WASHINGTON, DC, Mar 25 — How enticing is a good story about the early days of America? If it’s tempting enough, it could “hook” kids on history, but unfortunately, the subject has been losing dominance in the classroom to STEM- [science, technology, engineering and math]. The trend does not bode well for the nation’s future, because as Winston Churchill put it, “those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it,” says education advocate David Bruce Smith.
The Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation published the results of a new study last month which measured the knowledge of American history in all of the states. “In the highest-performing state [Vermont], 53 percent of the people were able to earn a passing grade in U.S. history; every other state failed; the lowest performance was 27 percent,” according to the Foundation.
When the results of the research were announced, Foundation President Arthur Levine explained that: “This is an issue of how we teach American history. Now it is too often made boring and robbed of its capacity to make sense of a chaotic present and inchoate future. Instead, knowledge of American history must serve as an anchor in a time when change assails us, a laboratory for studying the changes that are occurring and a vehicle for establishing a common bond when social divisions are deep. This requires a fundamental change in how American history is taught and learned to make it relevant to our students lives, captivating and inclusive to all Americans.”
Smith says the late Dr. Bruce Cole, former chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, recognized the need for telling the stories about how the U.S. came to be, and the evolution of democracy.
“That’s why he encouraged me to co-create the Grateful American Book Prize. Bruce perceived the Prize as a strategy to encourage authors and publishers to produce more compelling historically accurate novels, and works of non-fiction for adolescents. The aim was to make the study of history exciting and provocative, and—mostly—fun.”
About the Grateful American Book Prize – The panel of judges for the 2019 Grateful American Book Prize is now accepting submissions for books published between July 1, 2018 and July 31, 2019. Historically accurate books of fiction and nonfiction written for middle schoolers are eligible. Entries for the Prize will be accepted until July 31.