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May 2011 Issue

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Cover Story

Flunking Civics: Why America’s Kids Know So Little

Parents traditionally worry about what their children are learning in school, but it’s what those students are not learning that’s even more unsettling. Only one state deserved a rating of A when it came to teaching its students American history, according to a recent study. Most states fall in the category of “mediocre to awful.”

The study ranked history standards in 49 states and the District of Columbia (Rhode Island has no mandatory history standards, only suggested guidelines) for “content and rigor” and “clarity and specificity” on a scale of A to F. Only South Carolina got straight A’s.

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Nine states’ standards earned a grade of A- or B. But a majority of states—28 in all—had standards ratings of D or F, the study found.

The findings confirm what the study’s authors have long suspected, says Chester E. Finn Jr., president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, the Washington, D.C.-based educational think tank that conducted the study.

“No wonder so many Americans know so little about our nation’s past,” he says.

Feature Section

    Battle of Atlanta: Fight over a Downtown Homeless Shelter Strains Some Down-Home Ties

    Stephen Riddell was livid. He was mincing no words with Steven Hall as they took turns interrupting each other during a deposition last year. “You’re pathetic. You’re an embarrassment to the legal profession,” Riddell sputtered at Hall in an exchange captured on videotape. “Racist,” Hall muttered in a pointed, one-word retort.

    The blowup was uncustomary for both.

    A Trove of Historic Jazz Recordings has Found a Home in Harlem, But You Can’t Hear Them

    The swing era lasted barely a decade—roughly the mid-1930s until the end of World War II—but it was a golden age for jazz. Legendary musicians who had helped invent the music still were in their prime. And they could be heard everywhere. But the only people who got to hear their jazz heroes stretch out and work through new musical ideas in those impromptu blowing sessions were those sitting in the audience. In those days, technology limited recordings to a window of only about three minutes, the amount of music that could fit on 78 rpm records. The ability to record extended performances by the era’s jazz greats simply didn’t exist. Or so it was thought.

Letters to the Editor

Letters to the Editor: Income Tracks