US schools don't make the grade in Latin American history

Simon Bolivar? Hernando Cortez? Kids don’t know.
— reported by

A new Fordham Institute study says two-thirds of the states don’t make the grade when it comes to standards for instruction in world history, but states received their lowest marks for weak or non-existent standards for the teaching of the history and culture of Latin America and Mexico.

The study, by renowned historian Walter Russell Mead, is the first ever conducted of states’ academic standards for teaching K-12 world history. Saying he was “aghast at how poorly written and organized” are most states’ world history standards, Mead’s report reserves especially harsh criticism for the lack of effective standards for instruction in the history and culture of the Western Hemisphere.

“The United States did $409 billion in trade with Latin America and Mexico in 2004 alone, and the Hispanic population is growing exponentially,” noted Michael Petrilli, the Institute’s Vice President for National Programs and Policy. “We are an increasingly ‘Latinized’ culture, where a working knowledge of the rich history of Latin America and Mexico will soon be indispensable to this generation of young Americans – socially, politically, economically and culturally,”

Nonetheless, on a scale of “zero” to “10,” four states (Alaska, Idaho, Missouri and Montana) received a grade of “z ero” for maintaining standards that pay only “superficial or cursory attention” to Mexico and the Western Hemisphere. Another 30 states – including Hispanic population centers like Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Nevada and Texas — received grades of “2” through “5” for standards that address Mexico and Latin America, but with “significant gaps or shortcomings” in their approaches.



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