LETTER TO THE EDITOR: History no longer a priority in education

On Feb. 21, 1861, on his way to his inauguration in Washington, Abraham Lincoln addressed the State Assembly in New Jersey, and gave a remarkable testimony on the importance of studying history, and how it personally inspired him.

“I remember,” he said, in one of his few impromptu speeches, “all the accounts there given of the battle fields and struggles for the liberties of the country, and none fixed themselves upon my imagination so deeply as the struggle here at Trenton, New Jersey.”

He explained the story and noted that it is “all fixed themselves on my memory … and you all know, for you have all been boys, how these early impressions last longer than any others.”

We are not a people with a common ethnic blood line, like the Russians, Japanese, Italians or French. The history of many countries can be an interesting and important chronicle, but for Americans it is more. It is not just our story; it is our cause, our morality and our sole unifying factor.

Someone who understood this was Lincoln, who loved history, and understood its importance for America.

Continuing, he said “I recollect thinking then, boy even though I was, that there must have been something more than common that those men struggled for; that something even more than National Independence; that something that held out a great promise to all the people of the world to all time to come.”

When I was younger, our heroes were Lincoln, Roosevelt and Washington — substantive people 0f the past. Today the heroes of young people are often from the worlds of music. Adherents and fans of popular music — country, rap, jazz, pop and rock — for example, share little more than often a disdain for each other. Our fragmented entertainment industry cannot be a cultural substitute for history; its message is often debased, its “stars” are not moral leaders, and it is hardly unifying.

In today’s schools, history is little more than one of the many “social studies.” It is a mere segment of a subject, and it is questionable if a shadow of a shadow can provide an inspiring message. In old interviews by Jay Leno and new ones on “Waters’ World” we see an abysmal level of ignorance in young people. History apparently is hardly today a priority in public education.

I wonder if the battle of Trenton that inspired Lincoln is even taught, and if it is, my guess is that it is presented as a mere footnote, not because of its national importance— but because it might be on a “Common Core” test.

I have no problem with English, math and science education, and actually would like to see even more emphasis on technology and job skills. But I do have an issue with the lack of study of our American history. The price that we pay for neglecting our past and nations’ guiding principles are incalculable; it is a second “national debt” and may cost us even more in the long run

Larry Koch, Ed.D.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Dr. Koch and others are starting a History Book Club, which will have its organizing meeting (Bastille Day) Thursday, July 14 at 4 p.m. in the Dover Public Library. Its focus will not just be on Lincoln or American History; world and local history is also welcome. For more information, call 335-8344 or email larry.koch.2008@ Comcast.net.

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