Posted on December 15, 2003
Today the National Archives announced the ten most important documents in American history, chosen by a vote of nearly 40,000 Americans. They chose, among others, the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the Emancipation Proclamation. The vote shows that most Americans still know which documents reflect the values that unite us as Americans. The trouble is that our children aren't learning about these documents and what it means to be an American. National exams show that three-quarters of the nation's 4th, 8th and 12th graders are not proficient in civics knowledge and one-third does not even have basic knowledge, making them 'civic illiterates.' Children are not learning about American history and civics because they are not being taught it. American history has been watered down, and civics is too often dropped from the curriculum entirely. We should redouble our efforts 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 an American. The Senate took one step this year by passing the American History and Civics Education Act of 2003. I hope the House will do the same when Congress returns next year.