Melissa Harris-Perry | November 03, 2012
>>> adults cast a ballot, many of our fellow citizens, under 18 will pretend to vote in mock elections. students will be engaging in a kind of make-believe that often passes for real education. students understanding of themselves as citizens is grounded in the mythical stories that we tell ourselves. they are myths that begin with in 1492 , columbus sailed the ocean blue and tell how the pilgrims and indians gave thanks for a bountiful harvest over a turkey dinner but none of the lessons prepare students to deal with the duty which they will be charged with as american adults, how to become responsible citizens. joining my panel is seth andrew, founder and superintendent of democracy prep, public schools . i want to move our conversation a little bit. this close to the election, what i want to talk about as a teacher is not just what's going to happen in this election but what's going to happen going forward. when i was looking at these tests of national civic knowledge, i was completely freaked out. may of 2011 , fewer than 5% are demonstrating advanced levels of knowledge. what kind of social studies are we teaching?
>> we have a crisis when we think of the actual knowledge of our o our electorate. we have kids that get out of school and they can't determine truth from lies. we have to rethink civic education in america in a dramatic way. we think about civic knowledge often and what it takes to build civic knowledge. we need to be creating civic dispositions. the habits of individuals coming out of school who actually know what it takes to be a good citizen and become engaged in civic life for the rest of their lives.
>> is one of the reasons we have trouble telling the difference between myth and fact or between good arguments and poor ones about our civic culture? because we lie to kids so much early on, on the one hand, i get that you need to know the story first before you can deconstruct it. you need to know the columbus story before you can go back and say, that's not how it went down. abraham lincoln freed the slaves but not quite. do we just teach the lies and the myth and it is easy for a politician to repeat those myths later.
>> let's start with this. we have to teach kids to read. our public schools are in a similar crisis. our students are not able to read or think critically at the foundation. if you take the lies and the history books that may or may not be correctly based on the reality of history or skewed in one way or another or put together by a text book publisher, you are not looking at the core issues. what we have tried to do is say, let's get to the core issues. how do we build kids that are critical thinkers and readers and look at issues and deconstruct them and understand the negatives of any individual case that is being made in the public realm and make their own cases? we work hard to build those civic dispositions and then turn to authentic skills. if you have the dispositions and the skills you need to be a good citizen, the knowledge is easy to attain. if you can read, you can understand what you need to learn about history. that's something we are focused on in all the wrong directions.
>> it is interesting you make this point. i was looking at the fact that governor january brew brewer after hb- 1081 which stripped the arizona schools of ethnic solidarity courses, african- american history and latino history. the democracy prep is a predominantly african- american school in harlem . is there a way as your trying to get young people involved for helping them get that critical world view on their own nation.
>> people use it is as an excuse. we have a black president . you can't say, i can't relate to politics because there aren't people like me in office. there are now. the question is the quality of our public schools . with our kids, we try to focus on that leelreally early. so they can say, how can i become an engaged citizen when i'm an adult? our kids are out doing, get out to vote campaigns. they are out there doing a campaign called, i can't vote but you can. you will see them in harlem with their bright yellow shirt saying, i can't vote. they want to let people know, today is election day . 40% of americans are not going to turn out on tuesday despite all that we are talking about.
>> i am going to bring the rest of my panel back in as soon as we come back. as we go to break, i want you to take a look at seth's kids from democracy prep harlem campus teaching all of us about civil responsibility.
>>> welcome back. we have been discussing the content of what we teach our children to help them grow up to be constructive and productive citizens on democracy. has high-stake testing killed social studies ? are you making a claim that the testing is the most important? i keep thinking i think politics is fascinating. how can