Community Action Coalition Association

Frank Vernuccio

The New York State Board of Regents may soon vote to end their yearly exams in history and civics given to students in grades five through eight.If the decision to do this is in fact done, it will be the strongest indicator yet that those running the vast, costly, and relatively unsuccessful educational bureaucracy of our state have no clue what their true mission is.

The history and civic exams in question are less than a decade old.Long before they were instituted, NY parents, and others concerned about the future of our state and nation, had become distressed about the lack of knowledge exhibited by our students concerning the basics of U.S. history and how our government and society work. It’s not that our students aren’t capable; the fault lies in what they are taught.For far too long, the teaching of history has been deemphasized in NYS public school curriculum.

The exciting story of how America began, the guiding principles behind its founding, and the long struggles to preserve freedom and extend it to all throughout our land, does not get the same level of attention it once did. The same can be said for the vital subject of civics.Our youth cannot grow into responsible, intelligent voters without a well-grounded, well-informed background into the fundamental workings of elected government, and a true understand of basic documents such as our Constitution and the Bill of Rights, without solid instruction in civics.

From the earliest days of the American Republic, our forefathers stressed the vital role public education would play in the success of the nation. Thomas Jefferson, while a member of the Virginia Assembly before the U.S. was born, authored a bill calling for a system of public education.He believed that this resource was necessary to inform future voters of their rights and responsibilities as citizens and participants in self government. Years after he wrote the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson returned to the subject of public schools, stressing how important they were to enable citizens of the new nation to judge what will work best to keep the nation free and their rights intact.

Indeed, even with the current proposed budget cuts, New York will still spend more per pupil than any other state in the nation.We already know that our schools aren’t doing a good job in teaching math, science and reading;if they can’t at least adequately provide instruction in history and civics, it is justifiable to ask what they are doing with all the money they receive.

It is important to realize that these problems are not the fault of individual teachers.The responsibility lies within the bureaucracy that runs our schools.These “Educrats” spend more time worrying about everything other than what should be their top priority—the education of those we have entrusted to their care.

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