ERIC Number: ED283775
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1987
Reference Count: 0
American Memory: A Report on the Humanities in the Nation's Public Schools.
Cheney, Lynne V.
An extensive study of humanities education in the nation's public schools, commissioned by the United States Congress, concludes that history, literature, and languages are inadequately taught, and most students fail to learn important knowledge about their shared past and culture. Data from a nation-wide survey reveal gross ignorance of major events, personalities, documents, and literary classics in Western civiliation. More than two-thirds of American 17-year-olds are unable to place the Civil War within the correct half-century or are unable to identify the Reformation or Magna Carta. In general, a long-standing purpose of U.S. public education--transmission of a common culture to all students--is in jeopardy. This study points to emphasis on process over content as the fundamental deficiency in humanities education. Curriculum guides and textbooks emphasize practical skills at the expense of knowledge; processes in thinking and doing have a higher priority than subject matter. The content-poor curriculum of elementary and secondary schools is reinforced by teacher education programs that stress how to teach rather than what shall be taught. Recommendations for strengthening humanities education in public schools pertain to: (1) expansion of time allocated to the study of history, literature, and foreign languages; (2) improvement of textbook content; and (3) reform of teacher education programs to emphasize courses in subject areas of the humanities. There is a critical need to attend to what students learn as well as how they learn. Further, school districts are called upon to invest less in mid-level administrators and more in paraprofessionals and aides who can relieve teachers of burdensome custodial and clerical tasks. The purposes are to provide teachers with more time to study, think, and plan and to enhance their authority and performance in the classroom. A six-page news release is appended and summarizes the main ideas and findings of this report on humanities education. (JP)
Descriptors: Communication Skills, Core Curriculum, Culture, Curriculum Development, Educational Change, Elementary Secondary Education, History Instruction, Humanities, Humanities Instruction, Knowledge Level, Language Arts, Literature Appreciation, Second Language Instruction, Social Studies, Teacher Education, Textbook Content, United States History, Western Civilization
National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), 1100 Pennsylvania Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20506 (single copies free).
Publication Type: Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: N/A
Audience: Researchers; Policymakers; Administrators; Practitioners
Authoring Institution: National Endowment for the Humanities (NFAH), Washington, DC.
Identifiers: Excellence in Education