WASHINGTON, DC — This sad note comes from a new report by William Dunlap, president of the New Hampshire Historical Society, which conducts history programs for the state’s school children. His account was just published– two days before the Fourth of July– in the New Hampshire Union Leader.
Astonishingly, Dunlap wrote, “most of the school kids we see now lack the requisite baseline knowledge to understand the program. They do not know what the American Revolution was, or even that we fought the British. They cannot list in correct chronological order the American Revolution, the Civil War, and World War II.”
“His observation is just the latest acknowledgement that America’s children are undereducated about American history,” says David Bruce Smith, co-founder of the Grateful American Book Prize. “When Dr. Bruce Cole, former chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, and I established the Prize in 2015, our intent was to encourage authors and publishers to produce more works of historically accurate fiction and nonfiction, books that can make young readers curious about the history of our country.”
Ask history teachers why their pupils can’t learn the subject, and you’ll get a variety of answers. Some would say it’s because schools have been deemphasizing it in favor of so-called practical schooling in the sciences and technology. That may be so, but as education consultant Robert Pondiscio put it: “many Americans have forgotten we have public schools so students can become educated citizens capable of self-government.” And that is pretty important, as well.
Dunlap concluded in his article that the “knowledge deficit has dramatic consequences that go far beyond producing well-rounded students. Kids need an understanding of how our civic institutions work so they can become fully participating citizens and educated voters. They need a basic understanding of American history to be able to contextualize problems and keep them in perspective. In short, a poor understanding of American institutions has alarming implications for American democracy and American civic values.”
He told the Grateful American Book Prize that he is delighted that the award was created to inspire a love of reading and of history among our school children. “Those of us who work in the field of history must redouble our efforts to introduce the rising generation to the gratifications of learning history. History is indispensable. It opens hearts and minds; it teaches us how to live. The Grateful American Book Prize is an important way to stimulate renewed interest in history among young people. We applaud it.
The search for this year’s Prize winner is well underway. Authors and publishers can submit entries until July 31. An award of $13,000 and a medallion created by the renowned American artist, Clarice Smith, will be presented to this year’s winner at an October 12th reception at The National Archives in Washington, DC. Two authors will also receive “Honorable Mention” acknowledgments of $500 each.