Full Text: President Obama’s Speech on Afghanistan Military Withdrawal

Remarks by the President on the Way Forward in Afghanistan

East Room

8:01 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Good evening.  Nearly 10 years ago, America suffered the worst attack on our shores since Pearl Harbor.  This mass murder was planned by Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda network in Afghanistan, and signaled a new threat to our security –- one in which the targets were no longer soldiers on a battlefield, but innocent men, women and children going about their daily lives.

In the days that followed, our nation was united as we struck at al Qaeda and routed the Taliban in Afghanistan.  Then, our focus shifted.  A second war was launched in Iraq, and we spent enormous blood and treasure to support a new government there.  By the time I took office, the war in Afghanistan had entered its seventh year.  But al Qaeda’s leaders had escaped into Pakistan and were plotting new attacks, while the Taliban had regrouped and gone on the offensive.  Without a new strategy and decisive action, our military commanders warned that we could face a resurgent al Qaeda and a Taliban taking over large parts of Afghanistan.

For this reason, in one of the most difficult decisions that I’ve made as President, I ordered an additional 30,000 American troops into Afghanistan.  When I announced this surge at West Point, we set clear objectives:  to refocus on al Qaeda, to reverse the Taliban’s momentum, and train Afghan security forces to defend their own country.  I also made it clear that our commitment would not be open-ended, and that we would begin to draw down our forces this July.

Tonight, I can tell you that we are fulfilling that commitment.  Thanks to our extraordinary men and women in uniform, our civilian personnel, and our many coalition partners, we are meeting our goals.  As a result, starting next month, we will be able to remove 10,000 of our troops from Afghanistan by the end of this year, and we will bring home a total of 33,000 troops by next summer, fully recovering the surge I announced at West Point.  After this initial reduction, our troops will continue coming home at a steady pace as Afghan security forces move into the lead.  Our mission will change from combat to support.  By 2014, this process of transition will be complete, and the Afghan people will be responsible for their own security.

We’re starting this drawdown from a position of strength.  Al Qaeda is under more pressure than at any time since 9/11.  Together with the Pakistanis, we have taken out more than half of al Qaeda’s leadership.  And thanks to our intelligence professionals and Special Forces, we killed Osama bin Laden, the only leader that al Qaeda had ever known.  This was a victory for all who have served since 9/11.  One soldier summed it up well.  “The message,” he said, “is we don’t forget.  You will be held accountable, no matter how long it takes.”

The information that we recovered from bin Laden’s compound shows al Qaeda under enormous strain.  Bin Laden expressed concern that al Qaeda had been unable to effectively replace senior terrorists that had been killed, and that al Qaeda has failed in its effort to portray America as a nation at war with Islam -– thereby draining more widespread support.  Al Qaeda remains dangerous, and we must be vigilant against attacks.  But we have put al Qaeda on a path to defeat, and we will not relent until the job is done.

In Afghanistan, we’ve inflicted serious losses on the Taliban and taken a number of its strongholds.  Along with our surge, our allies also increased their commitments, which helped stabilize more of the country.  Afghan security forces have grown by over 100,000 troops, and in some provinces and municipalities we’ve already begun to transition responsibility for security to the Afghan people.  In the face of violence and intimidation, Afghans are fighting and dying for their country, establishing local police forces, opening markets and schools, creating new opportunities for women and girls, and trying to turn the page on decades of war.

Of course, huge challenges remain.  This is the beginning — but not the end –- of our effort to wind down this war.  We’ll have to do the hard work of keeping the gains that we’ve made, while we draw down our forces and transition responsibility for security to the Afghan government.  And next May, in Chicago, we will host a summit with our NATO allies and partners to shape the next phase of this transition.

We do know that peace cannot come to a land that has known so much war without a political settlement.  So as we strengthen the Afghan government and security forces, America will join initiatives that reconcile the Afghan people, including the Taliban.  Our position on these talks is clear:  They must be led by the Afghan government, and those who want to be a part of a peaceful Afghanistan must break from al Qaeda, abandon violence, and abide by the Afghan constitution.  But, in part because of our military effort, we have reason to believe that progress can be made.

The goal that we seek is achievable, and can be expressed simply:  No safe haven from which al Qaeda or its affiliates can launch attacks against our homeland or our allies.  We won’t try to make Afghanistan a perfect place.  We will not police its streets or patrol its mountains indefinitely.  That is the responsibility of the Afghan government, which must step up its ability to protect its people, and move from an economy shaped by war to one that can sustain a lasting peace.  What we can do, and will do, is build a partnership with the Afghan people that endures –- one that ensures that we will be able to continue targeting terrorists and supporting a sovereign Afghan government.

Of course, our efforts must also address terrorist safe havens in Pakistan.  No country is more endangered by the presence of violent extremists, which is why we will continue to press Pakistan to expand its participation in securing a more peaceful future for this war-torn region.  We’ll work with the Pakistani government to root out the cancer of violent extremism, and we will insist that it keeps its commitments.  For there should be no doubt that so long as I am President, the United States will never tolerate a safe haven for those who aim to kill us.  They cannot elude us, nor escape the justice they deserve.

My fellow Americans, this has been a difficult decade for our country.  We’ve learned anew the profound cost of war — a cost that’s been paid by the nearly 4,500 Americans who have given their lives in Iraq, and the over 1,500 who have done so in Afghanistan -– men and women who will not live to enjoy the freedom that they defended.  Thousands more have been wounded. Some have lost limbs on the battlefield, and others still battle the demons that have followed them home.

Yet tonight, we take comfort in knowing that the tide of war is receding.  Fewer of our sons and daughters are serving in harm’s way.  We’ve ended our combat mission in Iraq, with 100,000 American troops already out of that country.  And even as there will be dark days ahead in Afghanistan, the light of a secure peace can be seen in the distance.  These long wars will come to a responsible end.

As they do, we must learn their lessons.  Already this decade of war has caused many to question the nature of America’s engagement around the world.  Some would have America retreat from our responsibility as an anchor of global security, and embrace an isolation that ignores the very real threats that we face.  Others would have America over-extended, confronting every evil that can be found abroad.

We must chart a more centered course.  Like generations before, we must embrace America’s singular role in the course of human events.  But we must be as pragmatic as we are passionate; as strategic as we are resolute.  When threatened, we must respond with force –- but when that force can be targeted, we need not deploy large armies overseas.  When innocents are being slaughtered and global security endangered, we don’t have to choose between standing idly by or acting on our own.  Instead, we must rally international action, which we’re doing in Libya, where we do not have a single soldier on the ground, but are supporting allies in protecting the Libyan people and giving them the chance to determine their own destiny.

In all that we do, we must remember that what sets America apart is not solely our power -– it is the principles upon which our union was founded.  We’re a nation that brings our enemies to justice while adhering to the rule of law, and respecting the rights of all our citizens.  We protect our own freedom and prosperity by extending it to others.  We stand not for empire, but for self-determination.  That is why we have a stake in the democratic aspirations that are now washing across the Arab world.  We will support those revolutions with fidelity to our ideals, with the power of our example, and with an unwavering belief that all human beings deserve to live with freedom and dignity.

Above all, we are a nation whose strength abroad has been anchored in opportunity for our citizens here at home.  Over the last decade, we have spent a trillion dollars on war, at a time of rising debt and hard economic times.  Now, we must invest in America’s greatest resource –- our people.  We must unleash innovation that creates new jobs and industries, while living within our means.  We must rebuild our infrastructure and find new and clean sources of energy.  And most of all, after a decade of passionate debate, we must recapture the common purpose that we shared at the beginning of this time of war.  For our nation draws strength from our differences, and when our union is strong no hill is too steep, no horizon is beyond our reach.

America, it is time to focus on nation building here at home.

In this effort, we draw inspiration from our fellow Americans who have sacrificed so much on our behalf.  To our troops, our veterans and their families, I speak for all Americans when I say that we will keep our sacred trust with you, and provide you with the care and benefits and opportunity that you deserve.

I met some of these patriotic Americans at Fort Campbell.  A while back, I spoke to the 101st Airborne that has fought to turn the tide in Afghanistan, and to the team that took out Osama bin Laden.  Standing in front of a model of bin Laden’s compound, the Navy SEAL who led that effort paid tribute to those who had been lost –- brothers and sisters in arms whose names are now written on bases where our troops stand guard overseas, and on headstones in quiet corners of our country where their memory will never be forgotten.  This officer — like so many others I’ve met on bases, in Baghdad and Bagram, and at Walter Reed and Bethesda Naval Hospital -– spoke with humility about how his unit worked together as one, depending on each other, and trusting one another, as a family might do in a time of peril.

That’s a lesson worth remembering -– that we are all a part of one American family.  Though we have known disagreement and division, we are bound together by the creed that is written into our founding documents, and a conviction that the United States of America is a country that can achieve whatever it sets out to accomplish.  Now, let us finish the work at hand.  Let us responsibly end these wars, and reclaim the American Dream that is at the center of our story.  With confidence in our cause, with faith in our fellow citizens, and with hope in our hearts, let us go about the work of extending the promise of America -– for this generation, and the next.

May God bless our troops.  And may God bless the United States of America.

END           8:16 P.M. EDT

Political Buzz June 22, 2011: President Obama’s Speech on Afghanistan Military Withdrawal

Political Headlines June 16, 2011: Weinergate: Rep. Anthony Weiner Announces his Resignation after Sexting Scandal

POLITICAL HEADLINES

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University.

IN FOCUS: REP. ANTHONY ANNOUNCES HIS RESIGNATION AFTER SEXTING SCANDAL

Congressman Anthony Weiner announced his resignation Thursday after weeks of being embroiled in a scandal over lewd text messages.
Craig Warga/News

Congressman Anthony Weiner announced his resignation Thursday after weeks of being embroiled in a scandal over lewd text messages.

Rep. Anthony Weiner announces his resignation: Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) announced his resignation Thursday in Brooklyn, again apologizing for his actions. At a news conference where he was heckled by bystanders, he said “the distraction I have caused” had made it impossible for him to remain in office.
The news conference comes hours after a Democratic source claimed Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) plans to step down from his House seat Thursday after revelations of his lewd online exchanges with women.

Rep. Anthony Weiner Resignation Speech: “I’m here to apologize for the personal mistakes I have made and the embarrassment that I have caused. I make this apology to my neighbors and my constituents, but I make it particularly to my wife, Huma…. I had hoped to be able to continue the work that the citizens of my district elected me to do, but the unfortunately, the distraction I created has made that impossible… Today I announce my resignation, so my colleagues can get back to work and my neighbors choose a new representative, and most importantly, that my wife and I can continue to heal from the damage that I have caused.”

  • PHOTOS: WEINER’S WOMEN: Anthony Weiner’s ‘sextual’ partners: PHOTOS Women of Weiner-Gate: Porn star, college student, single mom among his ‘sext’ pals.
    TIMELINE: THE RISE AND FALL OF WEINER
  • Weiner resigns in wake of sexting scandal: Embattled New York Rep. Anthony Weiner is resigning from Congress, saying he cannot continue in office amid the intense controversy surrounding sexually explicit messages he sent online to several women…. – AP, 6-16-11
  • Live blog: Rep. Anthony Weiner resigns: We live blogged Rep. Anthony Weiner’s resignation announcement. The New York Democrat has admitted he sent sexually explicit messages to women through Twitter and Facebook.
    Weiner spoke at the Council Center for Senior Citizens in Brooklyn, in the district he’s represented since 1998…. – USA Today, 6-16-11
  • Rep. Anthony Weiner resigns after online sex scandal: Embattled Rep. Anthony Weiner resigned today after admitting to sexually charged relationships with women on Facebook and Twitter.
    “Today I announce my resignation … so my colleagues can get back to work and my neighbors can choose a new representative,” the New York Democrat said, in brief remarks at a senior citizens center in Brooklyn.
    A Democratic source, who asked for anonymity, confirmed to USA TODAY that Weiner informed Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of his plans last night while she was attending the annual congressional picnic at the White House…. – USA Today, 6-16-11
  • Weiner Quits House Seat Over ‘Mistakes’: Representative Anthony D. Weiner, an influential Democrat who had been considered a leading candidate to be the next mayor of New York City, said Thursday that he was resigning from Congress following revelations of lewd online exchanges with several women.
    “I’m here to apologize for the personal mistakes I have made and the embarrassment that I have caused,” Mr. Weiner said, adding that he had hoped to be able to continue serving his constituents. “Unfortunately,” he said, “the distraction I created has made that impossible.”
    Mr. Weiner announced his resignation in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, at a senior center where he announced his first campaign for City Council in 1991.
    On Wednesday night, Mr. Weiner called Representative Nancy Pelosi of California and Representative Steve Israel of New York while they were at a White House picnic to inform them he had decided to resign, a top Democratic official said.
    The news came as Democratic leaders prepared to hold a meeting on Thursday to discuss whether to strip the 46-year-old congressman of his committee assignments, a blow that would severely damage his effectiveness.
    Mr. Weiner began telling his most trusted advisers about his decision on Wednesday night by phone, informing them that it no longer seemed fair to his constituents and his colleagues for him to remain in office…. – NYT, 6-16-11
  • Anthony Weiner resigns: Disgraced congressman calls it quits over sexting scandal: Rep. Anthony Weiner finally stepped down Thursday after a three-week cybersex scandal that turned the once promising politician into a laughingstock.
    “I had hoped to be able to continue the work that the citizens of my district elected me to do,” Weiner said. “But the distraction that I have created has made that impossible.”
    Then Weiner said he was resigning his seat and in a sign of how low his stock had fallen in a district that reelected him handily several times, some in the crowd actually broke into cheers – and one man was heard yelling “bye-bye pervert.”
    Weiner paused for a moment and then finished his statement. It was an unusually terse statement from the normally loquacious liberal…. – NY Daily News, 6-16-11
  • Anthony Weiner resigns from Congress, apologizes for ’embarrassment’ he caused: Anthony Weiner announced his resignation from Congress on Thursday, apologizing for the “embarrassment” his personal behavior caused to his family and colleagues.
    Standing without his wife but before a horde of media at a senior center in his Brooklyn district, Weiner said he had hoped to continue his work in the House but “unfortunately, the distraction that I created has made that impossible.”
    Resigning, Weiner said, will allow him to “continue to heal from the damage that I have caused.”
    Weiner’s wife, Huma Abedin, recently returned from overseas travel with her boss, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. His Democratic colleagues have been steadily ramping up pressure on him to step down, and were prepared to take further action had he tried to stay on.
    Pandemonium erupted in the room as Weiner made his announcement, which lasted less than five minutes. “Bye-bye, pervert,” one man screamed as others showed support for Weiner…. – LAT, 6-16-11
  • Weiner’s colleagues say scandal isn’t the end of his career: As they absorbed news of his coming resignation, colleagues of Rep. Anthony Weiner expressed a mix of relief and regret at his stunning downfall Thursday.
    “It’s a loss,” said Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.). “He could articulate the issues very well and dramatize them. Anytime you lose that kind of talent, of course it’s a loss.”
    “There is life after Congress for Anthony Weiner and I hope he devotes himself to repairing the damage he caused to his personal life,” Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) said in a statement…. – LAT, 6-16-11
  • Ami Eden: Weiner follies: OK, now that Anthony Weiner is closing the zipper on his congressional career and stepping down — it’s time to focus on his critics.
    Let’s start on the right.
    In the past few campaign cycles, a standard line from Jewish conservatives has been… liberals should learn to love conservatives because support for Israel is more important than abortion rights and a host of other domestic issues.
    Well… Weiner has been one of the hawkish supporters of Israel in the Democratic caucus. He’s a regular at the annual dinner of the Zionist Organization of America, often taking the stage to declare that he represents the “ZOA wing of the Democratic Party.” I’ve seen him adapt the line for other crowds — “I represent the CAMERA wing of the Democratic Party.”
    To be clear, ZOA — which has been a strong critics of U.S.-led diplomatic efforts, Israeli concessions and the idea that the current Palestinian leadership is a partner for peace — did not throw Weiner under the bus over Twitter-Gate. It’s president, Morton Klein, praised Weiner’s record and said his troubles represented a “terrible loss for the pro-Israel community.” But Republicans who talk about the importance supporting Israel, like GOP House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, had no trouble saying it was time for Weiner to go.
    Of couse, after the scandal broke, it might be unrealistic to expect partisans to take a pass on the scandal, just because Weiner was, from their perspective, good in one area. But what about before the fact? Andrew Breitbart, the right-wing muckraking blogger who broke the story, was a featured speaker at a Republican Jewish Coalition gathering on Sunday in Los Angeles.
    It turns out that several RJC members also helped bankroll Breitbart:

    “My first event was held here,” he told the audience. “Not in this esteemed room, but in the bar downstairs.” Since then, Breitbart said, he’s had the chance to speak to RJC gatherings numerous times, and he acknowledged that he has financial backers from the ranks of the RJC. “What a lucrative alliance we’ve created,” Breitbart said.

    Hey, it’s a free country, and no one forced Weiner to live up to his name in so many different ways. But next time you hear a Jewish conservative talking about how Jewish liberals should put domestic concerns aside to worry more about Israel… just remember… a bunch of Jewish conservatives helped bring down one of Israel’s staunchest congressional defenders over these tweets.
    But liberals, wipe that self-satisifed smile off your face. How many times in the past 15 years have you ripped into Republicans for trying to impeach Bill Clinton over his sexual indiscretions and lying under oath. Somehow all these Democratic leaders who have spent years painting Ken Starr and the congressional GOPers as waging a puratanical crusade against the will of the people took just a few days to conclude that Weiner had to go.
    Weiner sent tweets to young women, Clinton had an actual affair with his intern.
    Weiner lied to the press, Clinton lied under oath.
    Weiner lied for a few days, Clinton lied and roped his Cabinet into the lies for about eight months.
    Why exactly did Weiner have to go, but Bubba had to stay?
    OK, OK. That’s politics. But, still. – JTA, 6-16-11

Anthony Weiner announces his resignation from Congress in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Anthony Weiner announces his resignation from Congress in Brooklyn, N.Y. (Justin Lane / EPA)

Political Headlines June 15, 2011: Wisconsin Supreme Court Upholds Republican Governor Scott Walker’s Anti-Union Bill

POLITICAL HEADLINES

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University.

COURT AND LEGAL NEWS: WISCONSIN SUPREME COURT UPHOLDS ANTI-UNION LAW

Wisconsin Republican Governor Scott Walker: “The Supreme Court’s ruling provides our state the opportunity to move forward together and focus on getting Wisconsin working again.”

  • Court allows Wisconsin’s union law to take effect: A divided Wisconsin Supreme Court handed Republican Gov. Scott Walker a major victory Tuesday, ruling that a polarizing union law that strips most public employees of their collective bargaining rights could take effect.
    In a 4-3 decision that included a blistering dissent, the court ruled that Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi overstepped her authority when she declared the law void. She sided with a lawsuit that claimed Republicans didn’t provide proper public notice of a meeting that helped get the original legislation approved.
    The legislation sparked weeks of protests when Walker introduced it in February. Tens of thousands of demonstrators descended on the state Capitol for weeks and Democratic senators fled the state to prevent a vote, thrusting Wisconsin to the forefront of a national debate over labor rights.
    Walker claimed that the law, which also requires public employees to pay more for their health care and pensions, was needed to help address the state’s $3.6 billion budget shortfall and give local governments enough flexibility on labor costs to deal with deep cuts to state aid. Democrats saw it as an attack on public employee unions, which usually back their party’s candidates…. – AP, 6-15-11
  • Wisconsin Court Reinstates Law on Union Rights: The Wisconsin Supreme Court cleared the way on Tuesday for significant cuts to collective bargaining rights for public workers in the state, undoing a lower court’s decision that Wisconsin’s controversial law had been passed improperly.
    The Supreme Court’s ruling, issued at the close of the business day, spared lawmakers in the Republican-dominated Capitol from having to do what some of them strongly hoped to avoid: calling for a new vote on the polarizing collective bargaining measure, which had drawn tens of thousands of protesters to Madison this year and led Democratic lawmakers to flee the city in an effort to block the bill.
    Republican leaders had warned on Monday that if the Supreme Court did not rule by Tuesday, they would feel compelled to attach the same measure to the state’s budget bill, which is expected to be approved this week…. – NYT, 6-15-11
  • Divided Wisconsin Supreme Court upholds anti-union law: A sharply divided Wisconsin Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled that a controversial measure that curbs the collective bargaining rights of public workers in the state can go into effect.
    In what was essentially a 4-3 decision, the high court overturned a lower court, which had ruled Republican lawmakers violated the state’s open meetings law when they passed the measure in March.
    “Access was not denied,” the Supreme Court declared in Tuesday’s decision. “There is no constitutional requirement that the legislature provide access to as many members of the public as wish to attend meetings of the legislature or meetings of legislative committees.”
    But Tuesday’ 68-page decision was a thicket of concurrences and dissents, reflecting the sharp divide the measure has created in the state itself.
    David Prosser, whose recent reelection to the state’s high court had been hotly contested by opponents of the union measure, wrote in his eight-page concurrence that GOP legislators had good reason to rush things they way they did, given the ugly mood of protesters at the Capitol.
    “The circuit court concluded that the legislature should have provided public notice of the special session conference committee 24 hours in advance,” Prosser wrote.
    “The court did not acknowledge that thousands of demonstrators stormed and occupied the state Capitol within a few hours of the notice that a conference committee meeting would be held.”
    But Justices Shirley Abrahamson, Ann Walsh Bradley and N. Patrick Coons disagreed, saying their colleagues had rendered a “hasty judgment” in a case where “the answers are not clear and our precedent is conflicting.”
    The three in dissent blasted the order to overrule the lower court, saying it was “based on errors of fact and law.
    “They inappropriately use this court’s original jurisdiction, make their own findings of fact, mischaracterize the parties’ arguments, misinterpret statutes, minimize (if not eliminate) Wisconsin’s constitutional guarantees, and misstate case law, appearing to silently overrule case law dating back to at least 1891,” the three said…. – Reuters, 6-15-11
  • Court allows Wisconsin’s union law to take effect: The ruling on the law, which strips most public employees of collective bargaining rights, is a major victory for Republican Gov. Scott Walker.
    The Wisconsin Supreme Court handed Republican Gov. Scott Walker a major victory on Tuesday, ruling that a polarizing anti-union law stripping most public employees of collective bargaining rights could take effect.
    In a 4-3 decision, the court ruled that Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi overstepped her authority when she said Republican lawmakers had violated the open meetings statutes and declared the law void….
    In a one-sentence reaction, the governor said: “The Supreme Court’s ruling provides our state the opportunity to move forward together and focus on getting Wisconsin working again.”… – LAT, 6-15-11
  • Supreme Court reinstates collective bargaining law: Acting with unusual speed, the state Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered the reinstatement of Gov. Scott Walker’s controversial plan to end most collective bargaining for tens of thousands of public workers.
    The court found that a committee of lawmakers was not subject to the state’s open meetings law, and so did not violate that law when it hastily approved the collective bargaining measure in March and made it possible for the Senate to take it up. In doing so, the Supreme Court overruled a Dane County judge who had halted the legislation, ending one challenge to the law even as new challenges are likely to emerge.
    The changes on collective bargaining will take effect once Secretary of State Doug La Follette arranges for official publication of the stalled bill, and the high court said there was now nothing to preclude him from doing that. La Follette did not return a call Tuesday to say when the law would be published.
    The ruling came on lines that have become familiar in recent years for the often divided court.
    The majority opinion was by Justices Michael Gableman, David Prosser, Patience Roggensack and Annette Ziegler. The other three justices – Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson and Justices Ann Walsh Bradley and N. Patrick Crooks – concurred in part and dissented in part. Abrahamson’s dissent was particularly stinging as she upbraided her fellow justices for errors and faulty analysis…. – Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel, 6-15-11

History Buzz June 14, 2011: K-12 Students Score Low on Nation’s Report Card US History Tests

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

History Buzz

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University.

HISTORY NEWS:

“The history scores released today show that student performance is still too low. These results tell us that, as a country, we are failing to provide children with a high-quality, well-rounded education.” — Education Secretary Arne Duncan

  • Report: Students don’t know much about US history: U.S. students don’t know much about American history, according to results of a national test released Tuesday.
    Just 13 percent of high school seniors who took the 2010 National Assessment of Educational Progress — called the Nation’s Report Card — showed solid academic performance in American history. The two other grade levels tested didn’t perform much better, which just 22 percent of fourth-grade students and 18 percent of eighth-graders scoring proficient or better.
    The test quizzed students on topics ranging from colonization, the American Revolution and the Civil War to the contemporary United States. For example, one question asks fourth-graders why it was important for the U.S. to build canals in the 1800s…. – AP, 6-14-11
  • U.S. Students Remain Poor at History, Tests Show: American students are less proficient in their nation’s history than in any other subject, according to results of a nationwide test released on Tuesday, with most fourth graders unable to say why Abraham Lincoln was an important figure and few high school seniors able to identify China as the North Korean ally that fought American troops during the Korean War.
    Over all, 20 percent of fourth graders, 17 percent of eighth graders and 12 percent of high school seniors demonstrated proficiency on the exam, the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Federal officials said they were encouraged by a slight increase in eighth-grade scores since the last administration of the history test, in 2006. But even those gains offered little to celebrate, because, for example, fewer than a third of eighth graders could answer even a “seemingly easy question” asking them to identify an important advantage American forces had over the British during the Revolution, the government’s statement on the results said…. – NYT, 6-14-11
  • Less than a quarter of students proficient in history: U.S. students are making some gains in their knowledge of American History, but less than a quarter are scoring at or above the proficient level, according to a report released on Tuesday.
    The results of the 2010 National Assessment of Educational Progress showed just 20 percent of fourth graders, 17 percent of eighth graders, and 12 percent of twelfth graders were performing at or above the proficient level.
    The study defines the proficient level as representing solid academic performance and competency.
    Even so, for students in the fourth and eighth grades, average scores were the highest since 1994, when the study was first conducted.
    The average score for high school seniors, which had been rising in the period from 1994 to 2006, showed a two points drop since then on the 500 point scale used for the tests…. – Reuters, 6-14-11
  • History-Test Scores Show Scant Progress: Fewer than a quarter of American 12th-graders knew China was North Korea’s ally during the Korean War, and only 35% of fourth-graders knew the purpose of the Declaration of Independence, according to national history-test scores released Tuesday.
    The results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress revealed that U.S. schoolchildren have made little progress since 2006 in their understanding of key historical themes, including the basic principles of democracy and America’s role in the world.
    Only 20% of U.S. fourth-graders and 17% of eighth-graders who took the 2010 history exam were “proficient” or “advanced,” unchanged since the test was last administered in 2006. Proficient means students have a solid understanding of the material.
    The news was even more dire in high school, where 12% of 12th-graders were proficient, unchanged since 2006. More than half of all seniors posted scores at the lowest achievement level, “below basic.” While the nation’s fourth- and eighth-graders have seen a slight uptick in scores since the exam was first administered in 1994, 12th-graders haven’t…. – WSJ, 6-14-11
  • Federal report shows history scores rising slowly: Most fourth-graders who took a national U.S. history test last year were likely to be stumped if asked to identify a picture of Abraham Lincoln and give two reasons why he was important.
    A majority of eighth- graders would have had trouble articulating an advantage American forces had over the British during the Revolutionary War. And most 12th-graders were likely to miss if asked why the United States entered World War I.
    Those findings were included Tuesday in the first federal readout on history achievement in four years.
    Average scores for history on the National Assessment of Educational Progress — the federally funded series known as the nation’s report card — have risen slowly since 1994. But the portion of students who fail to reach a basic level of achievement remains larger than the share rated as proficient or advanced, particularly for high school seniors…. – WaPo, 6-14-11
  • Many Children Still Don’t Know Much About History: The good news: “At all grades, the average U.S. history scores in 2010 were higher than the scores in 1994, and the score for eighth-graders was also higher than in 2006.”
    The bad news: “Less than one-quarter of students perform at or above the ‘proficient’ level in 2010.”
    That’s the word this morning from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, part of the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics…. – Huff Post, 6-14-11
  • David Driscoll, chair of the National Assessment Governing Board in his Statement: “We are encouraged by the progress of our fourth and eighth graders, particularly by the gains being made by students who traditionally have been among the lowest performers. We need to bring even more of these students up to the Proficient level, and we want to see more progress overall by our twelfth graders, who will soon be active citizens.”
  • Diane Ravitch, an education historian who was invited by the national assessment’s governing board to review the results, said she was particularly disturbed by the fact that only 2 percent of 12th graders correctly answered a question concerning Brown v. Board of Education, which she called “very likely the most important decision” of the United States Supreme Court in the past seven decades. “The answer was right in front of them,” Ms. Ravitch said. “This is alarming.”
  • Diane Ravitch, a research professor at New York University and former U.S. assistant education secretary: “We need to make sure other subject like history, science and the arts are not forgotten in our pursuit of the basic skills.”
  • Sue Blanchette, president-elect of the National Council for Social Studies, a national association of K-12 and college social-studies teachers: “Everyone is going to participate in civic life by paying taxes, protesting against paying taxes, voting, and we must teach our children how to think critically about these issue. Clearly, we are not doing that.”
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