Lisa Norling: History classes might be taking a back seat in Minnesota


History Buzz

Do Minnesota students know their U.S. history?

Despite a recent report showing a limited grasp of U.S. history by the nation’s students, Minnesota educators generally give fair marks to the students here. Young people often have a pretty good sense of dates, places, names and basic trends, the educators say. But the teachers say that improvement is needed, and worry that the emphasis on math, reading and the sciences may detract from learning about history, which they say is crucial to becoming solid citizens with a sense of national identity.

“I think you’re really trying to address one of the fundamentals of the human experience: Who are we, what have we done, and where are we going?” said Tim Hoogland, director of education outreach programs for the Minnesota Historical Society.

Still, Minnesota teachers aren’t doing the kind of hand-wringing that followed last month’s release of U.S. history test results by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). Some educators around the nation said they were alarmed by the results of the 2010 test, which showed only 20 percent of fourth-graders, 17 percent of eighth-graders, and 12 percent of 12th-graders were proficient or better in the subject. Results were not broken out state-by-state in the NAEP report, so Minnesotans’ standing wasn’t immediately available….

“I find the students who … have graduated from American high schools have a basic understanding of the broad periods and watershed events of American history,” said Lisa Norling, an associate professor of history at the University of Minnesota….READ MORE

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