What are Wisconsin high schoolers learning about history?
We frequently worry over what our children are learning, or not learning, about history. We’ve been told over and over that those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it. Through the teaching of history, our current and future generations learn about past generations, and then go on to teach yet more generations. Current and future generations learn about their heritage, where they came from, and the triumphs, sacrifices, and turmoil of their ancestors.
Regularly, we hear of surveys concerning what our children know about history. Almost always, we are appalled by the findings. We get angry.
What are children learning about world history in Wisconsin public schools? It is obviously extremely important that our young citizens learn the lessons of history. Are they? More so, are they learning both sides of issues and debates?
This report sought to uncover the answers to these questions by examining world history texts used in Wisconsin high schools. The texts were examined for general content, direction, focus, themes and issues, matters addressed and not addressed, and ideological bias.
In some ways, the texts were better than pessimists might expect. This review will begin with those positives. In many more ways, however, they were quite disappointing, justifying the fears of pessimists.
While there is much to criticize regarding what the texts say, it cannot be emphasized enough that the biggest problem with the texts is what they don’t say. That is much more difficult to detect upon first impression or in a cursory examination. Reviewers of these texts need to step back from them, maybe even with a priority list in hand, take a close look, dig inside, and ascertain what they don’t talk about. That exercise can be quite revealing.
This review lists 15 separate subject headings that document the texts’ failures. Before getting to those failures, this review’s methodology, organization, and a few other structural items will be addressed. Also, before the failures, the successes will be laid out.