Nation’s Report Card: Only 13 Percent of Eighth Graders Are ‘Proficient’ in U.S. History

Being a former teacher of U.S. history and American government, I am not surprised that the percentage of eighth grade students who tested “proficient” in U.S. history and civics continues to decline at an absolutely alarming rate.

According to the most recent results of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), also known as the Nation’s Report Card, only 13 percent of eighth grade students earned a “proficient” score in U.S. history.

In civics, only 20 percent of this cohort performed at a “proficient” level.

Sadly, both of these mark all-time lows for these two subjects.

Shortly after the results were released, National Center for Education Statistics Commissioner Peggy Carr said, “Self-government depends on each generation of students leaving school with a complete understanding of the responsibilities and privileges of citizenship. But far too many of our students are struggling to understand and explain the importance of civic participation, how American government functions, and the historical significance of events. These results are a national concern.”

I could not agree more.

It is likely that there are several factors that have led to this dismal situation, including the mass shutdown of public schools during the COVID-19 pandemic; the infatuation with critical race theory and diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives in government-run schools; and the general anti-American attitude that is so prevalent among far too many of today’s social studies teachers.

Trust me, throughout my teaching career—which included stints in public high schools in the Chicago suburbs and in Bluffton, South Carolina—I was flabbergasted at how many of my colleagues exhibited brazen anti-American sentiments while supposedly teaching their students about our nation’s history and our system of government.

To be totally frank, I was also astonished at their sheer laziness when it came to preparing daily lessons and unit plans on the course material they were required to cover. However, they displayed the utmost zeal and passion when they routinely disparaged the country, the Founding Fathers, the Constitution, and so forth.

To be clear, I do not mean to cast aspersions on all social studies teachers, however, I think it is necessary to be honest about the fact that a large number of today’s history and civics teachers are avowed leftists, who hold our history and constitutional republic in contempt. Moreover, I cannot help but think that their negative feelings about our country’s history and system of government are biasing how they teach, what they teach, and perhaps most importantly, what they do not teach.

I would venture to say that most Americans are well aware that our nation’s higher education system has been overrun with professors who profess that America is an evil country, built upon racism, sexism, etc. This trend is well-documented.

Likewise, it is practically common knowledge at this point that most liberal arts classes on today’s college campuses also routinely disparage our nation’s most sacred founding documents.

In fact, just last week, 673 professors at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill penned a letter expressing their outrage that the North Carolina Legislature is considering a bill that would mandate college students take a class in which they study the U.S. Constitution.

However, as I outlined earlier, it is becoming clear that this antipathy towards our nation’s history and system of government has now seeped into the K-12 public education system as well.

This is a very dangerous development because it means that almost all young Americans are now being exposed to this anti-American agenda, revisionist history, and lack of familiarity with basic concepts about how government functions (or was meant to function) in the United States.

Furthermore, if we raise a generation of Americans who are illiterate about our history and have no grounding in the basics of how our constitutional republic is supposed to work, we should not be surprised if this hastens the downfall of our once-great nation.

According to legend, at the conclusion of the Constitutional Convention in 1787, a group of curious Americans asked Benjamin Franklin what sort of government the delegates had created. To this, Franklin allegedly responded, “a republic, if you can keep it.”

It pains me to say so, but I wonder if we nearing the point at which we are no longer able to keep it.

Chris Talgo ([email protected]) is editorial director at The Heartland Institute.

PHOTO: LEEHS 23. Photo by U.S. Department of Education. Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0).