History, Geography and Civics Scores

More from this show

The National Assessment of Educational Progress announced its 2014 Nation’s Report Card scores, and in four years, our country’s eighth graders have shown no improvement in their low proficiency in the subjects of History, Geography and Civics. Frank Riggs, president and CEO of the Joe Foss Institute, will tell us more.

FRANK RIGGS: Thank you, Ted, appreciate the opportunity.

TED SIMONS: Geography, civics, history and they are not making progress what's going on?

FRANK RIGGS: No noticeable improvement for the last four years ago in 2010. Frankly, we're just flat-lined in civics education in our country and it's very discouraging because the fundamental purpose of public education is to prepare young people to citizenship.

TED SIMONS: When the tests came out four years ago and everyone raised a ruckus, what happened to the ruckus? Something's not working here.

FRANK RIGGS: No, it's not. In fact, the civics portion or civics geography and history portion used to be administered at the fourth and twelfth grade levels as well and now that's been eliminated and it's given in just the eighth grade. And there hasn't been much of a hue and cry. And it's really unfortunate because civics education is taking a backseat role in our K-12 schools. And it's like you said the original purpose of public education was to teach democracy and prepare young people for responsible citizenship.

TED SIMONS: History under-proficient but better than 1994. We talked about history. What kind of history is being assessed here?

FRANK RIGGS: Fundamental American history. That's why our organization, The Joe Foss Institute, is promoting the civics education initiative, asking each state to enact legislation across the country. So it becomes the law of the land requiring high school seniors to pass the U.S. citizenship test as a condition of graduation. And in order to receive their diploma, we can probably, as Arizonans, take credit for the fact that we were the first state in the nation to pass that legislation and we're showing the way.

TED SIMONS: My high school years were the dim and distant past. We all had to take civics. I don't know if it was a requirement for graduation, but you had to run through that class to get out of there. It is the only subject-specific instruction mandate in Arizona law. Did you know that?


FRANK RIGGS: The teaching of civics is required by Arizona statute for one year in the common schools, which today we would identify as our middle schools or Junior high schools. And one year in high school. Yet civics education continues to have second class citizenship status or stepchild status in our schools. That's a real shame. A number of reasons for that, one is the increased emphasis on the core academic subjects, the reduction of resources for K-12 education resulting in a shorter school day, shorter school year. Something's got to give. We want to see the focus on civics education restored in our schools and we want to breathe life back into the civic mission of our schools.

TED SIMONS: We talk about history, we talked about civis. Geography, that's absolutely flat as well. I mean so no one can find Kansas on the map anymore?

FRANK RIGGS: Geography, history and civics, all flatlined, as I said no improvement over four years ago. It ought to be a wake-up call for us as a country. Frankly we are at real risk of losing our identity as a people and a nation. Of course through the teaching and learning of history and civics we learn about our basic freedoms and rights as American citizens. The one thing we all have in common, the one thing that unites us as a people and as a country.

TED SIMONS: As far as these students there is a difference in the lower and higher performing students? Are the higher performing students also flat lining?

That is a great question because it's not a question of peaks and valleys; there's been really no uptick. We haven't seen the above average proficiency or excelling test scores increase. As a whole I think again it's just a direct result of the fact that we've been emphasizing this -- you know, this standardized curriculum, teaching to the test a lot of focus on the core academic subjects, promoting the hard sciences, stem education, science technology, engineering and math, or the soft sciences which include social studies and broadly defined as history, geography and civics. And we really have to come back around to the realization that as taxpayers and certainly parents of school age children as consumers of public education, that we need to insist the proper role of our taxpayer funded schools is to prepare young people for college career and citizenship.

TED SIMONS: Well All right Frank, good to see you. Let's hope in four years we don't ask you back again to say, what is going on out there?

FRANK RIGGS: If we have anything to say about it, it's going to increase, we are going to improve.

TED SIMONS: Thanks for joining us.

FRANK RIGGS: My pleasure.

Frank Riggs:Joe Foss Institute President and CEO

Hispanic Heritage Awards image
airs Sept. 29

Hispanic Heritage Awards

Tito Munoz conducting the Phoenix Symphony
airs Sept. 25

Opening Night: A Romantic Evening

A ferris wheel at a state fair in the evening

See Fairytales on Ice: Beauty and the Beast at the Arizona State Fair

A green monster with a goofy grin holds a large toothbrush. Text: HealthySmileLearning.org Video Contest: How does your favorite monster brush its teeth?
Oct. 8

Digital Video Contest 2023

Subscribe to Arizona PBS Newsletters

STAY in touch
with azpbs.org!

Subscribe to Arizona PBS Newsletters: