Why are American students failing history?

And what does it mean for the future of American democracy?

An illustrated image of U.S. historical figures on a backdrop of a U.S. flag
American students' civics and history test scores are plummeting
(Image credit: Illustrated/Getty Images)

Why are American students failing history? Civics and history scores among the nation's eighth graders plummeted during the most recent round of federal testing, Politico reports, raising "a broader concern about pandemic-era learning loss." Many observers are worried about what the findings mean for American democracy. "Whether students know U.S. history and civics is a national concern," said Peggy Carr, commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics.

How bad is the problem? "Just 13 percent of eighth graders were considered proficient" in history, The New York Times reports — down from 18 percent a decade ago. There was a smaller drop in civics knowledge: 22 percent of test-takers were considered proficient, down from 24 percent in 2018.

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Joel Mathis, The Week US

Joel Mathis is a freelance writer who has spent nine years as a syndicated columnist, co-writing the RedBlueAmerica column as the liberal half of a point-counterpoint duo. His work also regularly appears in National Geographic, The Kansas City Star and Heatmap News. His awards include best online commentary at the Online News Association and (twice) at the City and Regional Magazine Association.