Americans Receive A Failing Grade On Subjects Needed To Be Successful Citizens

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“What’s An Electoral College?”: Americans Say High School Students Failing Subject Needed to Be Successful Citizens, Driving Force Institute Poll Finds

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Americans Receive A Failing Grade On Subjects Needed To Be Successful Citizens

PRINCETON, N.J. — Today, as electors meet in every state in an important step in the presidential election process, Americans have given their fellow countrymen and -women a failing grade on a subject most believe is needed to be responsible and successful citizens — American history — according to a Driving Force Institute survey.

A large majority (75%) agree that a strong understanding of U.S. history is needed for successful citizenship, yet the same survey finds that only 43% say today’s high school graduates possess this necessary knowledge of national history.

Furthermore, Americans place English, math and science higher than history when asked to rank how important they feel each academic subject is for today’s high school students to be successful in college or in their career. English topped the rankings at 71%; history garnered 57% of the very important vote; only foreign language came in lower than history.

People Are Easily Confused

Patrick Riccards, founder and chief executive officer of DFI, says, “The founders laid out the Electoral College in our constitution. But no wonder people are easily confused by it! It’s on all of us to improve the teaching and learning of American history, including the constitution and how it prescribes electing a president.

“Our nonprofit is working on part of the solution by creating and distributing a comprehensive American history video series that focuses on what’s interesting to high school students. This video content, accessed by students in the classroom and out of school, is the most effective underutilized tool available.”

Riccards backs up the urgency for this approach by highlighting additional research that shows a mere four in ten Americans can actually pass a multiple choice test consisting of items taken from the U.S. citizenship test.

DFI’s UNTOLD series on YouTube is the home for new short-form videos that will post each week during the 2020–21 school year. All the videos are free. In addition, DFI is making related materials to support learning, whether in a traditional classroom, virtual or hybrid setting, available to educators.

The Three Legs Of The History Instruction Stool

DFI collaborates with Makematic and the University of Southern California’s Center for Engagement-Driven Global Education (EDGE), which create and distribute the videos. It also collaborates with the New York Historical Society and XQ Super School. DFI is using an integrated set of efforts designed to get at the three legs of the history instruction stool:

Support instruction for current K–12 American history teachers, designed to both improve their own understanding of American history and empower them to better connect with their students while making history an exciting, worthwhile pursuit of study. As an incentive, teachers who successfully participate in DFI will receive micro-credentials and badges that signify they are part of a national network committed to improving American history instruction.

Curriculum design for both traditional classrooms and out-of-school-time environments, changing the very way American history is taught in communities across the nation. 

Direct-to-consumer engagement, providing interesting and dynamic learning opportunities to students (and by extension, their families) through a digital platform.

To meet these needs, DFI will soon launch a pilot project that will recruit small teams of educators in all 50 states; Washington, D.C.; and Puerto Rico. This project will help shape the development of the website content, ensuring the most effective utilization possible.

Ultimately, DFI will seek to develop an online professional development platform, a series of historians’ toolkits, models for a flipped American history curriculum, and an archive of games and simulations for educators to use with students.