Alexander: "It's Time to Put American History and Civics Back In Its Rightful Place in Our Schools"

Posted on October 9, 2007

U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) today emphasized the importance of teaching American history and civics to the Mary Hughes Elementary School 8th grade class. "When you look at our nation's report card, American history is our worst subject," said Alexander, former Education Secretary. "It's time to put the teaching of American History and civics back in its rightful place in our schools so our children grow up learning what it means to be American. That means emphasizing history in our education standards and providing more opportunities for professional development to history and social studies teachers." Alexander said the first piece of legislation he passed as a U.S. Senator was the American History and Civics Education Act of 2004, a bill to establish Presidential Academies for the teaching of American history and civics for teachers, and Congressional Academies for outstanding students in the same subjects. The first of these summer residential academies has been operational for two years and was awarded by the Department of Education to a program in Ohio that recruited one teacher from every state, including Tennessee. Alexander is working to expand the program so more Tennessee teachers can participate. Alexander also said that his bipartisan American History Achievement Act, which has yet to pass Congress, would require the National Assessment to Education Progress (NAEP) – commonly referred to as our nation's report card – to focus more on American history results. Alexander told the 8th grade class that nationally only 17 percent of their 8th grade peers across the country scored at or above the proficient level on the American History exam conducted by NAEP. Alexander concluded his visit to the school with a question period with the students, and told them, "My grandfather always used to say 'Reach for the top, there's more room up there.' If you study hard and take full advantage of the outstanding teachers you have at the Mary Hughes Elementary School, I'm sure you'll reach it." Alexander sits on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. As governor of Tennessee, Alexander created the Tennessee Governors Schools for outstanding students and made Tennessee the first state to pay teachers more for teaching well.