A new publication by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute titled “Teaching About 9/11 in 2011: What Our Children Need to Know” includes an essay by Dr. Lucien Ellington at The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. In “Civic and Historical Literacy for a Dangerous World” he asks:
“Why are we largely, in times that require the most informed citizens, a nation of civic and historical illiterates?”
Originally published in 2003 in the Fordham Institute publication “Terrorists, Despots, and Democracy: What Our Children Need to Know,” Ellington’s piece was one of ten timeless essays selected for inclusion in the new report. It is available free to download online.
In the introduction of “Teaching About 9/11 in 2011: What Our Children Need to Know,” Chester E. Finn, Jr., President of the Fordham Institute, acknowledges the difficulty teachers face when explaining to their students what happened on 9/11.
“It’s hard enough to impart to one’s pupils a body of basic knowledge—information and understanding about history, geography, religion, geopolitics, and more. But when
it comes to September 11 and the issues surrounding it, all of that knowledge is embedded within a complex web of values, emotions, prejudices, opinions, and hopes, all of them subject to intense disagreement among adults and mighty battles among the nation’s leaders. What is a fifth- or tenth grade teacher to do?” Finn wrote.
Ellington’s essay explains the reasons for American’s lack of civic and historical knowledge.
“Though this situation has many causes, the primary reasons are the low level of social studies instruction in the nation’s schools and the almost complete lack of clear history standards in the states,” Ellington explained.
Ellington proposed several ways to take action, among them offering a different approach in the education of young students.
“There should be a national campaign to rid elementary schools of the “expanding horizons” curriculum and replace it with one that is solidly grounded in exciting and rich history, civics, and geography content—similar to that of the E.D. Hirsch-inspired Core Knowledge Curriculum,” Ellington wrote.
Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander’s essay “Seven Questions about September 11th” was also included in the new Fordham Institute report.