To the Editor:
Many pundits ask former Gov. Jeb Bush about his support for the Common Core State Standards, but none questions him about his major gaffe as governor of Florida: eliminating the state’s long-standing graduation requirements that students successfully complete courses in American history and government. I find it downright bizarre that this elimination happened in the year after 9/11 and at roughly the same time that numerous surveys reported students lacked basic knowledge of history, civics, and geography. That student performance on social studies assessments is not compared on the National Assessment of Educational Progress could explain why many states do not prioritize civic understanding in the classroom. It could also clarify why Jeb Bush might have felt comfortable eliminating such courses as high school requirements.
Worse still, policies adopted in Florida during Bush’s governorship resulted in American history’s disappearance from the elementary level as well. When Bush’s 2003 education plan passed the Florida legislature, he was excoriated in the U.S. Congress, criticized by conservatives, and quietly rebuked by others. None of it stuck, and he remained undeterred. Florida should thank its history teachers and not Bush for the fact that its students today must once again successfully complete coursework in American history. The truth is, Bush fought restoring the above requirements every inch of the way.
For those wondering why young Americans today know so little about our nation’s past or its form of government, I suggest some future pundit simply ask “Jeb!”
AP U.S. History and Constitutional Law
Community School of Naples
Fort Myers, Fla.
A version of this article appeared in the September 23, 2015 edition of Education Week as When Talking About ‘Jeb!,’ Don’t Neglect His Education Record