Report: ID Civics, US History Education Leaves 'A Lot To Be Desired'

Jul 2, 2021

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Civics and history education are lacking in Idaho, according to a new report.

The Thomas B. Fordham Institute rated every state's civics and U.S. history standards for kindergarten through 12th grade and found 20 were inadequate in both categories, including Idaho.

Senior research and policy associate at the institute, David Griffith, said standards should spell out as specifically as possible what students need to learn. He said Idaho's civics sequence for elementary school is fair but notes standards overall are not well organized.

"We need a lot more at the high school level, both on the U.S. history side and on the civics side," said Griffith. "And then just from sort of a basic user-friendliness standpoint, documents that have been pulled together leave a lot to be desired."

The report gives Idaho a 'D' grade for its civics education and 'F' for U.S. history.

The Idaho Department of Education says their standards provide leeway so that local districts can make them more rigorous.

Griffith said many states are struggling with civics education because of how politicized the conversation has become.

"In general, it's kind of a war zone, right?" said Griffith. "There's so much controversy over how these things should be taught that it's getting in the way of just ensuring that they are taught and that kids have some sense of these things."

Critical race theory, an academic concept that examines the role of racism within U.S. law, has become one of the latest controversial talking points.

Idaho Lieutenant Gov. Janice McGeachin set up an "indoctrination" task force earlier this year to look into whether the concept is taught in state schools. But Griffith said he believes the discussion over critical race theory is a distraction that is unnecessarily pushing people apart.

"One of the messages of the report and one of the things that we're trying to get at is, look, if you can get past these buzzwords, you may discover that you agree on more than you realize" said Griffith.