Publisher’s Perspective – Volume 3, Issue 3

Iowa Schools are Flunking in History

A chilling story came out of Washington D.C. in February – and for once it wasn’t about the federal budget.

The headline at the top of this page resulted from a devastating report from the Fordham Institute of Washington, D.C. In its February 2011 evaluation, the Institute gave the State of Iowa an “F” for the way it attempts to teach history. Here is what the report had to say:

“There is no history whatsoever in the Iowa core curriculum. Instead, the state offers little more than a series of vapid social studies concepts and skills … the content standards in the Iowa core for history are pretty vacuous.”

The Institute also offered an explanation why teaching history is so important in today’s world: “… history is so powerful, with an astounding capacity to both link and divide us.”

In addition, understanding history “is essential to an educated citizenry” said the same report from the Fordham Institute.

Several years ago, the Des Moines Register was also bemoaning the fact that Iowa history was being neglected in Iowa schools.

“Teach more Iowa history – and pride” declared the major editorial on the Opinion page of the Des Moines Register. The editorial expressed the viewpoint that the State of Iowa deserved an F grade for the way it is not educating students about history.

“As part of being good citizens, Iowa youngsters should be instilled with a stronger sense of place and of heritage … It would help them grow up to make their own contributions to Iowa’s history,” the editorial concluded.

It is with those statements in mind that Iowa History Journal sprang to life in January of 2009. As the publisher of Iowa History Journal, I feel it is essential that young students in Iowa are exposed to the inspirational stories of the men and women of the past who created the special place that Iowa has become … the great business leaders who built successful companies, the political figures who fought for changes, and entertainers and sports figures who climbed to the very heights of their world. We want to keep alive the historic moments that transformed Iowa into the wonderful place to love that it is today!

Our goal is to help today’s students to read about the vision of greatness of past Iowans, and to help them understand what is possible through dreaming big and working hard!

Our motto is: Remembering our grand past, investing in our great future!

And our goal is to make Iowa history come alive through exciting stories written by some of the state’s top journalists!

We are proud of the wonderful reception we have received all over the state – from radio personalities like Van and Bonnie and Jan Mickelsen and Ross Peterson, all of WHO Radio in Des Moines; John Busbee of KFMG’s Culture Buzz in Des Moines; George Bowen of KICD in Spencer, Kyle Martin of KFJB in Marshalltown and the crew at Iowa Public Radio – all have found Iowa History Journal so stimulating that they talk about the magazine on a regular basis.

People can find the magazine at nearly every Hy-Vee store in the state and at most libraries.

Won’t you help us spread the word in your community? Perhaps you would like to buy a subscription for your local school so it can be read in the classroom, or invite us to make a presentation at your museum or civic club or school group. My wife, Bev, who is our office manager, and I have been put on nearly 40 programs all across the state – from tiny Stanton to Des Moines, from Spencer to Newton, from Burlington to Waterloo.

On March 31, we drove to Corydon, way down south, to make a presentation at the annual banquet of the Prairie Trails Museum, at the invitation of director Brenda DeVore. We were overwhelmed by the facility, as fine as we have ever seen for that size community. It was a packed house and the reception was tremendous. I started out my speech by telling the group that the Fordham Institute in Washington, D.C. would be very impressed if they came to Corydon to see how that community has kept area and state history alive and well.

Several home schoolers have told us how much they appreciate the magazine and have begun ordering it for their in-home classes.

If given the chance, we sincerely believe that this magazine can go a long way toward raising that F grade to a much more acceptable level. Won’t you please help us spread the word about Iowa History Journal?

(Mike Chapman is the publisher of Iowa History Journal. Born and raised in Waterloo, he retired from a 35-year newspaper career in 2002. He is the author of 21 books and is a public speaker. He and his wife, Bev, live in Newton.)