JSU Newswire
Jacksonville, Alabama

American History Classes To Benefit from Department of Education Grant

JACKSONVILLE -- October 4, 2001 -- Jacksonville State University will play a key role in helping Calhoun County teachers improve the way they teach American history, according to Dr. Ronny Carr, director of instructional services for Calhoun County Schools.

The County school system will receive a $523,977 U. S. Department of Education grant to support a three-year program called “Learning America’s Story Through Interesting New Genres," or LASTING. The program will provide professional development for at least 18 teachers.

Collaborators will include JSU, the Anniston Museum of Natural History and the Berman Museum of World History.

According to Dr. Carr, JSU’s Dr. Hardy Jackson, head of the history department, and Dr. George Lauderbaugh, assistant professor of history, were instrumental in helping write the grant proposal. Dr. Jackson will serve as the program’s evaluator.

JSU history professors will help teachers broaden their knowledge of American history during two-week summer institutes and other activities. Participants will also have access to the JSU library.

The national program began as an initiative of U. S. Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia, who expressed concern over students’ ignorance of basic facts about American history.

On his web site, Sen. Byrd wrote:

“A test of young peoples' knowledge of history -- in this case, the history of our own nation -- has demonstrated a sorry ignorance. What is particularly disconcerting about this report is that it reflects the knowledge base of college seniors from some of the best colleges and universities in the nation, not younger children with many years of learning still ahead of them.

“The test, sponsored by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, was given to college seniors at 55 top colleges and universities and consisted of questions from a high school-level American history test. Nearly 80 percent of those tested earned a grade of only a D or an F.

“A mere 23 percent could identify James Madison as the principal Framer of the Constitution. More than a third of those asked did not know that the Constitution established the division of powers in American government. Just 60 percent could correctly select the 50-year period in which the Civil War occurred -- not the correct years, or even the correct decade, but the correct half-century! A scant 35 percent could correctly identify Harry S. Truman as the President in office at the start of the Korean War.

“In the light of such dismal knowledge of our national history, I added an amendment to an appropriations bill in December 2000 that provides $50 million in grants for schools that teach American history as a separate subject within school curricula.”

The Calhoun County school system was among 60 systems nationwide that got a grant and was the only system selected in Alabama.


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