Protecting American History in Iowa Classrooms

This article was published in the Des Moines Register.

American history is under attack. A bill in Iowa would restore civics education.

For decades a crisis has existed in schools across the nation. Survey after survey demonstrates that students are not receiving an adequate education in American History, American Government, or Western Civilization. The decline in civic education and the alarming level of ignorance should be a concern. The Iowa legislature is working not only to restore but also to strengthen civic education in the K-12 curriculum. The objective is to reorient the social studies curriculum around the appreciation of our nation’s history and ideals of liberty and republican self-government.

The measure under consideration would make several improvements to public K-12 instruction in American History, American Government, and Western Civilization. These reforms include emphasizing the importance of teaching primary documents in American History, including the Founding documents, and requiring a civic literacy exam for both high school and college graduates. Further, this measure would center instruction around the history of America’s ideals, institutions of liberty, and republican self-government. Another important reform would be replacing the current World History instruction with Western Civilization.

This measure also would prohibit the use of “action civics” in both K-12 and in university curriculums. “Action civics” is not actually learning about our nation’s past or government, but it has become a tool for the radical left to use taxpayer dollars and classroom time to teach vocational training in progressive activism. 

The decline in civic education can be attributed partly to the increasing focus on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) courses. These are essential parts of the curriculum, but so is American History, American Government, and Western Civilization. However, a major part of the decline in civic education is the direct result of radical curriculums and ideologies. The 1619 Project and critical race theory are just two examples, but this also includes multiculturalism and embracing alternatives such as World History at the expense of learning the coherent narrative of Western Civilization. Too many teachers, alas, also teach a hate-reading caricature of American History and Western Civilization.

The late historian David McCullough believed that we have a responsibility to understand and to appreciate our rich history. “History isn’t just something that ought to be taught, read, or encouraged only because it will make us better citizens,” stated  McCullough. “It will make us a better citizen and it will make us more thoughtful and understanding human beings.” 

He argued, moreover, that “we’ve got to teach history and nurture history and encourage history because it’s an antidote to the hubris of the present—the idea that everything we have and everything we do and everything we think is the ultimate, the best.”

What does it mean to be an American? How have we benefited from Western Civilization? These are two important questions that many young Americans cannot answer. History is under attack, and it is not just in the classroom. One only has to look at the numerous historical statues being torn down, buildings being renamed, and historical sites threatened with closure. All as a result of a radical ideological agenda to rewrite American History and cancel Western Civilization.

In The Death of the West, Patrick J. Buchanan wrote: “How does one sever a people’s roots? Answer: Destroy its memory. Deny a people the knowledge of who they are and where they came from . . . Destroy the record of a people’s past, leave it in ignorance of who its ancestors were and what they did, and one can fill the empty vessels of their souls with a new history . . .”

The decline of civic education is a moral crisis that we must resolve, and Iowa legislators are working to help restore and strengthen civic education. All Iowans should support them in this necessary and excellent reform.

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