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Maybe I Was Asleep In That Class

By Greg L | 25 February 2007 | Humor & Satire | 14 Comments

Do you know at least what a third grader is required to know, according to the Virginia Standards of Learning?

Grade Three: History and Geography

3.2 The student will study the early West African empire of Mali by describing its oral tradition (storytelling), government (kings), and economic development (trade).

Darn, I spent so much time learning about the foundations of western civilization, the history of our country, the founding fathers of our nation, and the qualtities and attributes of the state where I lived that I suppose I missed this critical part of a well rounded elementary school education.  I am multi-culturally deficient, and must go now and pay homage by reading about Kwame Nkrumah in order to remedy what is clearly a stunning lack of the fundamentals of american citizenship.

The history and culture of Mali is a fundamental part of being a well-rounded american third grader.  It’s news to me.

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  1. James Atticus Bowden said on 25 Feb 2007 at 11:16 pm:
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    Funny but sad. I remember the 3rd grade at Walter Reed Elementary School in Arlington, VA - SY 1958-59. Mrs. Wilcox.

    We learned Arlington County history. I can still show you the highest point in Arlington County from our bus tour.

    We had a large banner that went over the windows that subsituted for all the family life stuff my wife teaches (no offense to her and she knows it) as a Elementary School Counselor (for a school that passed the SOLs every year since Year One) - that said: “The Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

    It worked. Well.

    4th grade was Virginia history, taught by our New York native teacher - about how valiant Virginia fought during the War Between the States.

    5th grade was U.S. History. Taught by young Miss Berry whose Dad helped invent the landing craft for WWII. Still love the study of U.S. History.

  2. long time resident said on 26 Feb 2007 at 6:37 am:
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    This is what happens when big government (both the State & Feds) “help”. This is the tip of the proverbial iceberg, and worse we, the local taxpayer, are left to pay a staggering bill. I honestly believe Manassas schools deliver an excellent value for the dollar given the special needs, poverty and ESL issues they face. Our anger at idiocy in education schouldn’t be directed at local schools or the school board, nor should we be listening to the needs for higher taxes to pay for these inane requirements. The Feds and State need to change. Unfortunately it’s taken us 30+ years to get to where we are, and we’ll be paying higher taxes until a majority of Americans see the lunancy in No Child Left Behind.

  3. MikeT said on 26 Feb 2007 at 9:23 am:
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    It’s especially bad since most of my generation are nearly 100% ignorant of how advanced the West was during the “classical period.” They are inclined to think of our Greek and Roman cultural ancestors as being sometimes prone to philosophy, but largely completely superstitious, primitive dolts who knew absolutely nothing about science. That’s of course ironic since when you adjust for the complexity of modern knowledge of the world, most people today are no more developed in that respect than their ancestors were 2,000 years ago, but that’s beside the point. The Romans and Greeks were in many respects as advanced at their peak as the West was during the mid 18th century. The only invention I can think of that was more advanced was the firearm. Militarily, the Roman Army was actually far more advanced aside from that advance than anything the leading empires had on the ground in the 18th century.

  4. Batson D.Belfrey said on 26 Feb 2007 at 9:46 am:
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    “Unfortunately it’s taken us 30+ years to get to where we are, and we’ll be paying higher taxes until a majority of Americans see the lunancy in No Child Left Behind.”

    NCLB is just a symptom of the problem. The NEA, and the liberalization of our public education system is to blame. Consider this; a lot of those hippie counter-culture types, after waking from their drug and free-love induced hang-overs, went into education. Best way to “stick-it-to-the-man” was sto sieze control of our educational system. First they took over the teachers colleges, then the NEA and local teacher’s unions. Then they started pushing all of the cultural sensitivity crap on our kids. Remember when new arrivals to our country fully assimilated withing 1-2 school years, and often rose to the top of their class? Remember when we had time for gym class? Remember when we learned about ancient history, read the classics, struggled through algebra and geometry? Remember when there was no such thing as “new math” “concept mapping”, etc.? These drug-addled educators came up with all kinds of groovy new things to teach our kids, that didn’t involve traditional education and learning. Got to teach them it’s OK that Johnny has 2 dads and no mom. Remember when schools taught that heroes were Presidents, Statesmen, Astronauts, & Servicemen? Remember when our children were taught that America is the greatest nation in the history of the planet, and our Republican form of government the best ever devised?

    NCLB was a response to our failing public education system. I am not defending NCLB, but if there hadn’t been such deterioration of our educational performance, there would never have been a need for NCLB.

  5. Turn PW Blue said on 26 Feb 2007 at 11:06 am:
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    BDB, remember when Presidents and Statesmen (and I guess I have to add diaper-wearing Astronauts) really were heroic figures? Today, they are charicatures. On either side of the aisle, I see few I would hold up as paragons worthy of being called “heros” by my two kids.

    Also, you do realize that with the “new math” and “concept mapping” and some of the other “drug-induced” reform, students today are actually learning more complex and difficult concepts in math and science at an earlier age than those in the last generation. Most students in school today will take calculus and at one advanced science class before they graduate. Two decades ago, a smaller percentage took calculus and science requirements only mandated two high school-level science courses.

    Remember when blacks had to use different facilties and the KKK lynched people? Remember when women weren’t allowed to vote and were expected to “serve” their husbands. Yup, those were the good old days before those hippie-liberal types started changing things.

    It’s pretty easy to pick out one line of the entire SOL and present it without context. Here’s the rest of the 3rd grade History section from the SOL for History and Social Science:

    3.1 The student will explain how the contributions of ancient Greece and Rome have influenced the
    present world in terms of architecture, government (direct and representative democracy), and
    3.2 The student will study the early West African empire of Mali by describing its oral tradition
    (storytelling), government (kings), and economic development (trade).
    3.3 The student will study the exploration of the Americas by
    a) describing the accomplishments of Christopher Columbus, Juan Ponce de Léon, Jacques
    Cartier, and Christopher Newport;
    b) identifying reasons for exploring, the information gained, and the results from the travels.

    Lots of info is available at http://www.pen.k12.va.us/VDOE/Instruction/sol.html (including a link to submit comment on the History and Social Science SOL).

    Finally, the Kingdom of Mali was as advanced as some of the European empires that are considered part of the canon of elementary education. Given that a large number of Americans can trace their ancestry to the Kingdom of Mali, that would make the study of this area part of the history civilization and culture of the United States. The fact that you didn’t learn it growing up doesn’t mean the influence didn’t exist or that studying Mali is somehow a waste. It is simply a reflection of the fact that educational priorities used to be set by a group of white males with European heritage who saw no value in any other cultural influence.

  6. citizenofmanassas said on 26 Feb 2007 at 11:17 am:
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    Some wonder why more parents are putting their children in private schools, or home schooling. Is it any wonder the polls that show American students are ignorant of American history and civics?

    I do not have a problem with children learning World history, but American kids need to get a complete history of their own Nation first before moving onto World history.

  7. Turn PW Blue said on 26 Feb 2007 at 10:23 pm:
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    The key theme of third grade is world history and culture. US history and culture are still more than adequately covered in the SOL.

    Not aimed directly at COM, but maybe people should take the time to actually look at the standards before passing judgement on their value or focus.

  8. citizenofmanassas said on 27 Feb 2007 at 11:34 am:
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    Turn blue,

    Maybe you should take the time to read before posting. I said our kids should first learn American history and civics before moving onto World history.

  9. Turn PW Blue said on 27 Feb 2007 at 1:37 pm:
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    I did read what you wrote. Look at the SOL for K-2 (i.e., the grades *before* third grade). Plus, the third grade SOL doesn’t drop any study of American history and civics0–it simply starts to add some world perspectives. It is also important to note that US History is best taught with context. Not knowing something about world history makes US history less meaningful. You can’t teach it in a vacuum. Understanding the importance of the American Revolution means understanding that democracy was a new player in the world. Hard to do that if you don’t have any concept of the world beyond your front window.

  10. Sol SoB said on 27 Feb 2007 at 3:20 pm:
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    At the risk of excessive pedantry, Kwame Nkrumah was an important figure in the history of Ghana, not Mali. He was their first head of state after independence from the British Empire. The Former Empire of Mali was a French colonial possession–the French Sudan.

  11. Greg L said on 27 Feb 2007 at 3:30 pm:
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    Sol - I understand, but that was the first political figure of stature I could immediately recall from my classes on African political history in college, at least who isn’t completely disgraced. The point I was trying to make, perhaps not clearly enough, is that while African history is worthwhile for everyone to know, it’s not necessarily critical knowledge, and it doesn’t necessarily prepare someone for the rights and responsibilities of American citizenship. In third grade, I think we should be dealing with core concepts rather than multi-cultural extras that aren’t terribly useful.

    Mali is a terribly esoteric subject for third graders. Heck, I wonder how many adults could even tell you what continent it’s on, and the number who could locate it on a map would be vanishingly small. But for those ignorant of Mali, can we say they are any less capable of participating in American society than those who do?

  12. citizenofmanassas said on 27 Feb 2007 at 5:50 pm:
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    Every year polls are released that show our students in high school, college and just out of college know very little about our history and civics. I think that is in part due to the lack of time spent on the subjects before moving onto other subjects. Kids were much better educated in the past before many school systems started to teach from a “multi-cultural” point of view.

    It also helps to know the history of America first before attempting to learn about the history of other Nations, since so many educators today love to disparage America in an attempt to “equalize” us with the rest of the World.

    Look at how many college degrees that do not require any history courses or civic courses. It is a shame we are raising kids that have almost zero knowledge of our history.

  13. el Zorro said on 27 Feb 2007 at 6:19 pm:
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    Mali was center of all MUSLIM learning at capital of TIMBUKTU. University of SANKORE was known far and wide as the most archectulally beautiful of all Universities and repository of MUSLIM archives of learning. Especially during reign of Emp. Mohammed ASKIA I, from 1494-1527. TIMBUKTU established in 1087 by TUAREG nomads near Niger River. ASKIA known as Emp. who brought much gold and glory to MUSLIMS. When Morracans invade and trashed city in 1591 (much like illegal aliens do today to Manassas). TIMBUKTU never recover. French pigs take over in 1893. TIMBUKTU nothing but ghost town by 1893.

    To bad, ciriculim spesialists don’t know real history. In my new country,how much citizens pay for ciriculim specialists? How come citizens put up with ignorant school administrators? Why not take salary of ignorant administrator(s)and buy maybe three tearchers who can help students? Any administrator not know about Emp. ASKIA, one of most famous of all MUSLIMS ever live,……ESTUPIDO!!!!!

    Beware When The Moon Shine Bright!!!


    [Ed note: typo corrected in post]

  14. el Zorro said on 27 Feb 2007 at 6:24 pm:
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    Z…. sorRy for Typo. TIMBUKTU established by TUAREG in 1087 Not 1987 like Z…make mistake!

    Beware When The Moon Shine Bright!!


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