EDUCATION FOR A FREE NATION
December 20, 2005
105 Peavey Rd, Suite 116, Chaska, MN 55318
Under fire for teaching
According to a Chuck Muth of Citizen Outreach in Nevada:
Joe Enge is an award-winning veteran history
teacher in Carson City, Nevada. Three years ago, Joe blew the
whistle on the school district which was pushing a curriculum that
"truncated" U.S. history. Instead of teaching ALL
of U.S. history to ALL students, the 11th-grade U.S. history
course began with Reconstruction - leaving out the colonial-era and
Revolutionary War periods or relegating them to "review" status
at the beginning of the school year. Unless you were an advance-placement
student - in which case you were taught about our nation's founding in
depth in the 11th grade. Ever since Joe raised this issue, the school
district has been trying to get rid of him. (From
The Enge Files)
Following is an op ed piece wrtitten by Mr. Enge
printed in History News
Network last month. Joseph Enge teaches history at Carson High
School, Carson City, Nevada.
A High School History Teacher Under
Fire for Teaching Facts Speaks Out
By Joseph Enge
The Carson City (NV) school district says 11th-grade history
teachers should start teaching American history at the Civil War period
and move forward. But one experienced, award-winning teacher is standing
up to this History-Lite policy and is insisting on teaching about our
nation's colonial and Founding eras. And he might lose his job over it.
Citizen Outreach is asking people to sign an online petition to save his
job. -- Petition to
Save Joe Enge's Job
What is the historians version of the Hippocratic Oath? Herodotus
as The Father of History has not left us one as far as I know. Given
the disturbing trends towards disparaging the teaching of historical
facts in public schools, we may want to consider writing such an oath
regarding the sacred duty history teachers have to impart our heritage to
the next generation. Perhaps it could read, I will not water down
history content or the methodology of teaching history to conform to any
given educational fad or political correctness that slashes and burns
through our subject. Our foremost duty is to the integrity of history
facts and the best interests of our students.
In addition to our new oath, we could consider forming the history police
to investigate pressures put on history teachers in public schools to cut
corners lest they rock the boat. I am only half joking. One has only to
watch The Tonights Show Jaywalking where Jay Leno asks people on the
streets the most basic of history questions to concur our graduates of
public schools do not know historical facts.
In reality and to the astonishment of many, teachers are told not to be
fact-fixated when teaching of history. The word facts is almost used
as an expletive in modern education. We are told students need to have a
feel for the period and jump right into critical thinking and dialog
with each other. Facts we are told only promote lower order thinking
and are a waste of time as facts change in an ever changing world. Wow!
Whisper the nonsense part if you are a history teacher in a public
school. Those of us fixated on facts are labeled Neanderthals and
dinosaurs in American public educations version of the Cultural
Revolution. Todays educational Young Turks are taught to look with
disdain on the factual dinosaurs by the schools of education that control
the licensing of teachers.
Another disturbing trend in modern education is the focus on social
history to the point that students can receive good grades on a
historical topic and never learn or cover the major events. Jay Matthews,
Washington Post (May 28, 2004) article:
Students Don't Know
Much About WW II Except the Internment Camps," gave such an
example. Teachers are pressured to cover these issues at the expense of
the dates, battles, and leaders to the point that many of the history
teaching staff have weak backgrounds in these basics. This in turn
reinforces the trend not to cover the MolotovRibbentropp Pact, Pearl
Harbor, and Stalingrad in any detail or with real meaning.
I currently find myself in a rather interesting predicament of resisting
the cutting of U.S. history content and being forced to apply
questionable educational methods. I have been told to play ball or else94
by school district authorities. I rock the boat of public school history
education in my little part of the world because I know how to swim. I
understand others in the boat resent it being rocked, but wonder where
compromise begins and selling out ends. We all have different beltlines.
Mine has been reached.
I pointed out serious errors of my school district in addressing the
state history standards (which I helped author) . In retaliation school
officials have rated me unsatisfactory and are intent on making me an
example of what happens when a teacher steps out of line. My years of
experience including being a Fulbright teacher and Madison Fellow have
been denigrated by district administration as not relevant to being a
good teacher in their attempt to marginalize me and my objections. The
two history textbooks I have written in the last two years are dismissed
as simply having to do with content and are also considered irrelevant
to what they call education.
While this appears backwards and rather confusing to most, it makes
perfect sense in the minds of too many in public education. It is a
fundamental ideological struggle for the control of the teaching of
history, a struggle between content-oriented historians versus the
educational methodologists that are set to apply their process style of
teaching that manipulates content at will. They have the tail wagging the
dog with the allure of not having to bother with the years of historical
study required to be (formerly) fully competent to teach history.
The premise of traditional historical education is to learn the key
people, places, and events and only then build upon these solid
foundations toward real critical thinking regarding the topic. This
teacher-centered model of instruction is considered bad teaching by
With student-centered teaching, students share their ideas and feelings
in groups, as Heather MacDonald wrote in her 1998 work, The Flaw in
In such a classroom, the teacher is not supposed to teach, since
teaching is considered too hierarchical and authoritarian. Worse,
traditional lecturing presumes that the teacher actually knows something
the students don't, an idea that is anathema to ed-school egalitarianism.
The ideal student-centered classroom lacks a fixed curriculum. The
student's own interests determine what he or she learns, with the teacher
acting as mere "facilitator."
The use of the word facilitator exposes the key ideological
difference of the methodology. While states still issue teaching
licenses, the new teachers are not being trained to teach, rather
facilitate. I can assume the people on the streets interviewed by Jay
Leno were facilitated and not taught history.
Admittedly, forming a history police may be too far-fetched. They would
be unnecessary if we had historical ethics and stood by them. Lets toy
with the idea of a historians oath. We should definitely look towards
taking the power of licensing history teachers from schools of education
and require them to obtain the stamp of approval from hard core history
Neanderthals like us, assuming there are any of us left.
[Reprinted with permission of the author.]
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