Elizabeth Gao Portola High School / 12th Grade
The pandemic has impacted many lives in various ways, but one major aspect is education, particularly in U.S. history and civics. Fewer students than ever before are proficient in the subject matter.
To know further how distressing this situation is, it is important to look at statistics. According to the New York Times, “only 6 percent of students could explain in their own words how two ideas from the Constitution were reflected in the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech,” (New York Times). The fact that students are not learning and establishing this content is alarming because it is crucial to avoid repeating history. This indicates that the call for civil rights and an end to racism isn’t found in their heads, meaning that the students didn’t take in much information and may not become informed citizens. Regardless of the topic though, students may still be missing a core ability to even begin to understand history.
Nevertheless, this challenge goes much deeper than recognizing key historical moments and figures and touches a foundational lack in education, namely reading comprehension. In spite of the fact that history is salient, reading forms the backbone of it. It is no surprise that “reading scores saw their largest decrease in 30 years” (NPR). In both subjects, critical thinking and reading comprehension are essential components that link the two subjects and are useful for carrying the skills from one to the other. For instance, it takes time and reading comprehension capabilities to fully understand the U.S. Constitution. Thus, this generation of remote learning students show an alarming decrease in this ability, which will be a challenge for educators to overcome as they hit high school and beyond.
One potential way to make young students more engaged and improve their critical reasoning skills is to make civic lessons more relevant. After having a young voter turnout and increasing political engagement, schools are already seeing a change in activity.
For example, students asked middle school history teacher Sheila Edwards many questions about the Second Amendment; she said, “Kids seem to be more interested in history and civics than ever before,” (New York Times). This implies that students are more interested in and pay more attention to news that is around them and may be the key to rebuilding their skills
Although it is concerning that test scores and proficiency levels are so low in civics, it is imperative to not give up and to keep coming up with ideas on how to engage them as much as possible for the sake of the future of not only America but also the world as this is not a uniquely American problem either.
<Elizabeth Gao Portola High School / 12th Grade