In the second part of a two-part “60 Minutes” interview which aired today, historian David McCullough took a swipe at American education, calling the country’s children “historically illiterate” and encouraging teachers to major in subjects other than education. McCullough was careful to spread the blame:

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.

Viewers were quick to agree with McCullough’s dire diagnosis.

One fix suggested: bring back the family dinner table.

McCullough did call for the nation to “seriously revamp the teaching of the teachers,” adding that he didn’t feel that “any professional teacher should major in education” — another suggestion applauded by many.

  • Josephine (D)

    You can thank public schooling for our stupidity. BTW, public schooling is a socialist idea. And Finland has better schools than we do.

    Want a good education for your child but can’t afford private school? There’s a homeschooling plan for that! c: That’s what my Mom did! <3

    • SpinMeNot

      What do the US and the old Soviet Union have in common? John Dewey was the “father” of both public education systems.

    • Ironhawk86

      Indeed. America planted the seeds of its own destruction by designating education as a function of the state.

    • yahneverknow

      Most “parents” (yes, in quotes) don’t feel like being around their children or teaching them anything these days. Public school is not only indoctrination, it’s daycare.

    • Sonya A. Willis

      Add the teacher’s unions to the top of the list. The union exist to bleed the taxpayer drive by demanding higher and higher salaries with little ROI. See the Chicago Public School system.

      • Jesse Perlstein-Mizrachi

        Actually the teacher’s pay is an almost insignificant factor.

        The schools cause some level of behavioral conformity among the students. Put more high achievers in and the schools will practically run themselves, well, Put more low achievers in and you have lower level behavioral conformity and conforming lower levels of achievement. mix everyone together and it goes to the lowest common denominator because of basic evolution (the dumbest children will also, characteristically be the strongest and have the longest limbs due to large amounts of exposure to cortisol as fetuses because their mother was in an un-safe or single parent environment).

        The unis generally feed in the students who can afford it and not the best and brightest, I knew many a straight A student that decided to go out and work or get knocked up. Most of the kids at the IVY league are relatively smart, but for some reason most still know nothing about history. I think this is due not only to a lack of it being taught (our US history course in HS is the only that is standardized and was required for every student in the US to take and talked more about the Big Bopper than the colonies) but also that our libraries are not stocked well with history books.

    • Timothy Noonan

      Public education was thought to be essential by Jefferson for the betterment of our nation.

    • $24698634

      All public schools are not created equal. I went to a great one in the North East.

    • $24698634

      All public schools are not created equal. I went to a great one in the North East.

  • Vanakatherock

    More education is given to the American populous by watching shows like Pawn Stars than generally is ever taught in any classroom. It has come down to History Channel and National Geographic to educate people, even though we pay schools to do the same thing. It’s really sad, and no surprise why the rest of the world laughs at us in terms of education.

    • SpinMeNot

      While you make a valid point — wow, The History Channel. Home to “Ancient Aliens …”

      • Adrianne Stone

        and mermaids! haha

    • TheOriginalDonald

      Kids getting a better education from Chumlee than from school? OH MY GOD!-The Old Man

      • SineWaveII

        ” That’s stone cold”

  • Steve_J

    But they all feel good about themselves and they know why Johnny has two daddies or why little Susie has two mommies.

    • TugboatPhil

      And they can recycle and call business owners Nazis.

    • Joshua Johnson

      When they think that the most important thing to teach is how to properly have sex, they dont have time to teach the “3 Rs”

  • Steven A

    As a homeschooled student (class of 2001), I can’t help but agree with McCullough’s assessment. Schools exist these days for indoctrination, not education. Critical thinking and conceptualization are foreign concepts in the halls of schools.

  • stuckinIL4now

    Of course they have to major in Education–the teachers must be indoctrinated first so they can then indoctrinate the children.

  • RichardBlaine

    Intelligent, productive, capable people do not become “educators”. That profession is reserved for slackers, burn-outs and headless nails. And spare me your hate replies.

    • Jillane Kent

      I have a MAT and do not disagree with you. My husband and his colleagues hate to have education majors in their classes. They often are the most problematic and the least prepared.

  • Lovetorun2

    As a college prof I witness this illiteracy first hand, every weekday. Sadly, it isn’t just historical illiteracy that plagues the average co-ed…I teach statistics and research methods and find that most college students today are quantitatively/scientifically illiterate too.

    • SpinMeNot

      I’d be happy if I just bumped into a anybody over the age of say about 40 that really understood that probability isn’t about certainty. I’ve given up on correlation vs. causation.

      • SineWaveII

        I hear that.

  • ricci

    dont let teachers union members see this or you might be called racist or some other name. We all know teacher are more concerned with money and benefits than students learning anything………….remember the chicago teachers strike at the start of school this yr

    • SineWaveII

      Very true. They have said so themselves on many occasions.

    • Firewall

      Wouldn’t worry about that. Asked my son about his diversity class and what is it like and what have you learned. His response was that the white man is satin.

      • AWomaninTX

        The white man is “satin”? So very smooth? wink*wink

  • Lord Foggybottom

    I used to be friends with a high school science teacher. She was friends with most of her students on Facebook and would always exclaim: “My students love me.” It was more important for her to be liked by her students than to know WTF she was talking about. And trust me, she didn’t know WTF she was talking about.

  • louisiana_mom

    The Progressives have taken the phrase “if you don’t know history you are doomed to repeat it” literally, and have intentionally not taught real history so they can repeat the horrors of Communism upon another generation.

    • SineWaveII

      True. But the problem with that theory is that you do repeat history but you don’t get to choose what historical period in time that you repeat. For example the current events look very similar to four points in history. 1 Period in the NA Colonies prior to the American Revolution 2. The period in France prior to the French revolution. 3. The period in the US prior to the Civil War. 4.The period in Germany before the rise of Hitler and the Nazis.
      Question: Which one are we going to repeat? There is no way to know, and no way to control it. That’s why what they are doing is so incredibly dangerous and stupid.

      • louisiana_mom

        I agree. They may not like the results of their social/political experiment. I pray, that when the dust settles the Progressive movement will be set so far back it will take several centuries before they dare to raise their ugly head again…

      • Pádraig O Caoimh

        More like 4th century Rome IMO – if we are lucky

  • Kimberly Schutzenhofer

    Well it’s not really a surprise since on the liberals keep rewriting history and then let it get taught in the schools.

  • Tony0920

    But wait. A certain politician recently said over and over that we need 100,000 new math and science teachers.

    • SpinMeNot

      Because his girls are getting older and the 8th grade math is too hard for him. His kids are special, they get all 100,000 teachers.

      • yahneverknow

        math iz hard.

      • SineWaveII

        I know. Can you believe the dumbbells in this country re-elected a man who went on national television and declared that high school freshman math is too hard for him?

    • SineWaveII

      That was a dog whistle for the teachers union.
      Let me translate “We need 100,000 more math and science teachers” = ‘We need to give our current teachers and admin a raise equal the the salary of 100,000 math and science teachers.’

      • Joshua Johnson

        Or conversely 100,000 new dues paying union members…

    • $24698634

      What’s your solution, less math and science teachers?

  • Skinnythia

    Students have special projects to do to raise the grades for the work they don’t turn in. But everyone is gigged for these lazy kids and have to do these projects. Colleges now have GPA forgiveness? Where has the incentive gone to do your best all the time? It’ ‘everyone should get the same thing or get another chance’. Wrong! This is the entitlement agenda that is making our youth stupid, greedy, and plain old narcissistic.

  • Hiraghm

    This just means they’re about to unleash a new education initiative to get kids more knowledgeable about history… only they’ll replace history with their socialist version as they have done in every communist hellhole on Earth.

  • kbielefe

    Not just historically illiterate, current events illiterate, especially events outside the United States.

  • medicinewomantwo

    Hell, half can’t read or write in Jr. High, so what’s new?

  • Adrianne Stone

    I taught in Texas for four years in a public high school and I can’t name a single teacher who hadn’t majored in her/his particular broad subject area at minimum (history, math, science, english, etc) – many had an M.Ed but not a B.S. in Education. All the education majors I knew taught at the younger grades.

    • Edel Snow

      Many universities are now offering alternative teaching certificates for secondary school teachers. If you have at least a Bachelors in a subject offered in the school system you can begin teaching immediately in the classroom while you pursue a two year Masters in Education. I have several friends with degrees in Math and Science who did this and loved it. Students will respond to teachers who bring the real world into the classroom.

    • Jillane Kent

      Until ten years ago, my state certified middle and high school teachers with only an education degree. The subject area preparation was minimal, at best.

  • yahneverknow

    THIS: “I don’t feel that any professional teacher should major in education. They should major in a subject, know something.”

    • Jillane Kent

      My state has required this for teachers seeking employment in grades 7-12 for years. One must first have a BA/BS degree before pursuing a MA in education.

  • Silenttype78

    You can’t teach kids all the socialist ideas are historical failures because they would reject them as adults.
    They do not want to educate our kids anymore than LBJ wanted to eliminate poverty!

  • kate_middleton

    Totally agree with him on the education of teachers.
    My college (a large, top-tier state university) had no undergrad education major. People who wanted to do education were on a 5 year program – they chose a subject to major in, and they supplemented classes in their major with education courses. The 5th year was more education programs and student teaching. They graduated with a Bachelors in their subject and a Masters in Edcation – so they’d be in a higher pay bracket just starting out because of their advanced degree.
    My mom, a retired teacher, thought this program was fabulous, and thinks more colleges should follow suit.

  • nc

    Well, look on the bright side. At least those union contracts are still secure.

    • SineWaveII

      For a few more years, until they run completely out of money.

  • Maria Seeger

    How many of you have actually *taught* in a classroom? I don’t disagree with some of the points you are making, but as a retired teacher, I find your attitudes insulting and patronizing. You remind me of the libs on here that are so quick to tell business owners how to run a business.
    I’m glad I’m out of the teaching profession. And despite what you hear on TV in a non-union state like mine, the pay isn’t all that great. $43K a year might sound like a good deal, but when you consider how much of that goes towards the teacher spending her own money on classroom supplies so that the kid who comes to school with nothing at all, because Mama and Papa know that the school will provide all that for free, it’s not all that much after living expenses. There were months when I had to live on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and I’m not an extravagant person.
    Forget all those romanticized movies you’ve seen on the big screen about the idealistic young teacher who inspires a whole classroom of students to do great things through some innovative program that she designs and has to fight the administration to be able to implement (usually a pretty blonde White teacher who is working in an inner city school with minority students). It doesn’t work that way in real life. Most districts want you to do it *their* way, and *their * way usually includes some silly program that they have spent thousands of dollars on from some educational consultatnt that promises that every student will be academically successful if the teacher follows instructions to the letter…and if they aren’t, well it’s the teacher’s fault.
    These programs won’t take into account that the students *you’re* teaching are at-risk students (at risk of dropping out of school) and can barely read, let alone comprehend what it is you’re trying to teach them. It takes twice as long to teach those students as it does to teach the ones in a regular classroom. I can understand that those of you in union states might feel differently, but not all states have strong teachers unions. Mine certainly doesn’t.
    So, before you continue mouthing off, I suggest that you spend some time in a real classroom and watch your child’s teacher or teachers at work. I think you’ll get your eyes opened real quick. And if any of you out there are teachers, speak up and speak out…don’t take this criticism lying down. We don’t deserve the put-downs. And parents…you want your kids to learn your values, I suggest you take the time to be proactive. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve had to beg parents to help their kids with their homework, even though most of them were illiterate (I worked with a large hispanic population, most of whom were probably undocumented).
    I don’t disagree that our public education system needs to be improved. But as a former teacher, I do resent being made the scapegoat for all the ills in today’s current system. And by the way, I taught at the elementary level.

    • orringtonmom (D)

      i agree with you. teaching is hard. good teachers are hamstrung. by administrations that want better grades and expect the teacher, not the students, to do something about it. by parents who march in with a list of excuses for their kids and high expectations of grades they didn’t earn. and zero tolerance is not just about gun violence or drugs; teachers and students are constantly on alert for hate speech against race or lifestyle. you cannot possibly have critical thinking or serious analysis of history or anything when you are not allowed to criticize someone’s ethics or worldview.

      the problem is culture. and our culture stopped valuing hard work, individual accomplishment and American exceptionalism a long time ago. somewhere along the road, it became easier and somehow more intellectual to yell “racism!” than to actually have a dialogue about race and to yell “hate speech!” than to actually engage in discussion.

      no one goes into teaching to be bad at it. and it certainly isn’t for the money or how easy it is.

      • Maria Seeger

        I will relay one story from my first year of teaching at my first school. I was one of the last people hired for that school year because the school I worked at found out that they needed an extra class. My kids were all at-risk, all Hispanic (I was bilingual 5th, which really should have been ESL, but that’s a whole nother story). They were extremely below grade level, and I graded honestly. Most of them made low grades. I got by with it the first six weeks, but on the second six weeks, I was called into the office and told I had to doctor the grades so that none of them was below 70; this despite the fact that the reason for the low grades was that many of the kids either didn’t turn in their work on time or didn’t turn it in at all. It left a bad feeling in my mouth, but I learned my lesson. Honesty didn’t matter, just as long as the school looked good. So from them on, I went out of my way to make allowances, and tailor my teaching accordingly so that the kids could all feel a sense of accomplishment, since it was all about making sure the little darlings had high self esteem.

        I grew up in the 50’s and 60’s, and let me tell you, back in those days, when you got an F, you got an F, and no bones about it. It made it so much sweeter when you got that A because you knew you’d earned it. Back in those days, teachers didn’t have a mandate from On High to make sure each and every student had high self-esteem. Consequently, I had some really mean cows in the lower grades, but I also had some very nice and outstanding teachers. And guess what? Even though I started school not knowing how to speak English, I did just fine and I was one of the ones who managed to swim, while not losing my first language. It helped that we spoke both languages at home. I can’t say I was the best student in the world, but I loved reading, and that escape kept me on the straight and narrow. Teachers today *want* to help their students. But parents and the administration make it very hard to do so.

        • orringtonmom (D)

          i wish i could say that is a shocking story, but i totally know how that goes. it is too bad that it soured your desire teach. you seem like a person that would take opportunities to make a difference and i hope you’ve had many of those in your career.

    • Reggie Yount

      Who does own the business of public education where you are? Here, it’s
      the taxpayer so it’s our business to speak up when problems occur. Our
      teachers only work 180 days per school year, too – not a full year like
      you worked – and yet we still pay them medical, dental, vacation and
      sick pay which is more than most of the parents here earn both working
      nearly 360 days.

      Between you and me, it’s hard here for us to
      understand why we maintain an expensive public education business that
      insists its owners, if we want our kids to learn anything, have to get
      proactive and teach the kids at home ourselves. If the guy who paints my
      house ever tries to pull that Orwellian nonsense with me, there is no catch-22. Believe you
      me he’s done.

      • Maria Seeger

        So in other words, teachers should work all year long, have little or no time off, and not get any kind of insurance whatsover….gee, sounds like the way it used to be back in the “good old days” of public education. Back when the school year was based around the harvest season and kids only went to school when the parents didn’t need them on the farm.
        And you also are quite happy with the way the subject is being presented, obviously. So if I just shut up and teach the curriculum that the state requires me to teach even though it’s seriously flawed, then you’re perfectly happy with that, right? By the way, the guy who paints your house is not teaching your kid how to paint your house, so that analogy doesn’t fly.
        Hell yes, if you want your kids to learn anything beyond what the State curriculum allows me to teach, then you’d BETTER be prepared to pay attention and you’d BETTER be reading the textbooks the little darlings bring home so you can counter the leftist propoganda that’s currently being taught in schools, *especially* in the areas of social studies and history.
        And guess what? The taxpayer doesn’t OWN public education. The government does. Yes, you taxes pay for part of it, but who do you think the school districts turn to when they want REAL money? If you said Uncle Sugar, you’d be right. Thanks to the Department of Education, every state now has to follow federal guidelines if they want that gubmint money. And when Uncle Sugar says “You will teach this curriculum or you can kiss your federal dollars bye-bye” then you can bet the districts will be ordering the new materials and you’ll see it implemented in your schools the following year.
        If you think teaching is so easy, *you* try it…and let’s see if you can make Teacher of the Year, while you’re at it, because of your outstanding performance in the classroom…and what you’re going to tell those parents who come to you and demand that you do something about their little darling’s behavior because disciplining their children and teaching them manners is YOUR job…after all, YOU’RE the teacher.

        • Reggie Yount

          I wasn’t aware that I needed an interpreter and now have no idea which language to use to explain that I meant the opposite of your interpretation. I will type slower and re-phrase: if we parents must proactively teach our own children at home because it’s too hard for the public school system to accomplish otherwise, then the public school system is redundant and should be abolished. Public teachers would then have more time off, not less, and none of us would have to work so hard to finance God only knows whose government.

  • SpinMeNot

    So, I’ve been looking around a bit to find a prime example of what passes for educational resources these days, based on a comment someone made. I found this, was looking about for information the 17th amendment. I had no idea it was already at this point — I knew it was bad, but its has been a long while since I read a text intended for a young child, this is beyond the pale.

    Just a little ways down the page, I found this carpet nugget.

    “Did you know that Americans were originally not allowed to vote for Senators? Believe it or not, the legislature of every state used to elect the state’s senators and the people would elect the Congressmen that serve in the House of Representatives. If you think this sounds unfair, many Americans in 1912 thought so too. The 17th amendment provides for regular voters to elect their Senators. The reason for this is simple, when we look at the process to become a Senator in 1912.

    The problem with letting representatives choose
    representatives is corruption. Corruption is breaking the law to get favors or better treatment for yourself or someone else.”

    I’m at a lost at this point. And yes, there was corruption, but can we balance this a bit.

  • SpinMeNot

    I’m about done for the night, my light is keeping my wife awake. Before I go, I thought I’d post a link to a review of a text that might interest one or two of you. I may order the book, will sleep, or not on that. I’ve been told today that I don’t understand history correctly — perhaps that is true. I think this text just might provide other folks a chance to examine their understanding of history, based on when they learned it. I’m wondering how much bias I was getting in the those old textbooks in the mid 60’s.

    Anyways, here’s the link to a review of the text in question.

  • iandrews08

    Yeah, i don’t buy it.

  • cjinva

    In The Well-Trained Mind (by Jessie Wise and Susan Wise Bauer), the authors suggest the US has been living off its “educational capital” for several generations — and now we are running out of capital.

    A corporation needs capital. It can survive short-term downturns by spending capital, but eventually it must raise more capital or it will go bankrupt.

    Our educational system has been failing for generations. We’ve been able to survive as a people by living off our parents/grandparents “educational capital.” For example, I was in elementary school during the era of “new math.” Fortunately, my parents cared enough to teach me the “old math” that (surprise of surprises) actually worked, and I went on to get a degree in statistics. How many of my peers were left out of the math and science fields because “new math” was a failure? The parents who aren’t filling in all the gaps left by the public schools have children with holes in their education, so with each passing generation, we are losing more capital. Eventually our educational capital will drop to a level where our own illiteracy will bankrupt us intellectually, morally and financially.

    My grandfather was a farmer in Appalachia who attended a one-room school. When I compare his education to that of most young people today (including many in college), I want to weep. Even as a high school student, I knew I was being short-changed, and that has only gotten worse.

    I did my part to break the cycle by homeschooling. But that required learning the things I SHOULD have been taught in school so I could teach them to my children.

  • philomena

    The students and their parents, who may have advanced degrees, are illiterate, period. Unless the subject turns to: birth control, abortion, gay marriage or celebrity. We are in a very bad way in this country.

  • mommasaurus009

    Yet,we spend the second MOST amount if $ on Ed in the WORLD. I don’t think MORE $ will solve the problems!

  • Truro Rtc

    PBS, Educational Industrial Complex, Ken Burns are all Obama acolytes-this is by design Mr. McCullough! Stupid students = stupid electorate! You have known this for the last 30 years. Your son, a teacher in Wellesley, MA high school could tell you this fact. Thank your self and your friends in the teachers union.

  • conservativechick

    UPDATE!!!! Florida declares Murphy winner and will not allow West to continue to verify votes, EVEN after finding proof of early voter irregularities!

    • $24698634

      Not so. No voter irregularities were found. Memory sticks from early voting could not be uploaded properly. Another count was done for those specific ballots. Recounts don’t happen unless margin is within .5%; and it isn’t.

  • TraderBill

    As the parent of a (now grown) child who attended private schools from pre-K to high school, I can attest to the value of teachers who know their subject matter, teach it passionately, and most importantly are not the product of education mills. Sadly, teachers in the public school system in our state (Texas), along with their administrations, enforce teaching to standardized tests which are required by the state, an activity which wastes valuable classroom time and imparts little real knowledge. But the students pass the tests (so their campuses can receive recognition by the state) and many go on to colleges and universities where, more often than not, the faculties there complain that many of these graduates of government schools don’t possess rudimentary elements of a secondary education, such as basic reading, math, and comprehension skills. It is an endless and vicious circle.

  • Timothy Noonan

    “Preach, my dear sir, a crusade against ignorance; establish & improve the law for educating the common people” Jefferson, 1786. Thus abolishing our public education system is not the solution. We must overhaul it.

    As Mr. McCullough states, we are poorly teaching history if folks beyond 5th grade do not know the location of the 13 colonies. This goes for the teaching of science also. In this endeavor, we are committing educational malpractice with is not being taught and what school boards insist in being taught.

  • Back 4 More

    Teachers are forced to teach only what is in the book they are given. If you really want to change the system for the better then take a look at who publishes the text books and sets the curriculum. Even with our dumbed down educational system America is still the best in the world. We don’t seperate our student’s averages like all of the Asian countries do. What most people don’t know is that Asian countries divide the students into different schools going by A,B,C and D designations. They only publish results from the A designated (advanced and college bound) schools. If America only published the results of our top 5% like other countries do, or even if you just tested the white students, then our academic numbers would dwarf everyone elses in the world. Still, we are slipping from what we once were. We are punishing our gifted students because it’s considered racist to say that white kids, on average, learn faster than black or hispanic kids. We now live in a country where telling the truth is considered racism, if that truth offends anyone in a minority group. We can never solve any of our problems if we aren’t even allowed to admit what they are.

    • Timothy Noonan

      There is nothing racist about telling the truth: You sir did not even come close to the truth. Education has nothing to do with ethnic background, it has everything to do with access to a quality education. I have meet plenty of white people who lacked quality education and they displayed as such. Conversely, I have meet black and hispanic people who displayed what a quality education, pubic or private, can do for you.

      You are simply a racist and that is the apparent truth.

      • Back 4 More

        No, I’m being called a racist, by you, for stating a fact that offends you. I’m not inventing some kind of radical theory here, I’m just repeating what our own BOE’s numbers have been showing us for 40 years. It’s not my fault that whites test higher than blacks and hispanics. You don’t have to slander me with a hateful label just because I don’t subscribe to the theory that math tests are racially biased.

        • Timothy Noonan

          My friend, when you make statements like this “We are punishing our gifted students because it’s considered racist to say that white kids, on average, learn FASTER (my emphasis) than black or hispanic kids.” It is unequivocally racist what you said, whether consider yourself to be or not to be a racist.

          I hypothesize that if you take a 1000 kids of each ethnic group and equally stratify them equally into them same public, private, charter, and home school there will be no statistical difference in grades achieved by these kids. Test score difference in the uncontrolled population has everything to do with access to quality learning materials, teachers, community and home situation. All kids are affected equally by these.

  • Ralph_Gizzip

    And now you know why Obama won re-election.

  • ember

    History has been rewritten in many American text books.

    • $24698634

      Mostly in Texas, too. That should scare all of us.

  • Tabitha Taylor

    “He that doesn’t know the past is doomed to repeat it.” Just as we see with our Marxist students. God help us!

  • tessaprn

    Probably dating myself, but when I was in school we did not know if our teachers were married, single or had children. We respected them too. WTH went wrong?