Massachusetts played a significant role in the history of our country – and residents want students to learn about it as part of a well-rounded education.
When asked by the Emerson College Polling Center, 61.9% of respondents said they strongly or somewhat support reinstituting the passage of a U.S. history Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System test as a graduation requirement, as the Herald reported.
Stressing – and testing – knowledge of American history as a requirement to graduate should be a no-brainer – but this is 2022, and easing requirements for graduation is gaining ground in school districts around the country.
“State residents know that suspending the history graduation requirement has relegated history and social studies to second-class status in the commonwealth’s public schools,” said Jamie Gass, director of school reform at the Pioneer Institute, which commissioned the poll. “And they’re not happy about it.”
Why should they be? Students should know how the country they live in came to be, the major players in its formation and advancement, and how it came to hold its place in the world. A well-informed populace is vital to democracy.
The MCAS were created as part of a 1993 education reform law aimed at improving accountability and school performance. In 2009, the state education commissioner and Board of Elementary and Secondary Education Mitchell Chester, voted to waive the history and social science MCAS requirement.
“I believe that it would be imprudent to add history to the graduation requirement at a time when budgets are so tight that funding for academic support and other services for students is likely to be scaled back significantly,” Chester said in 2009.
Lesson for the day: if something is difficult to pull off, get rid of it.
The new poll found that 80% of respondents believe Massachusetts public school students should study the country’s founding and history.
But there’s a gulf between what Bay Staters believe and what the state’s education honchos promote.
A 2018 update to the Massachusetts history curriculum includes an increased emphasis on civic education, “inclusion of standards that reflect the diversity of the United States and world cultures, with particular attention to the contributions of women and men of all ethnicities and backgrounds in the United States,” expanded use of primary sources such as maps, photographs, art and architecture and new standards for financial and news literacy, according to Education Commissioner Jeffrey Riley.
This curriculum “replaces the earlier framework’s full account of our country’s European past and replaces much of it with ‘the history of politically correct protest movements,’” The Pioneer Institute argued in 2018.
These days European and American history are always ripe for cancellation. Restoring U.S. history to MCAS requirements is a great idea – it’s a pity it will likely never see the light of day in progressive Massachusetts.