David Wippman.
In a Washington Post essay titled “We have a civics education crisis — and deep divisions on how to solve it,” President David Wippman and Cornell Professor Glenn Altschuler discussed Americans’ lack of knowledge of civics and U.S. history. They reviewed three centuries’ worth of disagreements and variations in how these subjects have been presented, beginning with the birth of the nation up to the present.

“U.S. history and civics curriculums have long been attacked from the political right as insufficiently patriotic and from the left as woefully incomplete and discriminatory,” the authors wrote.

“The belief that an educated citizenry is the best protection for democracy is as old as the Republic,” they wrote. “As George Washington asked in the founding era: ‘What species of knowledge’ is more important than “the science of government?”

The authors concluded their May 31 essay with these observations, “Efforts to establish national history and civics guidelines have always been subjected to withering criticism — just as attempts to ignore contested aspects of our past to foster national unity have only produced partisan divisions. Understanding this history may well be the most important civics lesson of all.”

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