Hat tip to Joanne Jacobs and 60 Minutes for this one.
David McCullough: We are raising children in America today who are by and large historically illiterate.
Morley Safer: The teaching of history has become your hobbyhorse, correct?
David McCullough: Yes.
Morley Safer: You, you, calling us historically illiterate.
David McCullough: Yes. I feel that very much so. I ran into some students on university campuses who were bright and attractive and likeable. And I was just stunned by how much they didn't know. One young woman at a university in the Midwest came up to me after one of my talks and said that until she heard me speak that morning she'd never understood that the original 13 colonies were all on the East Coast. And I thought, "What are we doing that's so wrong, so pathetic?" I tried it again at several other places, colleges and universities, same thing. Now, it's not their fault. It's our fault. And when I say our fault I don't mean just the teachers. I mean the parents and grandparents. We have to take part. The stories around the family dinner table. I say bring back dinner if you want to improve how children get to know history.
Morley Safer: But are the teachers themselves semi-illiterate in history?
David McCullough: Well we need to revamp, seriously revamp, the teaching of the teachers. I don't feel that any professional teacher should major in education. They should major in a subject, know something. The best teachers are those who have a gift and the energy and enthusiasm to convey their love for science or history or Shakespeare or whatever it is. "Show them what you love" is the old adage. And we've all had them, where they can change your life. They can electrify the morning when you come into the classroom.
David McCullough writes really cool history books that most non-historians probably won’t read because they describe details that most non-historians don’t care about. It’s a shame because not only is he a good writer, he’s a writer that is insanely passionate about his craft; history.
He’s also dead on about teachers and that Master’s in Education jive. I majored in History/Social Science; meaning I had to take various courses in History, Government, Economics, Sociology, and Anthropology, along with the rest of my General Education and preliminary teaching credential classes (History of Education..WORST CLASS EVER). Before I was allowed to go into the teaching credential program I had to go before a panel of three professors who grilled me on Modern American History, some Western Civ stuff, American Government, and wanted further explanation about my final “capstone” research paper on whether Constantine the Great’s push to Christianity was religious or political. Then I did my credential stuff the next year. The point is I knew something about the subjects I was about to teach, or at least I thought I did because the world of Social Science continues to open up with each passing day.
This is not to say that college schools are useless because they are not. But simply getting an education in Education really doesn’t make you a teacher, it makes you an expert in teaching theory with no practical application of your subject matter. What does that mean? It means you can probably teach education theory, and not well since you can’t really be successful in the classroom.