A Student of History

January 15, 2007

Is the Dream (Partially) Forgotten?

Filed under: The world today — John Maass @ 3:09 pm

According to a Valerie Strauss article in today’s Washinton Post, “in a recent survey of college students on U.S. civic literacy, more than 81 percent knew that the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was expressing hope for “racial justice and brotherhood” in his historic ‘I Have a Dream’ speech.”

The bad news?  “Most of the rest surveyed thought King was advocating the abolition of slavery.”  Strauss writes that “The findings indicate that years of efforts by primary and secondary schools to steep young people in the basics of the civil rights leader’s life and activities have resulted in a mixed bag. Most college students know who he is — even if they’re not quite clear on what he worked to achieve.”

Remember, these are college students polled, not high school or younger.  The study was conducted by conducted by the University of Connecticut’s Department of Public Policy for the nonprofit Intercollegiate Studies Institute.  More than 14,000 college freshmen and seniors at 50 colleges and universities earned an average score of 53.2 percent in the survey.  Another sign of the times: 

In many schools across the country, teachers say social studies has taken a back seat under the federal No Child Left Behind law, which stresses math and reading. Squeezing history into the curriculum can be difficult, educators say, and taking time out of a scheduled lesson to use a federal holiday — even King’s — as a teaching moment can be tough.

Never mind the issue of “social studies” replacing history in the schools, at least for the lower grades.


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