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Americanism in Context

E Pluribus Unum: Are We Losing Our American Heritage?

Paula J. Baumgardner

Shawnee State University

Department of Teacher Education

Advisor- Dr. Patric Leedom

March 22, 2010

Candidate for Masters of Education, Curriculum & Instruction


This paper explores the alarming concern that many students who graduate from schools in Scioto County Ohio, are not adequately familiar with United States History and American Government. A four-pronged approach was conducted utilizing an initial survey of colleagues and parents, data retrieved from the Ohio Department of Education website, the Americanism and Government Test, Ohio Department of Education communiqué and a survey from Scioto County Social Studies educators. This paper analyzes the changes in the social studies standards within the last decade, according to the Ohio Department of Education. Furthermore, an analysis was conducted comparing the results from 2005-2010 Ohio Graduation Test (OGT). The OGT was examined for the content of American History, American Government, Citizens Rights and Responsibilities questions. In addition to the OGT results, an Americanism test, sponsored by the American Legion, was given to participating schools. The results from selected questions were also analyzed for students’ knowledge of American History and Government. Lastly, a survey was conducted to inquire more data from the local high school social studies teachers. The change in the Ohio social studies standards and students’ knowledge of America’s foundation could have a tremendous impact on the future of America. Will we, as a nation, lose our American Heritage over time? Will we no longer have a common understanding of how this country came to be, and why we are governed the way we are? By not exposing the next generation to the Founders’ plan for our country, it could happen (Neal, Martin, & Moses, 2000). According to Thomas Jefferson, “History by apprising [citizens] of the past will enable them to judge of the future; it will avail them as judges of the actions and designs of men; it will enable them to know ambition under very disguise it may assume; and knowing it, to defeat its views” (Spalding, 2002, p. 159).

Keywords: American History, American Government, Ohio Department of Education, Ohio Gradation Test, social studies standards, American Legion, United States Constitution, founders, Americanism Test

Table of Contents

Abstract 2


Introduction 5

Overview 6

Research Questions 7

Literature Review 7

Why study the past? 8

Why are there changes? 12

What Impact Can These Changes Have? 15

Conclusion 18

Methodology/Research Design 19

Data Analysis and Interpretation 27

Summary, Discussion, and Application 27

References 28

Index to Appendices 32


This nation is in a crisis. This crisis could be at the expense of every citizen of the United States of America. Each year, schools in the United States graduate a generation ignorant of American History and Government. This can have tremendous consequences for The United States. For instance, America’s heritage could be lost forever if students’ are not educated in the principles the forefathers had fought for. Heritage, as defined by the Oxford English Dictionary, is characterized by or pertaining to the preservation or exploitation of local and national features of historical, or cultural interest (Oxford English Dictionary [OED], 2010). Furthermore, the rights of Americans’ could be usurped if Americans are not cultured in the Constitution.

It is imperative that this generation and subsequent generations are taught about the development of this country and the sacrifices that were made to make it the country that it was designed to be. The youth need to be educated in the fundamentals of American History and Government, particularly the colonial and Revolutionary periods. Moreover, students need to be taught about the great accomplishments and the failures of this nation’s history. Without knowledge, people perish—in this case our nation will not continue to be a free nation if our present and future generations do not have a firm foundational understanding of the founding fathers’ principles of the United States. James Madison, Father of the Constitution, stated, “A popular Government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy; or, perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives” (Spalding, 2002, p.150).

Furthermore, students need to understand the relevance of holding on to America’s founding principles so that this country can remain as one—United States of America. It is to this end, that it is necessary that all educators help mold this and the next generation into citizens who know where they came from, know where they are going, and the possible implications if they are not secure in their national heritage.


The purpose of this study was to analyze the possible causes attributing to students lack of knowledge in the area of American History and Government. Upon conducting an examination of the Ohio Department of Education’s requirements for students’ to graduate, a few issues were brought to the forefront. First, it would appear that students, for the most part, are achieving the required benchmarks according to the results from the 2009 & 2010 Ohio Graduation Test. However, upon further investigation, the results are misleading as far as students’ knowledge of American History and Government.

A further examination was conducted in regards to students’ participating in the Americanism test that is provided by the local American Legion. The results that were collected do not correspond with that of the OGT. It appears that there is a vast discrepancy between the OGT results and that of the Americanism test.

In addition, a web survey was given to teachers from the schools that participated in the Americanism test and to a few that did not. The survey was conducted to garner more information in regards to the curricula that is taught to Scioto County High School students. It was also conducted to analyze students’ preparedness for the Americanism test. Of the information collected from the survey, teachers did not prepare the students prior to taking the Americanism exam.

This paper will reveal through the literature the importance of teaching and learning American History and Government. In addition, a more comprehensive investigation and analysis of the Ohio Graduation Test, the Ohio Department of Education requirements, the Americanism test, and the survey from local Scioto County teachers will be discussed.

Research Questions

1. Are Scioto County students meeting the social studies standards set by the Ohio Department of Education?

2. Do the questions on the Ohio Graduation Test support these standards?

3. Are the questions on the OGT applicable to the founding of America and the Constitution?

4. Are Scioto County students taught about the United States Constitution and American History pertaining to the founding of The United States?

Literature Review

Literature articles have been written to expose the lack of education students are receiving in American History and Government and the effects of this lack of knowledge. In a study conducted by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, it was discovered that many college students graduate without knowing their American heritage (Neal, Martin, & Moses, 2000, p. _____). Hess (2009) describes in his article that, “too many young Americans do not possess the kind of basic knowledge they need. When asked fundamental questions about U.S. history and culture, they scored a D and exhibited stunning knowledge gaps” (p. 5).

This literature review will address some of the underlying issues in hopes of gaining a perspective on this increasing trend.

1. Why study the past?

2. Why are there changes?

3. What impact can these changes have on the future?

Why study the past?

Carpenter (2004) points out that Thomas Jefferson, writer of the Declaration of Independence and third president of the United States, “believed that the main purpose of an educated citizenry is to serve as the basic line of defense against any encroachment on their lives by a government” (p. 144). He continues by saying that Jefferson “thought it important to read such political works as the Declaration of Independence, the Federalist Papers, and the Constitution of the United States” (p. 145). Nash (2009) concurs by stating that, “[Thomas] Jefferson, [Benjamin] Rush, and [Noah] Webster represent the desire to use schooling to create the ‘uniform America’ and ‘to create a new unity, a common citizenship and culture’ . . .and to create citizens who would be loyal to the new country” (p. 419).

Noah Webster, Father of American Scholarship and Education, had the same philosophy as the other founders in that he believed “It is an object of vast magnitude that systems of education should be adopted and pursued which may not only diffuse a knowledge of the sciences but may implant in the minds of the American youth the principles of virtue and of liberty and inspire them with just and liberal ideas of government and with an inviolable attachment to their own country” (Spalding, 2002, pp. 149-150). James Madison believed that “The best service that can be rendered to a Country, next to that of giving it liberty, is in diffusing the mental improvement equally essential to the preservation, and the enjoyment of the blessing” (Spalding, 2002, p. 149). Neal, et al. (2000) concurs by explaining, “The nation’s past unifies a people and ensures a common civic identity (p. 4). She continues to say that “the importance of a shared memory appears to have lost its foothold in higher education” and “what happens in higher education relates directly to what happens in K-12 (2009).

Neal further advocates that, “other than our schools, no institutions bear greater responsibility for the transmission of our heritage than colleges and universities” (p. 7). Finally, Neal explains that, “citizens who fail to know basic landmarks of history and civics are unlikely to be able to reflect on their meaning” and therefore, “fail to recognize . . . the importance of preserving it” (p. 7). Spalding (2002) discusses that founding father Benjamin Franklin had reservations if the new republic would be preserved. After the Constitutional Convention, Benjamin Franklin was asked what kind of government was created. He was quoted to say, “A republic, if you can keep it” (p. XIV).

Hess’s (2009) study seems to articulate the same philosophy as Neal’s. Hess stated that, “it is vital that schools familiarize students with the history and culture that form the shared bonds of their national community” (p. 7). Hess continues to address the issue that our forefathers regarded comprehensive education as the schools purpose. This is the schools’ primary mission, to “equip every young person for the responsibilities and privileges of citizenship” (p. 7). In order to achieve this goal one must be taught, “with the historical narrative and cultural touchstones that mark our national experience, schools provide the vocabulary for a common conversation that can render e pluribus unum” (p. 7). Spalding agrees by quoting John Adams, “. . . the longest liver of you all will find no principles, institutions or systems of education more fit in general to be transmitted to your posterity than those you have received from your ancestors” (p. 159). Hess stated that, “Absent shared reference points, it may be more difficult for young Americans . . . to find their common identity as citizens” (p. 7).

Spalding (2002) acknowledged that Thomas Jefferson believed all children should be provided “with the skills--reading, writing, arithmetic, geography, and history—necessary to live free and independently as adults” (p. 91). He further states that Jefferson believed all children “must be given a civic education that instructs them in ‘their rights, interests and duties, as men and citizens’” (p. 91). Moreover, Noah Webster believed that, “Every child in America should be acquainted with his own country. He should read books that furnish him with ideas that will be useful to him in life and practice. As soon as he opens his lips, he should rehearse the history of his own country” (Spalding, 2002, p. 159). Additionally, Spalding quoted Thomas Jefferson saying, “It is the duty of every good citizen to use all the opportunities which occur to him, for preserving documents relating to the history of our country” (p. 159). Gutierrez (2003) emphasized, “In order for people to appreciate the legitimate claim of the polity and the society from which the government came, they must be knowledgeable about the origins of its professed values and beliefs. Therefore, as part of a government, civics, and even history curriculum, the content should include historical study of the origins of those ideals, especially in order to avoid an inaccurate or distorted understanding of those origins” (p. 221).

Carpenter (2004) quotes Jefferson saying:

For this purpose the reading in the first stage, where they will receive their whole education, is proposed . . . to be chiefly historical. History by apprising them of the past will enable them to judge the future; it will avail them of the experience of other times and other nations; it will qualify them as judges of the actions and designs of men; it will enable them to know ambition under every disguise it may assume, and knowing it, to defeat its views (p. 141).

Carpenter (2004) continues to say, “The ultimate goal of Jefferson’s educational plan was, of course, effective citizenship education” (p. 142). In addition, “ . . . all citizens regardless of educational background, would be effective defenders of the new republic against threats to their personal liberty” (p. 142).

President George Washington summed the Americanism ideology during his farewell address:

. . . you should properly estimate the immense value of your national Union to your collective and individual happiness; that you should cherish a cordial, habitual and immovable attachment to it; accustoming yourselves to think and speak of it as of the Palladium of your political safety and prosperity; watching for its preservation with jealous anxiety; discountenancing whatever may suggest even a suspicion that it can in any event be abandoned, and indignantly frowning upon the first dawning of every attempt to alienate any portion of our Country from the rest, or to enfeeble the sacred ties which now link together the various parts. (Spalding, 2002, p. 302)

Why are there changes?

According to Neal, et al. (2000), “The abandonment of history requirements is part of a national trend” (p. 6). She supports her statement by including a 1988 study completed by the National Endowment for Humanities. This study indicated “that more than 80 percent of colleges and universities permitted students to graduate without taking a course in American history while 37 percent of those institutions allowed students to avoid history altogether” (p. 6). Neal further explains that thirteen years later, the percentage increased to “One hundred percent do not require American history and 78 percent require no history at all (p. 6). Even though Neal’s primary focus was the college level, she stated that few students who leave high school have adequate knowledge of American history and that “colleges and universities do nothing to close the ‘knowledge gap’” (p. 6). Robelen (2010) concurs with Neal in that “efforts to rewrite social studies standards come as concerns persist . . .are getting squeezed out of the classroom because of the federal No Child Left Behind Act’s emphasis on reading and math” (p. 18).

On the other hand, the National Assessment of Educational Progress, as of 2006, “America’s twelfth, eighth, and especially fourth-graders know more U.S. history now than in the past” (p. 1). This appears to be contradictory according to the Ohio Department of Education assessment results analyzed from various years (ODE, 2010). Furthermore, the analysis reported from the NAEP does not appear accurate when students will only need “ . . . a half unit of credit in American History and a half unit of credit in American Government” (p. 1) in order to graduate high school. ODE outlines the “course examines the history of the United States of America from 1877 to the present” (p. 3). Lynne Munson, according to Robelen (2010), said, “scaling back the breadth of American history coverage in high school is a bad idea” (p. 19).

In addition, the ODE, as other “proponents of the spiral curriculum, suggested that the fifth grade go from 1492 to the War of 1812 . . .” (Stotsky, 2004, p. 27). Stotsky continues by implying that “the average fifth grader is incapable of bringing much depth of understanding to our basic political principles” (p. 27). Robelen (2010) reported Lynne Munson stating, “I do think once you’re in high school and your intellectual development and background knowledge . . .you can restudy the American past in a way that will bring more meaning than you might have been able to glean at earlier grades” (p. 19).

Hess’s (2009) article indicated that the change to students’ knowledge of American history is three-fold. First, he stated, “The nation is in thrall [sic] with testing and basic skills. We think this is a mistake” (p. 6). Hess’s concern with the Title I legislation was that, “Congress required all states to create standards and testing, but only in reading and mathematics” (p. 6). This new policy meant an increase in instructional time to those areas of testing and a decrease in instructional time for history (p. 8). The second issue is that “some children grow up in homes . . . in which parents are not conversant in questions of history and culture . . . and that schools are especially crucial” (Hess, 2009, p. 7). Lastly, Hess emphasizes the change in our youth’s culture. He stated, “American youth have more schooling, money, leisure time, and information than any previous generation, yet they devote enormous quantities of time to social networking websites, television, and video games” (p. 7).

Waters (2005), on the other hand, believes the changes are not only due to what students are taught, but their perception of American history is different depending on the grade level (p. 11-12). Beyond this, Waters stated that curriculum changes occur in the K-12 level because of political correctness and that this correctness changes over time (p. 13-14). Waters continues by stating, “Today’s textbooks will be criticized for having omitted issues which do not seem important today” (p. 13). DeRose (2009) concurs with Waters, by stating that there are “some factors affecting historical interpretation” (p. 233). For example, “emotion and feeling can influence our perceptions of current individuals and events” (p. 233). However, with some distance, our memories of the past will change (p. 233). However, Spalding (2002) reiterates Washington’s Farewell address stating, “For this you have every inducement of sympathy and interest. Citizens by birth or choice, of a common country, that country has a right to concentrate your affections. The name AMERICAN, which belongs to you, in your national capacity, must always exalt the just pride of Patriotism, more than any appellation derived from local discriminations” (p. 303). Lastly, DeRose recognized that, “As society places greater or less emphasis on certain issues or becomes more accepting or even less tolerant of various groups or conditions, we might reinterpret the past to conform to these new social standards” (p. 233).

On the other hand, Stotsky (2004) examined that, “The history of Western political thought is diminishing because of the comparative sociocultural approach now frequently used for the study of history” (p. 28). She continues to say that, “In effect, sociocultural approaches tend to obliterate the origins and development of our civic culture, to devalue the groups that advanced individual rights and to create sympathy for cultures, extinct or not, that don’t value individual rights” (p. 28).

Stotsky (2004) further addresses the concern that teachers are not adequately trained. She states that “In an application for a Teaching American History (TAH) grant from one of the wealthiest counties in the country, school officials provided a chart showing that 52 percent of its eighth grade U.S. history teachers have neither a history nor a social studies license, that 38 percent of its ninth grade U.S. history teachers have neither a history nor a social studies license, and that a whopping 86 percent of the English as a Second Language teachers who teach U.S. history classes for ESL students at eight county high schools have not had a single course in U.S. history” (p. 21).

What Impact Can These Changes Have?

Neal, et al. (2000) addresses three issues that these changes can have. First, “As we move forward into the 21st century, our future leaders are graduating with an alarming ignorance of their heritage—a kind of collective amnesia—and a profound historical illiteracy which bodes ill for the future of the republic” (p. 4). Secondly, if these “graduates leave school without knowing the foundations of American society, children they teach will certainly do no better” (p. 7). Lastly, Neal quotes novelist Milan Kundera stating, “If you want to destroy a country, destroy its memory. If a hostile power wanted to erase America’s civic heritage, it could hardly do a better job—short of actually prohibiting the study of American history” (p. 6). Samuel Adams, Founding Father, projected a similar thought. He stated:

No people will tamely surrender their Liberties, nor can any be easily subdued, when knowledge is diffused and Virtue is preserved. On the Contrary, when People are universally ignorant, and debauched in their Manners, they will sink under their own weight without the Aid of foreign Invaders (Spalding, 2002, p. 150).

Novak (2002) supports Neal by stating, “People are willing to kill us just for being Americans. So we ought at least to know what being American is. Yet many of our students have been taught painfully little about our nation’s history, purposes, or achievements” (p. 32).

Hess (2009) made an interesting discovery. He conducted a telephone survey asking simple multiple-choice questions of 1,200 17-year-olds about United States history. Hess discovered that, “teens on the cusp of adulthood earned a D overall” (p. 16). He further states, “A deep lack of knowledge is neither humorous nor trivial . . . also affects our contribution as a democratic citizen” (p. 6). He continues by saying, “Any reform idea that diminished the ability of schools and teacher to provide students with such an education is narrowing children’s futures, not expanding them” (p. 6). Alabama Senator Jeff Sessons agrees by saying, “At the root of this despicable failure to grasp the ‘unique . . . blessings we experience as Americans,’ is mass ignorance about the American Constitution and the Founding Fathers, encouraged by insufficiently patriotic educators” (Street, 2002, p. 282). Sessons supports this claim by citing the Department of Education by saying, “sixty percent of U.S. high school students lack ‘basic knowledge of American history’ and ‘two thirds don’t even know that the first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution are called the Bill of Rights’” (Streets, 2003, p. 283). Kovacs (2009) wrote about a survey conducted by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. “The project surveyed more than 100,000 high school students, nearly 8,000 teachers and more than 500 administrators and principals” (p. 14). The results were astounding. “Given that the First Amendment is one of the bedrocks of U.S. democracy, their report is not encouraging: 49% of students believed that the government should regulate newspapers; 35% of students believed that the First Amendment goes too far in the rights it guarantees; an additional 21% did not know enough about the First Amendment to state an opinion” (p. 14).

Shenkman (2008) states that, “Polls over the past three decades measuring Americans’ knowledge of history show . . . dismal results” (p. 20). He gave a few staggering numbers that emphasized the grave reality of this increasing trend. For example, “In 1991 Americans were asked how long the term of U.S. senator is. Just 25 percent correctly answered six years” (p. 20). He furthers this quest by emphasizing that “only 20 percent know that there are 100 senators” (p. 20). Amazingly, only 40 percent of “Americans . . . can correctly identify and name the three branches of government” (p. 20). Shenkman indicated, “What is needed is specifically an emphasis on civics. Studies show that people who know civics are less easily manipulated by politicians” (p. 177). He further emphasizes that “The time has arrived when we need to restore civics to school curricula.” He continues saying, “This is an argument in favor of doing more civics, not less” (p. 178).

“In the country that gave birth to Jefferson’s conception of an educated citizenry, [schools], colleges and universities are failing to provide the kind of general education that is needed for graduates to be involved and educated citizens”(Neal, et al. 2000, p. 6). Thomas Jefferson’s quote, “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be” (Shenkman, 2008, p. 13) is very profound considering the future of America.


The articles’ common theme in regards to American History and Government is the fact that many Americans are not firmly grounded in their American heritage and governmental foundations. Several factors contribute to these deficiencies in the educational system. However, two things are certain, America had an influential past and American history is always changing. Every day historical events occur. The challenge arises when we have to decide what is significant enough to place in American history curriculum, what is to be removed, and what is to be tested. We are made up of a diverse people, ideologies, and preexisting beliefs of our American history. It will always be a battle among those in charge of our curriculum and who presents the material as to how our children will learn and to what extent the material will influence them. According to Neal (2000), “The most direct solution is a strong curriculum, with a broad-based rigorous course on American history required of all students. The course should include the breadth of American history, from the colonial period to the present” (p. 8). This will not only give the students a “sense of where the country has been, but what it has meant” (p. 8).

“Our first task is to return to teaching Americans about America and teaching immigrants how to become Americans. Until we re-establish a legitimate moral and cultural standard, our civilization is at risk” (Nash, 2001, p. 42). Stotsky (2004) concurs by stating, “No student should graduate from an American high school without an upper-high-school level understanding of such basic political principles as limited government, consent of the people, checks and balances, and an independent judiciary” (p. 30). Gutierrez (2003) also agrees that it is important to “teach the constitutional foundations of the American people as defined by the founding generation” (p. 236). In addition, Gutierrez believes, “. . . a theoretical foundation that is part of our political and cultural heritage seems to be worthwhile place to start in building a renewed commitment to our commonwealth” (p. 240).

Spalding (2002) quoted Joseph Story’s urgency of passing the American legacy to the next generation:

Let the American youth never forget, that they possess a noble inheritance, bought by the toils, and sufferings, and blood on their ancestors; and capable, if wisely improved, and faithfully guarded, of transmitting to their latest posterity all the substantial blessings of life, the peaceful enjoyment of liberty, property, religion and independence. The structure has been erected by architects of consummate skill and fidelity; its foundations are solid; its compartments are beautiful, as well as useful; its arrangements are full of wisdom and order; and its defences are impregnable from without. It has been reared for immorality, if the work of man may justly aspire to such a title. It may, nevertheless, perish in an hour by the folly, or corruption, or negligence of its only keepers, THE PEOPLE. (p. 231).

Methodology/Research Design


The purpose of this research was to garner evidence of students’ knowledge of America’s historical heritage. The approach to collecting this data was multi-faceted. Two surveys were administered. The first was distributed June 2010 and another was conducted January 2011. Detail analysis will be explained for both surveys later in this chapter and in the data analysis and interpretation portion of this study.

The researcher further explored the Ohio Department of Education’s social studies requirements for high school students by accessing the Ohio Department of Education website. Furthermore, data was collected and examined from the 2005-2010 Ohio Graduation Tests. The OGT questions and results were accessed from the Ohio Department of Education website. An additional probe was conducted by sending an email, in questionnaire format, to all social studies coordinators of the Ohio Department of Education for clarification in regards to the social studies content standards and OGT questions.

The next phase of this research consisted of collecting and analyzing fifteen of the fifty questions that was contained on the 2010 Americanism and Government Test. The local American Legion provides this test to participating schools in the community.

Research Design

In the summer of 2010, an initial survey was conducted using (2010). This is a free online survey software and questionnaire tool. This survey was conducted for the primary purpose of gathering information about the direction the participants believed the educational system was going in regards to what students were learning about American History and Government. An email with the link to the survey site was sent to twenty-five potential participants. The response yielded fifteen participants. The partakers included fifteen local educators and parents. The responses from the participants confirmed the initial inquiry, “Are we losing our American heritage?” The survey consisted of eight short answers in which the respondents had to answer agree or disagree to each of the eight questions. For example, one of the questions asked if they believed we are losing our American heritage. Another question asked was if they believed that high school graduates appear to know less about American history than their educational equal of five decades ago. The last two questions pertained to their thoughts as to who should be responsible for making any changes to the social studies curriculum for Ohio schools. Lastly, each participant was to give an overall grade to our educational system for preserving the American heritage. This initial inquiry confirmed that further research was necessary.

The second phase of the research led to the Ohio Department of Education website. The research consisted of many avenues. First, an examination of the social studies requirements and credits students need to graduate high school was conducted. As it is written in the Social Studies Model Curriculum Development (ODE, 2010), the social studies standards were organized into seven strands as of 2002. These seven strands consisted of History, People in Societies, Geography, Economics, Government, Citizenship Rights and Responsibilities, and Social Studies Skills and Methods (2010). The 2010 revisions compressed the seven strands into four strands. These consist of History, Geography, Economics, and Government. The focus of this study will be confined to American History and Government.

A further examination consisted of discovering the number of credits students need for American History and Government to graduate high school. First, one must understand what a ‘credit’ measures. Carnegie Units “was developed in 1906 as a measure of the amount of time a student has studied a subject. For example, a total of 120 hours in one subject—meeting 4 or 5 times a week for 40 to 60 minutes, for 36 to 40 weeks each year—earns the student one "unit" of high school credit” (Carnegie Institute, 2010).

Next, an analysis of the Academic Content Standards Revision of High School Social Studies Course Syllabi (ODE, 2010) was conducted. The American History and American Government syllabi were thoroughly analyzed for content and for the historical timeframe that was applicable to this study. It was relevant to this research to discover the grade levels high school students are required to take American History and Government. Moreover, it was pertinent to this study as to what type of history and what time era’s students learn this information.

Additionally, the Ohio Graduation Test data was collected and analyzed from the years 2005 through 2010. The focus was on schools located within Scioto County Ohio. These schools included: Portsmouth, Portsmouth West, Northwest, Valley, Clay, Minford, Bloom-Vernon, Green, Wheelersburg, and Sciotoville Community School. The researcher analyzed the average scores taken from the item analysis portion pertaining to social studies for each year from 2005-2010. Table _____ demonstrates these results.

ogt prelim.jpg

Furthermore, questions significant to this study was collected and analyzed from the OGT. The Ohio Department of Education publishes the OGT and its results on a yearly basis. It is important to note that this portion of the analysis pertains to all students tested in the state of Ohio. ODE did not conduct an item analysis per question for each school district. Questions that are pertinent to American History and Government were collected for analysis by this researcher. Each question relevant to American History and Government was evaluated. After the questions were analyzed for significance to this study, the percent responding correctly per question was documented for further evaluation.

ogt item analysis.png

After the initial investigation on the Ohio Department of Education website, further queries were raised. An extensive email was sent in mid-January to all social studies coordinators for clarification about the OGT and American History/Government requirements. These questions are detailed in Appendix _______.

Another approach to finding students’ knowledge of American History and Government was to analyze the 2010 Americanism and Government Test. The Americanism and Government Test is provided by the local American Legion every year. It is given to over 90,000 students in Ohio. The American Legion provides “an opportunity for the high school student to evaluate himself, or herself, in American government and history” (American Legion, 2010). The purpose of the National Americanism Commission of The American Legion is to “realize in the United States the basic ideal of this Legion of 100 per cent Americanism through the planning, establishment and conduct of a continuous, constructive educational system designed to:

(1) Combat all anti-American tendencies, activities and propaganda;

(2) Work for the education of immigrants, prospective American citizens and alien residents in the principles of Americanism;

(3) Inculcate the ideal of Americanism in the citizen population, particularly the basic American principle that the interests of all the people are above those of any special interest or any so-called class or section of the people;

(4) Spread throughout the people of the nation the information as to the real nature and principles of American government;

(5) Foster the teachings of Americanism in all schools (American Legion, 1997).

The American Legion defines Americanism as: “[the] love of America; loyalty to her institutions as the best yet devised man to secure life, liberty, individual dignity, and happiness; and the willingness to defend our country and Flag against all enemies, foreign and domestic” (1997).

In the fall of 2010, a meeting was conducted with Susan Frasher. Ms. Frasher is the Scioto County district representative of the American Legion. She explained the process of how the Americanism and Government Test is distributed and collected. She further explained the purpose of the exam and the benefits of student participation. In November 2010, she distributed the Americanism and Government Test to the following schools: Portsmouth, Portsmouth West, Valley, Notre Dame, East, New Boston, Wheelersburg, Green, and Northwest. Minford and Clay had chosen not to participate. There were a total of 523 participants. The representative grades were 79 ninth graders, 80 tenth graders, 81 eleventh graders, and 283 twelfth grades.

In December 2010, the Americanism and Government Tests were collected and analyzed. The first approach was to exam the content of the test. Each question was analyzed for relevance to this project. Fifteen of the 50 questions were collected for data analysis. The second approach was to establish categories prior to examination. A document was created for recording the students’ school district, grade level, gender, and response to each question. Tally marks were placed in the correct or incorrect column per question. These tally marks were then converted to percentages per question.

Data Analysis and Interpretation

Summary, Discussion, and Application


Americanism and Government test. (2010). In The chronicles of the American Legion.

Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching (2010). Retrieved from

Carpenter, James J. (2004). Jefferson’s Views on Education: Implications for Today’s Social Studies. The Social Studies, 140-146.

DeRose, John J. (2009). Back to the Future with Textbooks: Using Textbook Passages from the Past to Help Teach Historiography. The History Teacher, 42(2), 229-237.

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The History Teacher, 39(1), 11-21.Index to Tables

Index to Appendices

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