Thursday, November 03, 2005

All this focus on Math and Science -- does it mean we won't be teaching history -- so asks Tracy L

At two recent meetings I had the opportunity to interact with Tracy Links of Duquesne Heights (next to Mt. Washington). She has raised some good concers about the teaching of history, good old American history and civics. The following stories fit as a way to extend that discussion.

My best hope is that the push for literacy in the school day is going to include lots of classics texts.

Meet Joe Enge.

Joe is an award-winning, 15-year veteran history teacher in Carson City who has, among other things, written two history textbooks and served on the 1997 task force which drew up Nevada's history standards. But according to school district administrators, he's a "bad" teacher.

You see, Joe has this crazy idea that American history should include our colonial period, as well as the Revolutionary War period. You know, where the Founding Fathers fought for independence from England and wrote the greatest governing document the world has ever known - the United States Constitution. You know, that period of time which gave us patriot heroes such as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Tom Paine, Benjamin Franklin, Patrick Henry, Sam Adams, John Hancock, Paul Revere, John Paul Jones, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and John

And Joe has REALLY ticked off the local school district bureaucrats and the education establishment.

You see, unbeknownst to most parents in Carson City, the school district believes that high school American history should start with the Civil War era, not the days of America's Founding. Indeed, the curriculum forced on history teachers at Carson High School ignores pre-Civil War history completely - other than a little optional
"refresher" at the beginning of the school year or if you're in an Advanced Placement class.

Joe Enge has fought the district's History-Lite curriculum for the past three years by teaching ALL of his students ALL of America's history, starting with the colonial period (remember the Pilgrims?).

In addition, Joe believes...get this...that the teacher should teach and the students should learn. He embraces and practices the "traditional" teacher-centered method of education, as opposed to the fashionable student-centered "discovery learning" method currently all the rage in San Francisco and Portland. What a trouble-maker.

So the school district wants to get rid of him.

Joe's supervisors - including Carson High's principal, Fred Perdomo - have given Joe unsatisfactory evaluations in retaliation for his refusal to teach a Founding-free version of American history. And although Joe's a "tenured" teacher , three such bad evaluations would be grounds for running this maverick out of town on a rail (students would have to read Revolutionary War-era history to know just what this
phrase means). So Joe challenged the administrative evaluations; however, the Carson City School District Superintendent, Mary Pierszynski, sided with the principal. Big surprise there.

Last month as part of a mediation effort, Ms. Pierszynski offered to buy Joe off by paying him one year's salary if he'd quit. And considering the pure hell this one-man fight has put his family through, Joe actually considered it. But at the last minute, Pierszynski withdrew her offer, and now the dispute is moving to binding arbitration. Which means if Pierszynski's ruling backing Perdomo's evaluations stands, this Fulbright Scholar and Madison Fellowship award-winner will likely be tossed out on his kiester - and his Carson High students will finally be taught that American history began when Lincoln freed the slaves.

Of course, the teacher's union could always ride in and defend this experienced, professional classroom educator. Yeah, right. Fat chance. You see, Joe has chosen not to join the teacher's union, so these "principled" defenders of teaching professionals are more than happy to see the guy thrown to the wolves.

This entire episode is an outrage. Joe Enge is the kind of teacher we should WANT educating our kids. He loves history. He knows history. And he's darned good at teaching history. Indeed, Enge's spirit of resistance to this great injustice would make our Founding Fathers - who the Carson City School District would prefer to pretend never existed - proud. Especially Thomas Jefferson who (not that Carson City high school students would know it) once said, "The spirit of resistance to government is so valuable on certain occasions, that I wish it to be always kept

It's time for Superintendent Pierszynski, Principal Perdomo and the entire Carson City education establishment to call off the dogs and let professional American history teacher Joe Enge do what he's been trained to do and has been successfully doing for 15 long years: TEACH AMERICAN HISTORY. The FULL American history, not the district's "Reader's Digest" version.

Please help keep American history IN ITS ENTIRETY alive at Carson High School by signing our online petition urging the Carson City School District to allow Joe Enge to do what he's been trained to do: Teach ALL of American history.

Just go to the "Online Petition" page at

Chuck Muth President, Citizen Outreach


Amos_thePokerCat said...

Amazing, and frightening. Doomed to repeat it.

Maggie O'Neill said...

My concern about this story is why anyone would post it as fact without researching it. As you can see this was not written with the eyes of objective research, nor is there proof to back it up. It is total hogwash.And the true scare is not that there is a lack of history being taught, but that history, yes, is once again repeating itself - the greatest error being that people take rhetoric and make it their own truth. Now that's the scariest thing goin'!

Chuck Muth said...

One problem here is that the people who SHOULD be researching this story - the school board and the local paper - haven't. The board and the press have known about this controversy since at least last April, yet no objective research into the concerns raised by the teacher and the public has been conducted.

I've uncovered more "proof" that the claims made are accurate and legitimate in less than four weeks than the school board and local newspaper have found in seven MONTHS - including the FACT that 5 out of 8 of the history teachers last year included not a single pre-Civil War question on their first semester final exams.

Now...if all of the teachers are, indeed, teaching all of U.S. history in the first semester, why aren't five of them testing on it?

And since the school board and the local paper KNOW about these tests, why aren't they asking the exact same question instead of sweeping this issue under the carpet and trying to discredit those who have brought this issue forward?

You want research? I'll give you research. Just visit and begin reading the posts there from bottom up. It details this entire controversy from start to finish. After reading the research I've done there, you can make up your own mind whether it's rhetoric or truth.

The real problem here is that some folks in this town just can't handle the truth. "Hogwash"? Hardly. Cover-up? Definitely.

Anonymous said...

Nice try Maggie. I'll go ahead and be the first to say that Maggie is alos the BIASED reporter for the Navada Appeal who has been holding hands with the school board and is out trying to defend the boards position.

~Eric Odom - Battle Born News