Bill Dunlap, the director of the New Hampshire Historical Society, sat down with NHPR to talk about the “Democracy Project,” an effort to revise the history and civics curriculum in school. In it, he emphasized the importance of teaching history and civics in school, and the decline of knowledge among our youth.
Here’s an excerpt:
Has there been any talk about revisiting the curriculum for history and civics education?
The New Hampshire Historical Society, back in the 1990s, got a large grant to create the definitive New Hampshire history curriculum. And we provided that to the schools at no charge. Part of our Democracy Project initiative is to refresh that curriculum. It’s been in place for 25 years. Some schools use it, some don’t use it, but we’ve heard it needs to be updated. And important thing is to get it into the internet so teachers can access it easily, and there will be student content available via our website.
The legislature has taken some action on this issue. Under a new law, high school students will have to take one credit of history and a half credit of civics to graduate. Is there more you think lawmakers could do?
There may be more. In fact, the New Hampshire Historical Society had a hand in helping with the language on the bill that created the half year of civics as a mandate for graduation. One of the challenges in New Hampshire is there has been a social studies standard that’s been on the books for many years that requires that to be taught at the high school level, but a challenge is nobody’s really tracking it. The Department of Education simply doesn’t have the resources to staff an effort to really capture a lot of information. For example, they had a social studies coordinator at the DOE who retired and that position has not been filled due to budget constraints, so it’s hard to look to the state. They can provide some guidance, but in terms of compliance, it’s been a spotty record over the years.