.

      Coming full circle, my daughter, so smart she got all four years of her education paid for, was taught in college to ignore facts, and make policy arguments based on “narrative” and feelings.

      She’s such a gifted story teller, gets assistant directing jobs when she auditions for parts, and is a solid actress. But she eschews the hearing of the “other side” and I think misses the opportunity to really knock something out of the park.

      Not coincidentally, she learned to “learn for the test”.

      Everything else is a result of education, and it’s in our face, so we notice it more.

    • “Does anyone remember the book “Cultural Literacy?”

      Just read it through for the first time, actually. I agreed with most of it and think it’s even more relevant now.

      Getting students to internalize facts that should be common knowledge shouldn’t be the problem. Students’ brains are more than up to the task.

      I suspect that the nature of the education beauracracy just doesn’t reward those teachers who really care about implanting that knowledge. So they “teach the test” as in, “Cram these test answers into the part of your brain that won’t remember any of it a week from now. Test is tomorrow.”

      My only child is a year old, but I can guarantee he’ll know when the Civil War happened, whether we’re able to homeschool or not. Because teaching things like that is FUN, learning them should be FUN, and if I were an American History teacher, my students may not internalize everything on the test, but they’d also know when the Civil War happened. Disgraceful.

        • I bought it thanks to you! Saw it in a thrift store and remembered reading about it here.

          Can’t wait to find fun ways to help my son (and wife and self) become well acquainted with the entire list. If everyone here doesn’t die caught in the middle of the impending alt+right vs. ctrl+left wars, I’ll let everyone know how it turned out in 10 years.

      • On the subject of a waning “Cultural Literacy” circling the drain, an exchange I had @NeighborsNextDoor regarding a post on my favorite 77 Square Miles Surrounded By A Sea Of Reality subject: idiot bikers.

        Evan Skov, Midvale Heights·7 Jun: What’s your intention with this post?

        Paul W. Schlecht, Midvale Heights·7 Jun: ”What’s your intention with this post?” Forget it Evan, it’s Chinatown…

        Evan Skov, Midvale Heights·8 Jun: 这听起来很种族主义 (translation: “That Sounds Racist.”)

        Paul W. Schlecht, Midvale Heights·8 Jun: It sounds racist? The initial post or my most recent comment? If it’s the initial post; say what?? If it’s the latter; tell me you’re kidding!

        In the event you’re not, in the interests of decorum I’ll forgo my first reaction and humbly suggest your cultural literacy soon be dutifully expanded to include seeing the (IMHO) absolutely outstanding flick “Chinatown.”
        And it’s exchanges like that which help me understand why H. L. Mencken quipped: “Every normal man must be tempted at times to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin to slit throats.”

  3. It has to be journalism. There are teachers who are trying, even in a difficult situation in which those who try get very little support. I’m not sure there’s a journalist that’s even trying anymore. I can’t name one, anyway. Can anybody else?

      • Mr. Greenwald’s twitter account alone disqualifies him from the conversation. I can often tell Mr. Wallace’s opinion from the form of his questions (without reference to his tone or the delivery of a question). Neither presents to me anything that resembles what journalism ought to be.

        With a perfectly ethical and talented journalist, I would have no means of knowing what his opinion was on anything. Of course, such a standard was never reality, but in years past that was how journalists tried to act. Now, they do not even try.

        I sometimes wonder if it all begin with Kronkite on February 26, 1968 and the dangerous myth that a journalist swayed the opinion of the then sitting president.

  4. Bad question/poll.

    Historians will always want to teach history. And they will slice it up in whatever time period/geographical are that makes sense.

    And, history is a staple of pre-college education; journalism is not.

    The Advanced Placement people are looking to sell tests. Unfortunately, they can drive the curriculum in pre-college course by their questions.

    On balance, I would say historians want to teach history. Sadly, I am not sure journalists know what journalism (in a classical sense) is supposed to be. Journalists are supposed to be the objective witnesses historians later cite. Journalists think they are supposed to be the people to provide historians with their interpretation.


  5. Many thanks for the Sam Cooke. What a beautiful voice. (The images were a kick as well.) I have to admit the James Taylor cover is pretty nice as well. I’d like it more if Sweet Baby James weren’t one of those guys like Jim Palmer or Sean Connery for whom my wife would drop me like a dirty shirt and run off with if the opportunity ever presented itself.

  6. This made me puzzle even if a simple question. ‘Both’ is an easy answer as both have become corrupted. Both feed into so many other problems, but saying everyone’s corrupt is as much use as flat-earthers or putting your head in the sand. Then we’re just shaking our canes at those idiots like the perpetually pissed. So I think prioritizing is more important than blanket annoyance or horror.

    I finally decided journalism, because rotten journalism can ruin the efforts of good teachers and schools. People who used to be respectable, who were taught old school and/or have long experience, get caught up in the progressive mania and perpetuate it as well as those too young to know any better. If journalism was really good and education broken. the journalists would become the teachers in real world. But the fever and mania in journalism’s ‘divide and control’ taints about everything. Sadly, I believe they will bring the return of full-on lynch mobs (virtual ones aren’t seen as dangerous enough) before more people wake up.

    Teachers and schools have a limited window to affect us than journalism, and learning is a lifelong process. I have learned far more history and culture after I left formal education. Self-education can counter groupthink, AND there are still many people around who were educated before the rot spread. There are still pockets of functional school systems for a lucky few. (in a higher portion than pockets of sanity in journalism as well) We don’t have mobs of teachers coming to our homes as protests to teach us the newest math. (no intersection with my Calc knowledge)

    Both have too much rot. I’ve passed through school years I knew were with rotten teachers, but journalists provide and filter the mass of raw news. When they are corrupt, we have to work many times harder to be even minimally informed to find and filter the news. How much checking and cross-checking does Jack have to do compared to twenty years ago? Both careers feed on each others’ excesses, but journalism has a wider and longer footprint. If the journalists cleaned up their acts and addresses education, it would change faster than if teachers cleaned up. That would take generations until the reporters and editors aged out.

    • I agree. In high school, they talked about the Greeks and Romans, mentioned the Magna Carta, and dealt with the American Revolution.

      Since then, I have read the Histories if Herodotus, Thucydides, Xenophon, Caesar, Tacitus, and Livy. I know much more about the Magna Carta through law school and general lifelong education, and my knowledge of the Constitution is informed much more closely by my annual review of the Declaration of Independence.

      The knowledge of history is a lifelong pursuit, casual or not. Teachers must only inspire an appreciation for it. My high school ones, two old guys who probably knew more than they could teach (they were beyond their coaching years), were not great inspirations. But, that is okay, to some extent.

      I don’t have to have any background in journalism to watch out for people lying to me. My history teachers weren’t. Journalists? I trust them far less.


  7. In 1964 I had an elderly American History professor, can’t remember her name, who had a favorite saying: “Ignorance is bliss…so there must be a lot of blistered people out there”. Parenthetically, she was as Progressive as a small North Carolina college could allow. Sha also taught American HISTORY, all facts, no or little opinion. I miss that TRUE lady a lot.

    • Best history teacher I ever encountered was a classic Liberal, to the left of Kennedy (take your pick which one)

      You could not tell from his lectures, which were unbiased, engaging, funny, and memorable.

  8. I chose both because I have been employed in a public educational entity for half of my career. I have seen the decine but that decline originates not necessarily with faculty but with students. Few if any read newspapers on a regular basis and rely on the equivalent of Cliffs Notes for information on a particular matter that they are assigned to research. Teachers are becoming resigned to the idea that education has been replaced with far too many objective measurements of student success which, unfortunately, means graduation or becoming a “completer”. (Completer is a US Dept of Ed term for anyone completing a prescribed sequence of courses)

    Newspapers have declined in my opinion because few except the majors actually employ reporters and rely heavily on AP or Reuters. Even then those reports are mere distillations of the total story needed to understand the national or geopolitical nuances, let alone multiple points of view. Why? Because readers are lazy. They will not commit to fully understanding the issues. Today, there are very few good investigative reporters and newspapers will not devote the space for a story to explained. There are exceptions so I am seaking in generalities. The other “journalists” are in my estimation frustrated 3 tier fiction writers or wannabe pundits. I base that on the type and frequency of various adjectives used by these writers. You can spot their opinions a mile away.

    I was fortunate growing up. Both my parents taught for Baltimore City Public Schools in the 50’s through 1980’s. Dad was a History ang Geography teacher. His unfullfilled goal was to go to school to be a foreign service officer. Nonetheless, he instilled in us to understand the motivations of history makers. It was not enough to know when something happened it was more important to know why something happened and the precursers to those events. Mom was an English teacher whose love was Latin and Greek literature and Shakespere. It was she that helped me understand Macbeth and the bawdyness of Chaucer.

    Having parents like that is a double edge sword because my younger brother and I missed the lesson on never challenging a teacher’s perspective with other facts. My older brother was more circumspect in class.

  9. 1450? What about Julius Caesar, the Roman Empire, the Mongol invasion, the Pharaohs, Plato, Aristotle, and Alexander the Great? What about Hastings, the Magna Carta, Marathon, and Christianity?

    Hastings was an 18th century figure, associated with Raffles and hounded by Burke, long after 1450. That is, reading that according to ordinary usage, as a name.

    (Declaration of interest: a few years ago, I proofread and fact checked a few chapters of Professor Geoffrey Blainey’s History Of The World.)

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