“In 1942, Columbus sailed the ocean blue,” is a phrase that many of us are familiar with, which was ingrained in our minds since elementary school. Surprisingly, a survey showed that one in four students thought that Columbus sailed to the new world after 1750. 17 year olds in a phone survey were asked to answer 33 multiple choice questions about basic history and literature facts. Sadly, the results show that 25% of students could not correctly identify Hitler and 80% could not identify the basic plot of “To Kill a Mocking Bird” a reading done in most schools. The most recognized figure by students was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Following this study educational reform is moving towards an emphasis on teaching liberal arts in public schools. Since the implementation of the No Child Left Behind Act in 2002, education has focused primarily on math and reading skills. Because schools are held accountable for reading and math, history and literature are neglected and often ignored. The article discusses the importance of reading and math skills, but the need to cover all subjects.
I believe this can be done by changing the standardized tests. Instead of being held accountable for only reading and math, other subjects should be included. Since teachers are now “teaching to the test” because of accountability the tests should become all encompassing. In other words the tests should include more of the other subjects so that they would be covered and not overlooked, because they would be included in the tests.
History and literature are vital parts of education. Knowledge of past mistakes can make our society better equipped to deal with the issues of today. Literature is important in building one’s cultural capital. Reading and literature give us a broader sense of the world, and gives us the ability to take the perspectives of others. In essence literature helps us know the system, it also gives us the opportunity to gain social networks in that it creates a common ground. There is no denying that reading and math are imperative, but history and literature are just as important. As the article says “if you can’t read, you can’t read anything at all.”
-CATHERINE CHING, ED175