Social Science Education is Tanking–Just Ask Justin Bieber

April 17th, 2013

Before the tragic events unfolded in Boston, I’d planned to address an incident that seems somewhat minor on the surface but may portend something bigger for the future. Since I don’t want too many days to pass since the actual event, I’ll address it today.

You probably heard about the “event.”  It involves teen favorite, Justin Bieber, and his visit to the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam.  Evidently, Bieber toured the home and museum and concluded his visit by writing in the Guestbook the following: “Truly inspiring to be able to come here.  Anne was a great girl.  Hopefully, she would have been a belieber.”

For those like me who don’t know much about Bieber, evidently a “belieber” is someone who is a fan of his.

Obviously, there is a problem with this incident on several levels.

Let’s take Bieber himself.  Clearly, he is quite full of himself to the point that someone needs to take him aside and deprogram him from his cult of self-worship. Currently, only Kim Jong Un appears to be giving him a run for his money in this department.

Putting aside the narcissism oozing from his statement, however, his clear lack of knowledge about history is stunning.  Granted he’s Canadian and I know nothing about their education system there, but I certainly hope that they put a higher premium on studying history than evidenced by Bieber’s quite frankly stupid statement.

Sadly, he’s not the only pop star admired by America’s youth to show such ignorance.  America’s own, Britney Spears, reportedly said, “I get to go to lots of overseas places, like Canada.”  I’m sure even Bieber would be appalled by that one.

She also evidently said, “I’ve never really wanted to go to Japan.  Simply because I don’t like eating fish. And I know that’s very popular in Africa.”  Clearly, either they’re not teaching Geography in Spear’s home state of Louisiana or she completely checked out when they did.

My biggest concern in all of this is what kids these days are learning (or more obviously not learning) about History, Geography, and Government.  If you have any doubt about the state of the last topic just watch a late night television show and the Man on the Street interviews where they ask young people to name the current Speaker of the House or Vice President of the United States.  Not only do a lot of those interviewed not know the answer, the answers they come up with make Britney Spears look like a candidate for the Nobel Prize.

I’ve observed much of the fall of the teaching of Social Sciences in my own son’s school.  It’s a private school in Austin with an excellent reputation.  That’s why I was quite disappointed in eighth grade when his American History teacher chose to skip the Civil War.  Granted, I understood her dilemma in trying to “fit it all in,” but I really think the Civil War is significant enough that it warrants at least a mention.  Later in the school year, as I was helping him study for his final, I noticed that three of the Vocabulary Words dealt with the Gay Rights Movement.  While I believe in a broad based education and the importance of learning about lots of things, I think in the interest of balance the teacher could have perhaps exchanged at least two of those words for the “Gettysburg Address” or the “Emancipation Proclamation”.

I shared my concern about the poor state of the history program at the school with the head of the Upper School at a parent gathering.  I could tell that he was a little uncomfortable by my comment in such a setting so I tried to put him at ease.

“Don’t worry,” I told him, “He ended up learning about the Civil War when we took him to Gettysburg on vacation.”

I know since the days of George Washington and well before parents worried about what they’re children might be learning.  But those generations had one distinct advantage.

They didn’t have self-absorbed twits like Bieber sending out a barrage of inane comments in 140 characters or less and young people hanging on these very words.

As parents, I think it’s up to us to assure that our kids get a good education in these areas because if we don’t fight for it ourselves, sadly, I don’t believe it will happen.