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History Standards Revised

Do you remember the "National Standards for United States History" that were so objectionable that the U.S. Senate denounced them in a vote of 99 to 1? (See Education Reporter, April 1995.) Those standards were roundly criticized by scholars of all points of view.

They have just been rewritten by the National Center for History in the Schools, based at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), the same group that wrote the original controversial book.

One of the major criticisms of the original standards was the total omission of America's great inventors, especially Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, and the Wright Brothers. Those engaged in the rewrite job thumbed their noses as this criticism.

"We didn't feel we were in the business of writing lists of names for kids to study," said UCLA history professor Gary B. Nash who directed the project. "To do that would have been catering to the bean counters."

Take that, Thomas Edison! Nobody would be interested in you except bean counters!

Some concessions to criticism, however, were made. George Washington is now in; Eleanor Roosevelt is out. Pearl Harbor has risen in importance; Timbuktu has disappeared. Senator Joseph McCarthy has been reduced to one mention from 19 in the original, and Seneca Falls reduced to one mention from six in the original.

The revised standards are being praised by Diane Ravitch, former Bush appointee and longtime advocate of national standards, but criticized by John Fonte, executive director of the Washington-based Committee to Review National Standards. He said they do not deserve to be a national model because they still slight the West, display partisanship, editorialize, and contain inaccuracies.

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